Woke to a new year this morning, and it started as it should, with a cold kitchen floor and piping hot coffee, in the kind of stillness that only comes in the early hours of very cold mornings like this. The thermometer on the porch reads 3 degrees this morning, the app on my phone -8, so likely somewhere in between those two is where the temperature stands at the moment, cold regardless of accuracy. My wool socks fight the cold seeping up from the slate kitchen floor pretty well, but at these temperatures it is temporary at best, so the rungs on the stool at the table serve to keep them off the floor while I sit and sip and ruminate.
I didn’t make it to midnight last night, didn’t really intend to, to be honest. The moment of turning the calendar isn’t something I feel a need to witness any longer; it’ll be turned when I wake up, as it was again, since I was in bed by 10:00 PM as usual. I keep the door closed to the unheated 3rd floor bedroom as I prefer it to be cold to sleep, and I wasn’t disappointed last night, as it was very chilly, with ice on the inside of the old storm windows, the last drafty old wooden sashes in this old house. The down comforter kept me plenty warm and I slept well, as I usually do in the cold, but getting out of the warm bed in that room is a challenge, and one does it quickly. I slept with my socks on, which helps in that moment.
And so here I am in this new year, beginning as usual, just another winter day, draining the coffee pot again. It is a natural time of reflection, this first day, and my mind has been busy lately wondering and wandering about what 2018 might hold. I’ve done resolutions before, and they don’t typically work, being ultimatums that hang over me instead of goals to work toward. Better to seed dreams at this time of year, I think, at least for me, or nurture those dreams we might be carrying over from the past, tend to them gently and with patience, hoping that the roots are growing unseen beneath the surface of our too-busy lives. It’s easy to fall into the trap of “I must” or “I will,” when in actuality “I might” or “I’d like to try to” are entirely more practical and likely. Even then, benchmarks set too high are momentum killers, I think. Better to begin a journey, or continue on one, rather, then to set out for a singular destination on a path filled with self-created pitfalls.
Moving forward begins by looking back, examining where we are at the moment, at least for me. Best to do this gently as it can easily become consuming. 2017 wasn’t without its challenges, and many of them will continue into this new year. It is easy to imagine that nothing will change, but of course things will, some predictably, others unexpectedly. I learned a lot in 2017, both easy and hard lessons, and I emerge in 2018 with scars and gifts, as we all do if we are honest. Scars can be gifts, too, I suppose, although they may not feel like it. Time both changes us and deepens us, as we discover what we are capable of doing and enduring; it marches on, leaving footprints on us as it passes.
Looking through those frost-covered bedroom windows is a little like looking back on the year. In the dark, the frost fairly glows, capturing moonlight and streetlights and refracting it through its crystals, making some things look beautiful and other things blurry. It is neither good nor bad; it simply is, a filter on a lens, adding to and subtracting from our view, helping and hindering. As the sun comes up this morning, it will strike those east-facing windows in the bedroom. Despite the bitter temperatures outside, the sun will, bit by bit, work its magic on those crystals, first illuminating their beautiful complexity in spots along the edges where they were growing, then slowly, so slowly, melting those edges away. The thicker, more opaque parts, through which all is but a blur, will take longer, maybe not yet melting at all under today’s weak winter sun, but they too will be gone some day. Eventually, all will be clear and we will see. Over the next days and weeks, the ice will grow and retreat, some days obscuring more, maybe most, even, but other days revealing the world as it stands beyond the window in bits and pieces until eventually all of it is gone and we are left with clarity. Someday. But not today.
Today we will glimpse but bits of the world ahead of us, the world outside our windows, because that is as it should be. All is not meant to be revealed at once. I will look back, with wonder and worry and wariness, and see there a reflection of who I am, who we are, at this moment, not the whole picture but bits and pieces ready to be reflected, that I am perhaps ready to see. And I will look forward, through that same, lens, like an old mirror with the silvering badly worn, missing entirely in spots, to discover the hopes and heartaches and happiness to come. Surprises will remain, mysteries waiting behind the ice, things from the past we can’t yet understand and in the future that we can’t know to anticipate, but if we are careful and wise enough, we need not worry about them; they, too, will be revealed, when we are ready and, maybe, stronger, and the sun climbs a little higher in the sky. Until then, the ice that remains can be beautiful in itself, but only if we look at it instead of trying to look through it.