Wednesday, 31 December 2008


The last morning of the old year.

A duvet of vaporous air is hiding the light. Its thick whiteness rolls down the hills and suffocates my garden, where the crunchy glitter of the frost rises to greet it.
It muffles sound. I am alone on a freezing, shifting white island.
The dog refuses to go out.

Obscurity: dingy, dull, dark and dim, says the Oxford Dictionary. I'm not happy with that. No year should end like that, nor new one begin.
Indefinite, remote from observation, unnoticed, humble, unexplained, it continues. Ah, that's more like it! I want my new year to be unexplained, and I imagine you do, too? Who would really wish to know what their future holds?
What would be the point of stepping out into an utter conviction of your own rightness; your right to happiness and prosperity and good health and all the other things we wish one another when we fall into the fountains in Trafalgar Square as Big Ben tolls the turning year (well, some of us do, anyway)? Where is the challenge in that? What an insufferable bore you would be by the end of 2009, and how your former friends would dread your company.

Equally, who could bear to step out into a year that they knew for certain held death and despair? Many of us will face this, but we do not do not know it yet, and so may hold on to hope; and that hope will temper despair with other, more positive emotions and make it bearable.

This is how a year should turn, from ending to beginning - obscure and unexplained, with promise and with hope.

Above that swirling duvet, the sun is shining. Underneath the sparkle of frost, the little verbena is quietly biding its time.

Happy and Obscure New Year to you all.


Anonymous said...

Wishing you all the best for the New Year, and I loved that post - you are spot on.


pohanginapete said...

So true (and wonderfully written). In a certain future, nothing would be possible. That thought appals me.

Wishing you a happy New Year, full of possibilities.

herhimnbryn said...

Just so.

Zhoen said...

We do know. It'll be a mixed bag, and no peeking.

Hope yours has a pineapple.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jan, PPete, HHnB, Zhoen, many thanks and appropriate greetings to you all.
I hope you all had as good a New Year celebration as I did. I sedated the dog (who hates fireworks) and went to bed with a really good book (Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides). So much more comfortable than falling in the fountain.

persiflage said...

You are right - it would be dreadful if all one's forebodings came true. Happy New Year.
It looks so cold where you are!

Isabelle said...

Hmm... very interesting post. Hoping is probably better than knowing - travelling hopefully, as RL Stevenson said. Though this doesn't apply to actual travelling, in my view. I prefer actual arriving.

Happy New Year.

Relatively Retiring said...

Persiflage and Isabelle: thank you both. I think R.L.Stevenson might feel differently if he faced travelling today. He might say something like 'the anticipation is often the best part'. This so often applies to Christmas!
And, yes, it's hovering around freezing, and I'm trying to keep some water ice-free for the birds. It looks positively balmy in Scotland.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing yet again. You know the power of words. Are you a professional writer? If not you should be.

Relatively Retiring said...

Anon, thank you for your interest and kind comment. I am relatively retired from just about everything these days.

les said...

Ha! Wonderful, RR. I just finished writing my own thoughts on starting the new year and yours here strikes me as very wise.

BTW, Middlesex is one of my all-time favorite books - such wonderful writing. Enjoy!

J. said...

I haven't fallen into a fountain since 1974 when I almost wore a long, silver, backless, topless, sideless dress and walked 5 miles home carrying my silver shoes in one hand and my skirt in the other, dripping...
I am SO glad I am no longer young!

Happy New Year to you

Relatively Retiring said...

Les; many thanks and a very obscure new year to you. Your photographs make me long for snow - and sunshine! Isn't Middlesex enjoyable?

Julie: ahhhh - those were the days! Amazing how we never felt the cold, nor died of hypothermia on the way home!
I'd love to read your blogs. Please will you invite me?

peregrina said...

I've been wondering whether to post a comment or not. I haven't been in the mood for enjoying blogs. However, this post contains an idea pertinent to my thoughts at the moment: the fact that we live without knowing what lies ahead.

We blithely say, "Happy New Year," but for some people it isn't. For me, and some other people I know, this New Year has been very sombre. By the end of its first week, my husband and I between us will have been to five funerals for six people. Four had lived long, fulfilled lives and were former colleagues, or parents of friends, but reaching the end of a long life doesn't lessen the sorrow for family and friends. The other two were members of a group I belong to, a husband and wife married for less than a year who were killed in a shocking road accident that left a third person dead and a fourth still critically ill in hospital.

What, I ask myself, if we could only have the ability to foresee the dire consequences of certain decisions that we are about to make? (In a way, I suppose we can, by using our imaginations. But then, if we imagined all the things that could potentially go wrong, we'd never get out of bed - and even that could eventually have an unfortunate outcome.) But we do things that we have done many times with nothing untoward happening until, disastrously for some, that split second occurs when certain circumstances coincide in a way they never have before.

You are right, R.R. We need to live with promise and hope. Without it our lives would be crippled. But, irrationally, I still can't help wishing that those who had a merry Christmas but died prematurely before they could have a happy New Year could have had some foresight of what lay ahead, thus enabling them to avert catastrophe.

mm said...

A beautiful and wise post, dear RR. Happy New Year, full of unknown and unexpected possibilities.

Relatively Retiring said...

Peregrina: I am so very sorry to hear what sort of New Year you are experiencing. I will be in touch.

mm, thank you. I'll be in touch.

kat said...

Love the post, as always, and I wish you a wonderful, upcoming year, full of happiness and joyful surprises.


Relatively Retiring said...

Thank you, Kat - and I wish you all the same good things.