Sunday in the Park
There was a time when I made New Year’s a real transition and celebration. It was a long, long, time ago, in a galaxy of my life so far away as to seem mythical in my mind. It was a quiet time. When I could reflect and prepare and respect the changes of the seasons and my life.
I don’t wish at all to change the blissfully chaotic grandchildren-filled days now. But there were a few years, when my children were grown and out of the house and on their own and my job hours were of my own design, that I started the new year with intentions and purpose and, most of all, reflection.
I’m not certain how the pattern started, but for a couple of years I would buy a big, fat book, decadent bubble bath and a bottle of bubbles, and read my way from one year into the next, adjusting the hot water with my toe from time to time.
In the morning, after sleeping until I could sleep no more, around nine-ish, I would make tea and toast and read some more. I would, during this period, take a 48-hour news fast. No radio, television, or papers. This was such a long time ago, it would never have occurred to me to look for news online. Round about 10:30, I would load up the car with the camera, a new notebook, a mug of tea and head on the back roads to Huntsville, about an hour plus from here.
The roads take you along the flyway of bald eagles that nest here in the winter. Most every New Year’s Day I could count on an eagle sighting. It was a powerful, majestic, always humbling start. Once in Huntsville, I would drive to the monastery there and enter the old Quonset-hut chapel for the noon-time chant and mini-service. The Benedictine monks at one time sold chickens and eggs and beef and bread, all from their own grounds hundreds of acres of land in the shadow of Snow Basin. Now, the elderly monks just run a small gift store on the grounds where they sell their ever-popular creamed honey. And the occasional wood-carved bowl from one of the Brothers.
The picture-perfect lane from the road to the chapel is maybe half a mile long, just right for a contemplative walk and occasional photo shoot. I would have a conversation with myself about the year that passed and remember folks who had left my life in whatever fashion and ones who found their way in. I would try not to let myself think yet about the year that was starting, but tried to stay focused, just for a little while, on the events of the past year.
That would usually lead me to somewhere around two o’clock, which was when another Huntsville landmark would open on New Year’s Day. After a night ringing in the new and exiting the old, the oldest bar in continuous usage in the state of Utah needed a few hours to regroup and hose down. But by 2 p.m., The Shooting Star would reopen and be ready to serve up The Star Burger, a burger so grand you kinda had to unhinge your jaw to get around it all. There were no waitresses there. You want a burger, you order it along with a beer. That’s all they served at the bar. And so I did. That and ask for a fistful of quarters to play the juke box.
Patsy Cline never disappointed. A round of "Crazy" and "Walking After Midnight" were the right setup for the meal and then the journal. Often I would be the only person in the bar for an hour or so, which made it the perfect place to write. I would burrow into a booth and stare at that clean page and make myself write down wishes and dreams and goals. Not goals like stop something or lose something or avoid something (other than a crazy man who haunted me for years because I let him). No, mostly I tried to make myself look at who I wanted to be, what I wanted to accomplish, how I could do something better. The focus had to be positive.
This, of course, defies the actual situation where you are drinking beer and listening to Patsy.
Still, I would write a bit of poor me and then draw lines through that and write about lucky me. This would go on for no more than a couple of beers. Then I would walk down to the tiny town square and watch the horses pull kids on sleighs. Honest. And then I’d be ready to head home.
Once home, unless there was some urgent message from an adult child, I would stay off the phone and make a giant bowl of something pasta-like and go back to the book. By the time the first full 24 hours had passed of the new year, I had reflected and energized and more often than not, seen an eagle pass by. I would have a roll or more of film from a day well spent, and start out ready for whatever new adventures lay ahead.
All that changed. Not in a bad way, just a different, much-more-intensive, action-packed, people-packed celebration-way. And that’s okay. But a few habits die hard. I still buy the new, big, fat, book hoping I’ll start it, this next week, at some point. And this year because it was purple and pretty, she said my granddaughter gave me a beautiful journal she picked out, all on her own. It would be less than respectful if I didn’t sit with it and try to christen the pages.
Izzie told me I could draw on the pages if I wanted. Which, considering her six-year-old drawings and mine look pretty similar, I can understand why she might think that would be a good way to start the journal. But I know what I must do. Even without all the ritual of the long drive and the beer and the burger, I need to take a walk, maybe download a little Patsy on my iPod, remember this past year and dream a bit about the one ahead. I might do that on Tuesday, but I’m just as likely to wait until I have a bit more time, say, Sunday, in the Park
Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. Orr is also a former editor of The Park Record.
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