December twenty-seventh. The anticipation and excitement of Christmas and New Years are past. So ephemeral. The Christmas tree in the living room looks superfluous and lonely. I feel at loose ends. I want to write but nothing sparks my interest. The only thing that occurs to me is to write down my thoughts as I wander about in this limbo state.
Tendinitis in my right hip has hindered my usual activity for several months. I’m frustrated with not being able to take my frequent walks through the park to the canal and back. This inactivity drives me to eat, dangerous when Christmas cookies and my Scottish shortbread call to me from their tins. The combination of little activity and sweet-gorging is the perfect recipe for an expanding waistline. Each morning I awake with the intention of this being the first of many no-sugar days. But my willpower flags.
Today I finish the book my son gave me for Christmas, “The Dark Road,” by Mai Jian. It leaves me perplexed. There must be some symbolism or underlying metaphoric threads I just don’t get. The graphic descriptions of how the Chinese suffered under the country’s One Child Family Planning Policy are deeply disturbing. But why can’t the author grant his main characters some peace or grace as their story comes to a close? I turn to a book of short stories set in Rumania. Again the tale I read leaves me wondering. Not a glimmer of hope for the two main characters and no hint of resolution - a maddening technique of many writers.
Determined to find meaning in this day, I move to my study. Maybe if I sit in front of the computer and just start writing?
First I reach for the round brass pen and pencil holder on my desk. On the back of a bill I try out each pen. Five are dry. This is my feeble start to my resolution for a less cluttered 2017.
Before I write, I’ll call Ann. We haven’t talked since before Christmas. But her husband says she’s out and won’t be home until late.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of writing about New Years. New Year’s Eve and the prospect of a new year don’t excite me. I can’t relate to the crowds of people cheering, dancing and hugging in the plazas. During this week of amorphous time, I do reflect upon the past year. I enjoy following the television news and newspaper reports summing up the year – the good and the bad. I’ll leaf through my year’s agenda book to remind my aging memory of events that marked my year: birthdays, doctor appointments, travels. My year has been a good one and I am grateful. As for the upcoming year, I will begin each day as I always do with prayers of thanksgiving and petitions for blessings for my loved ones, along with the determination to say no to sugar and to clean out at least one drawer. In urgent need of downsizing is my collection of tee-shirts.
These unstructured days I enjoy observing bee activity in my garden. Bees have their favorite blooms. The native Llaupangue was the main attraction a few weeks ago. Now they harvest the pollen from the deep purple blossoms of the buddleia or butterfly bush and the dainty white flowers of the ilan-ilan. Such industrious little guys.
I stop to examine my heirloom tomato plants, poking my nose into the leaves. Such a distinctive, pungent scent that evokes visions of red, juicy, savory tomatoes at summer’s end, not those wimpy, tasteless greenhouse specimens we buy at the supermarket.
I welcome birds into our garden; even sprinkling about Christmas cookie crumbs in the grass. But, now, the ripening apricots are the source of contention between me and the austral thrushes. The greedy fellows spear the not-quite-ripe fruits with their pointy beaks knocking them to the ground. I shouldn’t fret about it; there’s plenty for all, including for Speedy, our tortoise.
Today I take time to read some of Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings newsletters that have accumulated in my Inbox. The rich essays and book reviews overwhelm with their weighty thoughts. So much to absorb and reflect upon, and I’ll retain very little. But I pick out one small jewel. Hermann Hesse: trees “are the most penetrating of preachers.”
One end-of-the-year pleasure I look forward to is opening my new calendar of Molly Hashimoto’s block prints, portraying peaceful scenes of birds in their natural habitats. I love calendars and the promise they hold for the next year. Each month a different vibrantly-colored feathered friend will greet my days.
The doorbell. I see a figure standing outside our gate and open the door. It’s Ann! We retreat to the back garden with glasses of cold water and samples of my Christmas baking for her to try. Naturally, I have some, too.