Well it's been a year. What a year. My personal fortunes have risen while the nation's fortunes have been battered and beaten. A year of many deaths great and small. A year of precious archeological treasures destroyed by a band of heartless, zealous thugs. A year of tumultuous politics culminating in the election of the worst candidate it has ever been the misfortune of this country to see. A year when I moved house, retired, and began to build a new career as an artist. The contrast makes my head swim.
No great revelations occurred to me at midnight on this first day, not even a quiet epiphany. But there was the sense that a line had been crossed, if only because we had survived a difficult year mostly intact.
The Zen saying goes: Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. Yesterday I wrote morning pages, cleaned cat boxes, and worked in the studio. Today I shall write morning pages, clean cat boxes, and work in the studio. I will post to my blog about the cuffs that I finished this week. There will be the little rituals of beginning a new year - eating herring, taking down old calendars and putting up new ones, doing a little of everything that one wants to do in the new year. There will not be the making of resolutions. I have my hands full trying to keep the ones I've already made. There will be the continuation of daily life which is, after all, what we wish for when we celebrate the new year. We wish that the sun will continue to come up, that we will have enough to eat, that we will have shelter, and that we may hope for improvement.
Chop wood, carry water. Maybe a better axe, possibly a better bucket, but chop wood, carry water. If we do not chop and carry then we are done. No more scent of new cut wood, no heft of split logs tugging arms down. No texture of the ground below while walking to the woodpile. No sound of water splashing into the bucket. No crisp cool taste of well or stream. Chop wood, carry water. Live life in all its sensory detail. Even the smallest, most pedestrian things can have savor if we pay attention to them.
Having carried water thirst will be quenched. Having chopped wood fire will fire warm us. Having done both we may have soup. And there yet may be warm weather and soft breezes and birdsong in days to come. Chop wood, carry water, take care of your needs. Pay attention to the world and be nourished.
And more - make art. Daily. Nourish your soul and celebrate the world. Chop wood, carry water, make art. Hear the axe thud and the wood crack apart. Watch the glint and play of water splashing into the bucket. Savor the warmth of the fire, the tension in muscle, the flavor of food, the relaxation of sleep. Turn it all into music, dance, clothes, jewelry, pottery, paintings.
Chop wood, carry water, make art.
May your year be full of days, may your days be full, my friends.