What are your hopes? What are your prospects? What do you want to leave behind?
I like to prolong the transition from old year to new as long or longer than the next guy.
My tree stays up throughout January. Our decorations include quotes from favorite poems.
Auden, You shall love your crooked neighbor/ With your crooked heart.
W.S. Merwin, Your absence has gone through me/Like thread through a needle./Everything I do is stitched with its color.
Frank O’Hara, oh god it’s wonderful to get out of bed and drink too much coffee and smoke too many cigarettes and love you so much.
I love my Moby Dick ornament and don’t want to put it away too soon.
On the other hand, it’s time to move forward. All kinds of new ideas pertain to Christmas tree disposal. Let it become something new. Evolution.
The Berlin Zoo is known for furnishing trees to its elephants as playthings. Closer to home, so does The Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The North Georgia Zoo in Cleveland, Georgia, gratefully accepts trees for the “enrichment” of its kangaroos, porcupines, camels and wolves. Zookeepers swear it keeps their minds stimulated.
I’ve begun my own mental stimulation for 2023 by re-reading some Pema Chodron, the Buddhist nun known for her pithy statements about how to experience life more fruitfully, including the kinds of run-of-the-mill disasters we all face and try to sweat through.
She has observed, so wisely: The first noble truth says simply that it’s part of being human to feel discomfort. Phew! I feel better already. I’m hoping that my habit of chasing rainbows will result in fewer catastrophes in the new year if pots of gold don’t materialize.
Feelings are not facts, in the trite psychology espoused by many a therapist, so let’s stick to what’s been proven.
Still… we chased a rainbow outside on the first day of the new year and guess what, it turned out to be a double.
I want to learn some new things in the new year that I didn’t know I wanted to know. Started today with Adventures in Great Symphonic Music, a delightful class taught by Bruce Pulk, principal timpanist with The Phoenix Symphony. A smart and emotional teacher who brings both his portable keyboard and conducting baton to class.
The subject: Alexander Borodin’s Symphony #2 in B Minor. Borodin, I learn, was one of the “Mighty Five” Russian nationalist composers in the second half of the nineteenth century, along with Cesar Cui, Mily Balakirev, Modest Moussorgsky and Nicolai Rimsky Korsakov. Only halfway literate in classical music, I appreciate mainly the andante with its sweet clarinet and other wind voices. The espressivo stuff.
Yet I can relate to what Pulk says about Shakespeare, in talking about how different conductors interpret famous works. To be, or not to be? That is the question—is only words on a page until it gets channeled by the likes of John Gielgud or Mel Brooks as they play Hamlet.
Or even, I would add, Sarah Bernhardt, she who played the gloomy prince in 1899.
I would like to bring my own interpretation to the world in 2023, and respect the interpretation of others so different from myself.
Listening to the allegretto, the tremolo, the poco piu animato, I have that fidgety feeling while experiencing music I don’t quite understand. All around me sit my classmates, people who have lived through probably two decades more new year’s transitions than I have, all perfectly quiet and attentive. No fidgeting. They’ve all learned to be still. To be there.
Will there be less fidgeting in 2023? More poetry? More pear tarts?
The possibility of living with discomfort, even welcoming it? Evolution. Both feelings and facts. All interpretation. More rainbows.
After all, rainbows are real, too.