When I first considered writing this article, I briefly thought about calling it just “New Year, 2022.” This would be my snarky comment about the state of the continuing pandemic, our national politics, climate disasters, and just about everything else. My terse title would say: nope, not expecting happy things this year either. Almost immediately, though, I remembered that snarky and cynical don’t look well on me. More importantly, I see that all jumbled up with my weariness and anxiety are bits of happiness (or contentment or, at least, acceptance).*
January 31 As it is, I have put off finishing this post until the last day of the month. Luckily, Lunar New Year is beginning, so I am coming in just under the wire. Here is a list of things that make me feel better about going into a new year. I need this list to remind myself of all the good parts of my life.
The people abide. I walk by playgrounds and I see children playing as they always do. Parents are keeping an eye on the kids as parents do. Every time we go to the National Mall, Tom and I see people enjoying the museums, gardens, the ice rink, and food trucks. Despite the continual dose of disturbing news–let alone the wars and rumors of wars–I see helpers and kind people around me every day. I see the workers at my condo and my local grocery store, and those who seek out and help all the lost and lonely ones.
My county still has heart. Tom and I first moved to Arlington County, Virginia in June 1978 and have lived here on an off since. Our children went to school here. In the 1980s we lived a couple blocks from Arlington CentraI Library where I worked part-time. Later I taught immigrants and refugees in Arlington. We were here on September 11, 2001 and saw the Pentagon burning. Again, three decades later, we live a couple blocks from Central Library. Now, in Covid times, Central Library has free WiFi for all in the parking lot, a food pantry, a vegetable patch, and is surrounded by a native plant garden. Most importantly, perhaps, is the library’s strong stand as a safe place for everyone in the community.
Nature comforts me. I find both wonder and solace in the plants, animals, rocks, and sky that I encounter.
Dawn comes. Every day we see the morning light. We follow that light through the day until it is evening. All the light warms us.
We have family, friends, music, and food. I remember the many good parts of my life. I also remember those who have gone. I have listened to Tom play Mozart sonatas almost every day of the pandemic and I feel lucky. It’s the time of year when I remember “Auld Lang Syne.” I shiver or cry or both when I hear the song. I want and need that cup.
For old acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should old acquaintance be forgot
In the days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear
For auld lang syne
We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet
For the sake of auld lang syne
Hope is still around here somewhere. So many words from the wise ones exhort people to live for the day, be in the present, etc. I am on board with that-not that I can do it all that much. I still spend plenty of emotional time in the past and the future, and I am not sure that is all bad. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made camping reservations for early June in Arizona and Utah. Tom and I don’t know how we will feel or how things will be shaping up with the pandemic. We don’t know much of anything. However, we remember the places and people we love from the old days. Maybe we can get to the North Rim another time. Maybe we can visit Capitol Reef and camp on the Aquarius Plateau. Maybe we can go back to Fishlake National Forest and be near Pando (a clonal colony of quaking aspen considered by some to be the largest single living organism on earth) one more time. Maybe we will drink a cup of kindness again with the friends of our youth (now of our age). I am hoping.
I recently bought a new head lamp. I am hoping it will lead me through dark nights to bright dawns.
*If I were grading this essay, I would comment on the need for more specific language than “happiness” or “contentment.” I hope the examples and the photos add some heft to the words. Happy New Year! (Added 1/31/2022: Chúc mừng năm mới).