“Fast away”: A New Year’s ramble

Fast away the old year passes;
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses …

So it does, so it does.

Last year’s ramble was so very well received (at least, the traffic this blog got spiked significantly for a week and more …) that I will risk repeating myself (more than usual).

As in past years, I did a somewhat comprehensive retrospective at the end of the ligurgical year, looking at the blog’s year on the subjects of the Shine Cycle, Strategic Primer, and my poetry and miscellaneous essays, and writing my annual Thanksgiving reflection. And the past few days have seen posts about my goals for 2014 and how well I met those for 2013, including those for the Shine Cycle and Strategic Primer. So there is little more to say.

This is still Christmastide, one of the year’s seasons most particularly designated for high joy. And while I have tended toward melancholia for most of my adult life, I find myself somewhat happier than I can remember being at this time in any recent year. But even so, my mood tends ever toward reflection—but to avoid exhausting time, energy, and thought retreading old paths, I’ll point you to my first Thanksgiving post and last year’s New Year’s ramble and leave those trains of thought for the time being.

This year had highs and lows.

The highs were, for me, mostly vicarious: I count at least six of my friends and dear acquaintances who became married this year. In their honor, I wrote two poems, Radiance and Epithalamium II.

The lows were more personal to me. In October, we lost our cat, from whom I had earlier drawn my Untitled Metaphor #9; out of that grief I wrote In Memoriam. And every few days, it seems, something brings that absence—that grief—back to mind for at least a moment.

As a poet, and perhaps even in my prose, I’ve gotten “a lot of mileage” from dreams. If you’re interested in perusing these poems, this tag will take you through them. But one dream in particular reminded me of the role one of my friends unwittingly played in the development of my Shine Cycle, and so I wrote the poem To Josephine.

A few others of this year’s poems seemed particularly appropriate to this time when not only I, but seemingly all the world for once, turn to reflection:

  • “A wealth of food”, this year’s Thanksgiving poem, meditating on the many and varied blessings God has given us.
  • Given that wealth, a response to a line from the Magnificat that echoes Charles Williams: “Send not”.
  • When my laptop crashed, I had the sobering thought that “I worked in vain”.
  • In April—again—I got very frustrated with myself; thus the poem Rest.
  • Similarly, a sermon on the catechism prompted the confession-poem I called Catechesis.
  • Lastly, my Evening Prayer is particularly apropos at this time of year.

The closest thing I have to a “New Year’s tradition” anymore is listening to the “New Year’s Day from Vienna” concert on the radio. With friends scattered far, in this time my eyes turn most readily to old favorite stories. And my hands, eventually, to work on my own, that these days not be entirely unproductive.

One of the strongest (though still very vague, as far as details go) fragmentary memories I have associated with the New Year is a scene from one of the Little House books, in which Laura’s Pa takes down his fiddle and sings “Old Grimes”:

Old Grimes is dead, that good old man,
We never shall see him more;
He used to wear an old grey coat
All buttoned down before.
Old Grimes’ wife made skim milk cheese;
Old Grimes he drank the whey:
There came an east wind from the west
And blew Old Grimes away.

Which brings us, of course, to the song that is most traditional at the turning of the year, the famous Robert Burns poem.

Some of you (and more “of you” who probably won’t read this) are absent friends dearest to my heart, “palpably absent” as this day’s reflective mood brings you to mind. Think of me also, I pray you, lest our bonds of friendship fray any further.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And days of auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


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