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Scene from the Dipsea Trail on New Year’s Day 2018
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There is a beautiful hush about this particular Monday, January 1, 2018. It is as though the whole world is re-evaluating itself and its life path. The highways and bi-ways were unusually spacious for a Northern California weekday. The sun seemed to have fallen into an afternoon nap, resting its rays on us with soft energy. Those who are out milling about are not in a hurry or rush. They smile more. Some even go so far as to greet me with “Happy New Year” even though we are passing strangers.
I am often struck by the arbitrariness of New Year’s Day. The calendar turns another year. But from all appearances, this day is not that much different from the day that came before, when it was still 2017. I still woke up, kept my morning routine more or less the same. I thought many of the same thoughts as yesterday. I still had the same responsibilities. Everything around me was telling me that I had a fresh start at things. But why? Did I not have that same fresh start yesterday, or the day before? In fact, did I not have that fresh start available to me just hours before? What changed? Was it only the date on the calendar?
In all truth, there is something a bit special about New Year’s Day. It’s a reminder. The year draws to a close. The multitude of religious and cultural holidays leading up to New Year’s Day have many businesses closing their doors. Many of us close our financial books and contracts. And we also draw close to friends and family members. We may write greeting cards. We may invite others into our homes or make special visits. There is an inward turning as we wind up the year. The rhythm of life seems to slow down, giving us time to catch our breath.
But just as true, we could take advantage of these pauses at other times of the year. We could, in fact, celebrate a new year each and every day. We could choose to see life with fresh eyes and to resolve ourselves to change the path we are on for the better. We could make internal promises to be healthier, to live more attuned to our life’s purpose, to rest, to smile, to greet each other with kindness. And each time we fall short (and we will), we could resolve to pick ourselves back up and try it again.
I know…wishful thinking, perhaps. But then again, what have we to lose? If we could dare to live each day in 2018 with a little more purpose, intention, and kindness towards one another, a lot could change. Evolution happens over many years, but small changes have to be made day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Life can be overwhelming, even frightening sometimes. May we resolve ourselves to live like every moment offers new possibilities.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
~ Rainier Maria Rilke, Book of Hours
January 2, 2018