Saturday, January 1, 2011

Blank Slate: 2011

It's going to be an odd year. The date tells us that -- eleven. Odd.

At this point, 6:30 a.m. on the morning of the first day of 2011, it has so much potential -- odd or otherwise. I can also see that the year will be shrouded in mystery if the morning is any portent of things to come.

A mixture of the familiar and the mysterious. My husband's regular breathing. The cats, unrelenting, disregarding a new beginning continue their old habit of waking me, making me comform to their schedule. Familiar.

I take my cue and follow their tails raised straight and rigid as if they carry their banner proudly into the fray. Today we parade to the kitchen where I meekly offer these little feline gods what they want. They are willing to walk all over my prone body, shove their furry paw in my face, sit on my head, and knock one by one everything they can reach off of dresser and counter tops until I leap from bed. That is the familiar.

When my three nemesis are contentedly grazing over their food bowls, I look out of the window expecting to see a familiar landscape. But it has changed.

Mists lie heavy turning the yellowed grass and neighbors' houses and trees into something alien and yes, mysterious. It is a Holmsian street scene for all I can tell. The street lights have a golden aura about them as if their light is trapped and unable to move past the white swirling mass that surrounds it. I cannot see the neighbor's house across the street, only the house's fixtures glow on either side of the garage door. Their light also held captive.

I pad on bare feet to the back of the house. I can't see any further than the neighbor's fence. All details are distorted or totally covered in a white veil. My sight cannot penetrate it. The practice ring where the owners train their horses stands empty. It is where they teach each horse to make every move on cue and not to do anything unless told. Through the years I have sat silently watching from my back porch as the rider leads the horse through its routine. Dressage, I believe is the name of the competitions they prepare for. Forward, backward, sideways, now fast, now slow, now pick up your feet, dainty, proper, control. Control. The check rein makes the horse curve its neck like a swan.

I think of Black Beauty, the first 'adult' book I read as a child. The first book I purchased. It was an offer on a cereal box. With box tops, I bought a world bound in an inexpensive cover. But when I opened the book, began reading the words, my little safe childish world expanded to include a horse and people who by turns loved and abused him throughout his life. I was never quite the same. Perhaps once again horses will lead me into another world, expand my own limited space. But I suspect that as with every day of my life since opening that book, it will be the words and the pages, the stories and the characters who will lead me.

As I look at the little farm, I realize that the new year begins with a bleakness over their little enterprise. I hope the recession has not caused this little farm to shut its doors. We don't need more housing developments to swallow up the land. But we do need a family farm. We need people who follow the seasons, are close to nature. We need those who feed and train horses and take responsibility for their own livelihood and who follow their bliss. I need to see a rural setting in this bedroom community I now call home. Otherwise its paved streets and manicured lawns become a stepford landscape and we are all robots programmed to exist from paycheck to paycheck.

I seek inspiration in words and find Aisha Elderwyn's challenge: "Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself."

Just be yourself. I have forgotten who that is. Through a confetti of memories I try to piece together the girl, the young woman, that I was. She had passion. She had fight. She had dreams. She had goals. She had a list of things she would never do. My lips curl in a smile laced with irony. And that girl has done just about everything on that list. Meekly I've turned my life over to others. Followed what I believed to be the 'right' thing to do. Bent to the will of the times, the culture, the boss. Will 2011 be more of the same or is it the year when I find that young woman's spirit again? Will I remember what I wanted to accomplish with my life? Will I live the life I had imagined? Will I follow Thoreau to Walden Pond? Or am I doomed to live a half life?

Will I be at the mercy of this year or will I take charge? Make changes? Become bold and strong and live the life I've imagined? Or will I bend to its will. Its inertia. Will the time pass holding me captive like a bug in amber? Am I just waiting? Or is this the time? Is it balanced? Eleven is such a well balanced number comprised of two ones. Two beginnings. Two firsts. Will this be a year of firsts? Balance? Numerology seems to think it is a fine number.

Mom told me that Grandma had a tradition. Every New Year's Day she made new pillow cases. Mom did it once or twice, but it was much easier to just wait for the white sales around President's Day and buy them. It seemed a very utilitarian tradition and I didn't pick up on it until a quilting friend told me the rest of the story. Utilitarian perhaps, but the pillow cases were made to hold the hopes and dreams for the coming year.

It is hard for me to imagine my mother and grandmother following such a fanciful tradition. But maybe there was a time when they were both young women, girls, who remembered why they were here. Maybe they had their own hopes and goals and the feeling that anything is possible. Sadly, by the time I met both women, life had beaten them down and it seemed like it took all of their strength just to get through each day. They survived. They worked hard. They took what life dealt them and slogged on.

I've been slogging along. I miss the joy and passion and thrill of embracing life, challenging it, risking a bit, moving past the mists that hold my light captive. In only an hour the mists are all but gone. The sun highlights the rosemary bush growing lush and free, more alive since the cold snap.

The horses gallop around the pastures free to follow their urge for speed, for fun, for a roll in the grass. I stare from inside of my house. I have a finite space on this earth, I have set my boundaries of where I am most comfortable and am usually content to stay. But, I realize that while I sit in my office, my thoughts are free to venture anywhere they want. The world in my head is ever expanding. Is 2011 the year that I give myself permission to also move around this earth, put aside boundaries and get better acquainted with the landscape?

The sun now shines brightly and I see more clearly. This is definitely an odd year already.

1 comment:

Jeannine said...

Wonderful post. You had me reminiscing about my own initial reading of "Black Beauty" as well, and remembering some of my own hopes and dreams...thank you, and Happy New Year to you and yours. :)