Ring it in
I understand the calendar says a new year begins this week but I’m not quite done with this old one. I’ve never felt comfortable with the change of the year coming in the middle of a season. I understand the turnover could work in say, the fall — the summer is done and all that warmth makes way for a chill in the air and the leaves falling off the trees and things feeling radically different. I would understand celebrating the close of that chapter and anticipate another full round of seasons to get back to the fullness of summer.
Or placing the new year in the spring. I would understand that. After the stillness and monochromatic white world of winter, suddenly luminescent green appears as tree buds and grass sprouts and crocus fight their way between rocks and voila! Spring feels like the world is new again.
But just another day in winter amid the sameness of the season, it all feels rather contrived. Here — let’s toss in another holiday that perhaps was once related to something pagan before it became religious but now is agnostic. There are no gift exchanges or meaningful ceremonies. Just the toasting of beverages and noisy makers to mark the hour and perhaps chase away the demons or bad news of the year just past.
And it requires more, much more than a clean slate. It needs us to resolve certain truths about who we want to be-what we need to fix/adjust/redo in our lives. It urges us, in a season already fraught with things we must do, to do more. We need a list of things. We share those lists, so dense with long-term goals, they are unattainable by mere mortals. And then, after a piece of time, weeks usually but sometimes only days, we declare ourselves a failure to keep our word to ourselves.
I think having goals matters, and I have many all the time — in my work, in my personal life, and I am, all year long, making a list and checking it twice. But I no longer order myself to lose 50 pounds in a week. Or organize the garage by myself in a weekend, after decades of tossing stuff in there. I realize I will not walk every day for a year if I don’t start walking at all. I cannot read a book a week if I don’t make time for a few pages a night.
I have reached the age of reason, perhaps, where the goals are more realistic and manageable for myself but bolder for my work. What matters isn’t how I look but what I am doing/dreaming/becoming.
I had a tradition before I had my current job, of spending New Year’s Day driving up to the monastery in Huntsville. There, the monks would shuffle into the Quonset hut chapel and their Georgian chants would fill the space (almost always empty of visitors) and that music and messaging would vibrate into my tired cells and renew them. To complete the personal pilgrimage I would then head over to the longest continuous bar in the state of Utah: The Shooting Star, also in Huntsville. I would order the Star burger, a concoction with multiple patties of beef and a grilled bratwurst across the top and never finish it but a make a big mess trying. I’d put Patsy Cline on the jukebox and then I would pull out a new journal. And I’d try very hard to be honest with myself on blank pages for a few hours. Since I’d arrive early in the day I’d have a booth — and really, most of the joint — to myself.
And then I’d take a walk around their town square and watch kids on sleds and honest-to-god, horse-drawn sleighs with families in the wagon behind being pulled along on snow-covered streets. It was excellent head clearing. On the drive home, if I was lucky, and so many years I was, I would spot eagles that live along the river in the winter, riding the thermals. By the time I returned to Park City there would be some sense of calm and order I could wrap myself up in, when the days ahead got complicated.
Those days, those drives, those long stretches of quiet and removal from the typical day-to-day are harder for me to find. They require commitment to taking the time (stealing sounds criminal) and finding a space and resolving to do something for myself that is renewing.
But I’m going to try to stick to that one, just that one, in the year ahead and see if all the resolutions don’t follow if just one is held constant. And yes, I’ll still have the garage one on the mental list for yet another year but maybe I’ll get some helpers and not expect to make it happen alone.
So I will be with the revelers on New Year’s Eve. We will enjoy a terrific, iconic, Hall of Fame rock band, right here in Park City and we will, after that show, gather to wish each other good tidings for the year ahead. We will sing to forget old grudges and to remember lost friends. We will toast the promise of a new year, covered, finally, in feet of fresh white snow. And with any luck, we will also make quiet promises to ourselves and the planet to find ways to connect one another with kindness, any and every chance we have.
And we can start all this anew, this very Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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In the wake of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, PJ Falten has been thinking about the “fallen heroes who gave their lives so that something like last Wednesday could never happen on sacred ground. … What would they have thought?”