Friday, December 29, 2006

An ACME New Year

from Jacqueline

Since I was twenty, I’ve had a bit of a problem with the new year, specifically, “old year’s night” as my dad calls it. I quite like that term, “old year’s night” – it gives the occasion a sense of mystery, a sense of farewell, yet at the same time, and anticipation of things to come. That excitement was turned to some sort of dread many years ago, when my brother, - who’d been complaining of a loss of feeling in his hands, and “tingling” in his arms – had an appointment with a neurosurgeon on December 31st. He was due to join the Royal Navy just a couple of weeks later, and was just beside himself with excitement. We all assumed that his symptoms were a bit of tennis elbow to be sorted out before he began his training. The trio – my parents and my brother – came home from the hospital late in the day, crestfallen. My brother went to his room and did not come out until close to midnight, to share the shank of old year’s night with the family. It was as the clock struck twelve, when my mother kissed my brother and held him oh so tight, and my Dad looked away so that I would not see his tears, that I knew we were on the edge of a precipice, and who knows where we would all be in a year. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? We don’t necessarily think of the year past, but with a gulp we look at the year to come and wonder what it will bring, and how we will accept abundance with grace, loss without losing ourselves, and how we might keep those things we love about us, and jettison those things that will weigh down our journey. And with all that, who will we be next year?

New Year makes me feel a bit like Wile E. Coyote at the point when, having just chased the road-runner to the edge of a precipice, he looks across as his quarry hops effortlessly across the divide onto the other side, then takes a run at the gap himself, but instead falls into the abyss until, splat! A really bad landing. That’s when he goes to the ACME Company’s trusty catalog for a parachute or some flying contraption to get him across. Which is probably where the lesson is – we can try all sort of things to get over that canyon, between this year and the next, but a knowing look back and a quick confident hop is all it takes.

In my case, all’s well that end’s well, because despite the fact that that year was one of the very worst for my family (and the next few years weren’t much better), my brother is careening toward forty-eight this year and although he didn’t join the navy, he eventually became a gifted, creative landscape gardener and designer, and it is probably evident that the military might not have suited him at all. Mind you, the process of witnessing my brother’s journey though a life-threatening illness taught me more than a few lessons. It showed me how to look back with compassion, to forgive the ups and downs that cause us to say things we don’t mean, and do things we might never otherwise do. And even though I have an almost paralyzing fear that passes through me as the clock strikes the hour marking the passing of the old year, the ACME glass of champagne in my hand and, if I am at a party, the cheers and off-key ACME rendition of “Auld Lang's Ayne” rattling the rafters, remind me to look forward, not back, to welcome the year still in its swaddling clothes, and remember, hackneyed as it seems, that life is what you make it. My brother is really, really good at that.

So, from the Wile E. Coyote of old year’s night, I wish you a wonderful weekend, and a year to come that is filled with love, peace, joy, accomplishment and community. And here’s a verse to leave you with. It is the one I look to every new year’s morning – you know it well :


by Max Ehrman

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
 And remember what peace there may be in silence. 
As far as possible without surrender 
be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly & clearly;
 and listen to others, 
even the dull & ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud & aggressive persons, 
they are vexations to the spirit. 
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; 
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
 Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
 it is a real possession in the changing future of time.
 Exercise caution in your business affairs;
 for the world is full of trickery.
 But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
 many persons strive for high ideals; 
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
 Especially, do not feign affection.
 Neither be cynical about love; 
for in the face of all aridity & disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. 
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
 gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
 Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
 But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
 Many fears are born of fatigue & loneliness.
 Beyond wholesome discipline,
 be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
 no less than the trees & the stars;
 you have a right to be here.
 And whether or not it is clear to you,
 no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
 whatever you conceive Him to be,
 and whatever your labors & aspirations,
 in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
 With all its sham, drudgery & broken dreams,
 it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.


  1. As always, your writing is stunningly beautiful...

    I keep a copy of Desiderata close to my computer. I also have Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Success."

    "To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreicate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healty child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier becaue you have lived. This is to have succeeded."

  2. Patty and Jackie,

    I like both of your sentiments, on this, our Leap Into The Next Year.

    Here's to much happiness and success for all the Naked Author folks!

  3. In keeping with Patty's quotable author: "It is not length of life, but depth of life."
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    As always, Jacqueline, I find much value and meaning in the eloquent and pragmatic writings which you post. My mantra, not only for the coming year, but for everyday of my life is, "you can't change your past but you can shape your future."
    Here's wishing all of the "Naked Author Folks," the power to endeavor the daily task of shaping for themselves the best future possible.

  4. from Jacqueline

    Thank you all for adding to the list of worthy mantras for a new year - I will have them pinned to the wall in front of my desk - and for sharing your good wishes to one and all. Let's make 2007 a banner year. And, if you remember my post from a couple of weeks ago, I'm glad to say that, per recent presidential ruminations (oh, Lord, stop me before I crack a joke ...), it's now looking a bit better for the polar bears.

  5. This new years eve, I guess I'll be wishing for 'grace' and meaning. I'll also be adding my Uncle Keith to my usual toast to "absent friends". He died Christmas night - way ahead of his time - and was buried yesterday, Australia time. Kind of explains why I've been a bit quiet lately. He finally succumbed to bone cancer - the seeds of which he picked up in Vietnam in the 1960s. He was a joy to know and a very giving and wonderful person. We will miss him. :-)

    Meanwhile, I'll be trying out mini Dark and Stormy's on New Years eve whilst watching goofy Science Fiction movies and eating Italian with friends. :-D

    Bests to you all, with warmest regards.

    PS: If anyone wants to read about my uncle, I wrote somethings on my blog, Muse du Jour.

  6. Marianne's address is:

  7. from Jacqueline

    Marianne, I've just visited your blog and read the tribute to your uncle. What wonderful memories you have of him, and what blessings he left in this world. My thoughts are with you and your family - I know how it feels to be so far away at such a time. However, your words point to the sentiment that those who are gone are never far away when we hold them with us in our hearts - I know that sounds a bit "Hallmark" but I have found it to be rooted in truth.

  8. Thank you for this, Our J--perfect poem to reflect on at this time of year, and it is wonderful to hear that your brother is going strong as he approaches 48.

    I hope your old year's night is a fine one, topped only by the year to follow!

  9. Thank you for your post Jacqueline. And all best wishes to you and your extended family across the Atlantic. Especially to your brother, whose courage and striving for life has gifted him with many days to enjoy the rain as well as the sunshine - and many more to come. :-D

    And thank you for your kind words for Our Keith. He is free of pain now. My ultra-'sensitive' husband, Bob, dreamed of him the morning of the funeral. When I asked what Keith was doing in the dream, Bob smiled and said that he was sitting in his armchair at home grinning fit to bust. So it seems that Our Keith is happy and able to watch over his family from the otherside. I suppose it sounds a bit daft, but Bob's 'visions' are usually acute. Mine, on the other hand are quite a bit more daft...but that's another story.

    Thanks, Patty, for passing on my blog address. And Cornelia for leaving lovely words there.

    Dang, we need to get together and trade stories over Dark and Stormy's. I'll be thinking of you all on NYE.