January 1, 2021
I’m not one to give the new year much significance. It seems an imposed and arbitrary marker. While reflection upon the Earth completing one orbit around the sun does contain an offering of awe, there is no need for a churchly calendar to determine when that happens. And as with all events that once commemorated and reaffirmed the human’s place among the natural, spiritual, and cosmological, the new year has been emptied and rendered into spectacle. Now it is more a reminder of the severing of our beings from that which we co-created over millennia and has been ensnared in a system that demands forgetting, produces oblivion, and sells it in the name of progress.
It rained earlier this week for the first time in months. Heavy and steady. From where I sit, the nearby peaks are coated in snow. The sky is clear; the air is crisp and juniper scented; the birds flit and chatter among the trees. Not long ago, those peaks weren’t visible, as the air was thick with the smoke of numerous fires, and the only rain that fell was ash. While dates are ultimately circumstantial, today carries a feel of cleansing or reprieve from a year engulfed by flames, fears, breathlessness, and losses.
I used to wish I was a desert monk of old, amid solitary deprivation navigating the precarious boundary between enlightenment and madness. After nearly a year of enforced solitude, I know now such a way is not for me, and that in this world, madness lingers far nearer than enlightenment. Terrifyingly near, as many of us know all too well. For me, this was the year I fled. Not to elsewhere, but nowhere. Fled back into moments of relapse, of depression, of physical ailments, of screens and their algorithms. Seeking with quixotic flailing something to ground me, to offer meaning, purpose, connection, or relief.
As death stole so many in the cruelest and most senseless of forms, in my fleeing I felt ever more the pathetic spectator as streets burst with rebellion and mutual aid. Alas, they did not where I was. And all the more, I was filled with the yearning for a broken, frightened, lonely heart to be mended in struggle, in community. Instead, most days merely getting up and making it through the hours of consciousness seemed a Sisyphean task. Healthy habits and care of the self slipped away. Pursuit of distraction to numb the overwhelm became routine, and relentlessly unsuccessful.
I wish I did more, but also try to hold that no apology is required for surviving as best I could. My heart beats for all who are getting through as best you can. My heart crumbles to accompany all who have been lost or taken.
As the sun sets on this arbitrary new year’s day, I offer this writing to recommit to surviving, to finding community, and to stoking the embers of our collective rebellious hearts for all that lies ahead.