First, I have been in discussion with one of my best friends who also happens to be a teacher about how we always think of the “new year” starting in September. We realized that the main way we identify ourselves is through our job, which in many ways is great: teaching English combines so many of my passions. It is generally hard for me to do a year reflection, because since I’ve never left the school calendar since infancy, January to me is the end of the first semester…the half way point. It feels strange to think about 2011 because I had two different groups of students. I had two different curriculum plans. But. This is only if I look at my life solely through my profession.
Second, I caught myself spreading my winter blues this morning. I’ve written before about my how my college roommate and I diagnosed me with Seasonal Affective Disorder online in 2001 and about how spring-forward is my favorite day of the year. I’ve probably even written about how I blame the school calendars of my youth who had flowers decorating the month of March (obviously made by a southerner) for the way my heart starts to get prematurely hopeful for warmer weather. However, my personal-not-job-related goal for 2012 (the first fourth of it, anyway) is to have a better attitude about the winter. There. I said it. Please, if you see me, remind me of this.
Another dear friend sent me an essay from a book called Let Your Life Speak many winters ago about living through the seasons as a polite way of telling me to get a better attitude. I return to it every year. It tells me: “Winter is a demanding season…and yet the rigors are accompanied by gifts: …times of dormancy and deep rest are essential to all living things…One gift of utter clarity as in winter, one can walk into woods that had been opaque and see the trees clearly…Winter clears the landscape, however brutally, giving us a chance to see ourselves and each other more clearly, to see the very ground of our being.” Another friend of mine moved to San Diego from New York and told me that perfection can breed complacency.
So, I would like to live thankfully and intentionally this winter. I realized the other day that I never posted about Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids (which would have definitely made it onto the Top Ten). I reread my notes inside and what I found has a direct correlation with how I want to live in this cold season:
“…it was the work in a hall devoted to Picasso…that pierced me the most. His brutal confidence took my breath away.” (11) “I craved honesty, yet found dishonesty in myself…Picasso didn’t crawl in a shell when his beloved Basque country was bombed. He reacted by creating a masterpiece in Guernica to remind us of the injustices committed against his people. When I had extra money I’d go to the Museum of Modern Art and sit before Guernica, spending long hours considering the fallen horse and the eye of the bulb shining over the sad spoils of war. Then I’d get back to work.” (65)
“But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings could create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.” (11)
“He [Robert Maplethorpe] contained, even at an early age, a stirring and the desire to stir,” (13)
I want to stare winter down. If it makes me angry, I want to do let that anger inspire writing. Or to fight against it with dinner parties. Or crawling out of my hole and stepping outside for a run with my friends and then feel as though I have thoroughly kicked it in the rear. I want it to inspire me to actually live rather than hunkering down with Netflix instant streaming. I want to sense a stirring and stir.