By: Gerald Stern
I wanted to know what it was like before we
Had voices and before we had bare fingers and before we
Had minds to move us though our actions
And tears to help us over our feelings,
So I drove my daughter through the snow to meet her friend
And filled her car with suitcases and hugged her
As an animal would, pressing my forehead against her,
Walking in circles, moaning, touching her cheek,
And turned my head after them as an animal would,
Watching helplessly as they drove over the ruts,
Her smiling face and her small hand just visible
Over the giant pillows and coat hangers
As they made their turn into the empty highway.
(From Ten Poems to Say Goodbye, ed. Roger Housden)
With an egret, the color of snow, and a long-beaked ibis as companions, I walked the foggy sidewalk this
morning and pondered the passing year. I considered the new one waiting to arrive in just ten days.
“I’m not ready. I don’t want to wave good-bye to 2016 or to welcome the future. I want nothing to do with a happy new year.” I stubbornly said to myself. “What on earth is the matter with me!!” I thought. And then it happened. A single tear trickled down my cheek. Another followed. Gerald Stein wrote, “And tears to help us over our feelings.” I guess I needed a little help letting go of the familiar to prepare for the unknown.
The theme for Sunday services at UUFCC in January is “New Year, New View.” I’m preparing for a new view but it’s taking some effort. To travel an unfamiliar highway feels frightening, especially if one imagines all that can go wrong on the journey. And, because we are human, the primitive impulse to prepare to fight or flee is ever-present. It’s more apparent at some times than others.
As the clock ticks and the new year makes its way toward us, I feel as though I need to stand ready for battle. This is part of my frustration. I don’t want to think that the year ahead will be one fraught with struggle. And yet, I suspect that if we want a kinder, gentler, more justice- oriented and compassionate society, we must be ready to work for it.
So here we are, waving good-bye to the old year as it passes, letting go of the past and readying ourselves for unknown challenges that may arrive. This is the task before us. Prepare we must. However, may we remember that it takes just as much courage to summon the beauty, the joy, the goodness, the gifts that will also undoubtedly present themselves in the year ahead.
May it be so.