At Year’s End

Winter sun and shadow on the back fence

A week or so ago, at noon, I was sitting on the back porch, gazing at the sky. I was dressed warmly for it was 50 degrees and windy, which is cold if you live in a hot climate. Suddenly – and this made no sense – I heard the distinctive jingle of an ice cream truck. Stephen King came to mind, and I imagined a truck full of killer clowns. It has been that kind of year.

King himself has tweeted that nothing he’s written is as scary as 2020 has been. To be precise, he said nothing he’s written “is as frightening as the current administration,” which is to state more clearly what has made America the epicenter of many of the horrors the world has endured this year.

My father was born exactly 100 years ago, on December 31, 1920. As I sat on the porch this afternoon, on another chilly day, I was thankful that he didn’t live to see this year. Then a pleasant memory came to mind.

I was seven or eight, and my family lived in Poughkeepsie, NY. My mother had a cousin who was married to an officer who taught at West Point. One November, they invited us to an Army football game. Army versus Nebraska, to be precise, for I’ll never forget my first real football game, nor the beauty of that late autumn day in the Hudson River Valley. I was happy, I felt loved. Army won the game, and I was confident that I lived in the greatest nation on earth.

How many children feel safe and loved today? How many feel that their team is winning the game (any game)? How many truly believe they live in the greatest nation on earth? Some, I am sure. I’ve read that 8% of the population believe the moon landing was fake, so there will be some. But not that many.

To me, that seems like a good thing.

“American exceptionalism” is a delusion we are better off without, a notion that seems almost obscene two days after the anniversary of Wounded Knee, when 338,000 families have empty chairs this New Year’s Eve. To me, it is not depressing to see through this myth – it’s almost freeing to see how fallible we really are, and to see all that we can no longer take for granted, from our health and the health of our loved ones to the survival of our democracy that powerful interests would like to destroy.

The wind has died down, and the last afternoon of the year is still. It feels like everything is on pause. No telling which way the weather will go this evening. No telling for certain which way the country will go over the months and years ahead.

So now is the time to imagine what kind of country we want to inhabit.
And pay attention.
And do what we can to bring it about.
And remember what the Dalai Lama said – Never give up!

5 thoughts on “At Year’s End

  1. It’s a still life watercolor
    Of a now-late afternoon
    As the sun shines through the curtain lace
    And shadows wash the room
    And we sit and drink our coffee
    Couched in our indifference, like shells upon the shore
    You can hear the ocean roar
    In the dangling conversation
    And the superficial sighs
    The borders of our lives
    And you read your Emily Dickinson
    And I my Robert Frost
    And we note our place with book markers
    That measure what we’ve lost
    Like a poem poorly written
    We are verses out of rhythm
    Couplets out of rhyme
    In syncopated time (in syncopated time)
    And the dangling conversation
    And the superficial sighs
    Are the borders of our lives
    Yes, we speak of things that matter
    With words that must be said
    “Can analysis be worthwhile?”
    “Is the theater really dead?”
    And how the room is softly faded
    And I only kiss your shadow, I cannot feel your hand
    You’re a stranger now unto me
    Lost in the dangling conversation
    And the superficial sighs
    In the borders of our lives

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Times they are a’changin’ and that is a good thing. 2021 has to be better. I just hope more and more people come to their senses about politics in this country before it’s too late. Thanks for a thoughtful post. Happy New Year to you, Morgan, and to Mary as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really enjoyed this post. I woke up this morning thinking that if nothing else good came out of 2020, the universe held up a mirror to the US and we learned the true state of affairs in this nation. In the past, splinter groups were unaware of opposite splinter groups. They were considered fringe, nothing to do with “us”. Now it’s clear they are everything to do with us and what we’ve let happen, shrugged off, sidelined. You might say everyone has seen everyone now, which is probably the only way real solutions to problems can be found.

    Liked by 3 people

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