Happy New Year! Every new year, I try to write something. This past year has been equally wonderful and difficult for me. There have been issues within my family, financial and emotional struggles. There have also been new beginnings, lots of productivity and great musical endeavors. Although, I can’t say that I’m sorry to end 2021, things are still uncertain and fluid. Who knows what 2022 will bring? Some of us are floundering, trying to hold on while the storm rages around us. Others have found a sense of calm and acceptance. I keep going back and forth between both. So far anyway, I haven't felt angry as many others do.
Yesterday, I heard an “At Home” interview with Allison Russell on WEXT radio at noon. When speaking about facing and writing about adversity, she referred to us all as “descendants of survivors.” That one phrase stuck with me. It feels so hopeful. It means that the reason all of us are here on earth at this moment is because our ancestors who came before us survived whatever turmoil assaulted them. Eventually we all lose the ultimate battle but until we die, we continue to survive not matter what comes our way. I have done a lot of surviving in the course of my life and certainly plan to keep it up. How about you? Life can be hard, but there’s always something new just around the corner.
As I begin a new year, especially after ending such a tumultuous one, I like to reflect on, not only the past, but also the future. My partner always chooses a project to do on New Year’s Day that reflects the coming year. Sometimes it’s a construction project or a major clean-up project outdoors. Today, on this rainy, damp day, it’s video editing. I like that approach of using New Year’s Day as a paradigm for the rest of the year. It’s much more forgiving than making resolutions which, when broken, can set us up to feel badly about ourselves. I always prefer to take one day at a time. In 1975, I bought a copy of Baba Ram Dass’ book “Be Here Now” at a new and used bookstore in Santa Cruz, California. It’s quite old and worn out now with its pages a little tattered and falling out and both covers gone. The paper itself feels old and seems to disintegrate in my hands, so I rarely read it, but the concept has guided me along the way. I wondered about the paper that was used when it was brand new. It felt old and fragile even then. Maybe it wasn’t meant to last long. Using New Year’s Day as a model for the rest of the year seems like a good way for me to be here now.
So today I am writing. I have already practiced music and will soon go for a walk. The writing is easy for me to do. I have always loved to write. My dad was a newspaperman and instilled a love of reading and writing in me. He was strict about spelling and grammar. But he also encouraged creativity. When I was in high school, he started teaching me how to write headlines. Back then, it wasn’t done by computer. You had only a certain amount of space in which to get your point across. The letters were different sizes, so it became like a puzzle. You had to figure out what words to use that would fit into that space while still trying to be clever. I think that exercise in writing could be why I tend to write succinctly now.
Dad also gave me the invaluable gift of music. There was always music around when I was a child. If there wasn’t a record playing, then we were singing. We sang after dinner around the dining room table, and we sang in the car. There were always lullabies before bed and random songs throughout the day. We had songs for bath time, every holiday, songs about historical events and for every situation. Then there was dancing. Mom and Dad sometimes danced together. I learned to dance the Jitterbug, Charleston, Lindy Hop, Cha Cha, Waltz and more by standing on Dad’s feet until I knew the steps. Once I could do them on my own, we would dance together swaying, twirling and dipping. Dad’s whole family was musical. One of my great-uncles played tenor banjo in vaudeville. Another great-uncle played organ for silent movie houses, and my grandmother played beautiful classical piano on her baby grand. I have always lived and breathed music. I figure it’s got to be part of my DNA. That said, I often have to push myself to practice every day. Hopefully, doing it first thing today has set the tone for the rest of the year.
Getting enough exercise is by far the toughest one for me to do regularly. At 68, it’s important for me to exercise every day. In the nicer weather, I’m gardening, swimming and being more involved in social activities like music festivals, parties and the like. I’m always moving when it's nice out. I‘ve also been teaching my classes outdoors in the warmer weather, and they are fairly physical. Unfortunately, in the winter, I have very few classes because it's just too cold to teach outside, and folks are still leery of being indoors with their children. I don’t blame them. When it’s cold, unless there’s snow for snowshoeing, the things I love to do, music and writing, are indoors and have me sitting for the most part. I’ve always looked at winter as my hibernation time. That’s when I get more organized and do more physical art like various crafts. So, I need that little extra push to go out and walk right now. I hope today is the start of a regular routine, but I am still going to try taking it one day at a time. Starting right now, on this day, I'm heading outside to hike in our woods.