BootsnAll Travel Network

New Year’s Eve

I got all the papers graded. I’ve laid out five of the eight pages of The Midnight Special, I’ve realized that maybe the piece of writing due January 31st can be easier than I envisioned, and I can’t bear to think about the next round of classes. Instead, it’s New Year’s Eve, a time I love to reflect on the gifts of the passing year and to hold the whole planet in my heart with gratitude, compassion, and tenderness, so how could I not blog this day?

I’m just back from a spectacular walk in the park. It’s a bright-blue-sky afternoon in south Texas, with warm sun and cool wind; clover is in bloom and waves of bright green grass ripple and glimmer in the sun; this Houston suburb is full of just about every ethnicity there ever was, all represented in the park right now. I saw a woman in full black abaya and black headscarf, sitting on the paved trail with her legs straight out in front of her, surrounded by family sitting in the grass on portable chairs, eating a picnic. I passed people whose ancestors must have lived in India or Pakistan, Viet Nam or China, and what people here call the Middle East. I heard fathers shouting in Spanish to a group of kids playing soccer, people speaking what sounded like a Slavic language as they gathered around a baby carriage, and a small group of African-American teens stamping out the rhythms of a step-dance under a park awning. There were joggers and dog-walkers of every size, age, and skin-color, young lovers holding hands, old couples sitting on benches, frisbee players, kids whizzing over man-made berms on their bikes. Glorious! It’s a day like the one I spent in Finisterre, climbing up to the cave of St. Guillermo. And that, of course, leads me to reflect on the discoveries of the year: Portugal and Spain, my new friend Paula who I met in Porto, and e-friends Larri and Stephen who I met through the blog. And that leads me to reflect on all the gifts–continuing or new–of 2006.

Blogging started for me this year and has opened up a whole new world, a new way to realize life and record and share it, a way to nurture old friendships without running up phone bills or loading people’s email boxes, and a gateway to a million other people’s blogs, a source of information, ideas, and delight and (how do I feel about this?) a whole new way to spend countless hours of my dwindling time left on the planet. I love to read blogs as much as I love to write them, and I’m getting faster and better at screening out ones that are a waste of time (for me) and finding ones written by people whose explorations or reflections aid me in my own journey.

I’m grateful for my personal good fortune, for friends and family who are still alive this year, despite some close calls and threatening illnesses (big cheers to Mickey, Steve, Baker, and David–and to all those I don’t know–who survived horrible body-wrenching chemotherapy and prevail into another year). I’m grateful that my grandson Casey lived three months with me and took what I could give him in that time, that his dad Chris is happy and got a promotion, Seth still loves his job and lives his life with abandon, Manko got her GED, Anne is doing hospice work again, Lillie is on her way to Argentina, Constance spent a month back home in South Africa, Carolyn has started her Doctor of Divinity degree, Gerri is still painting pictures and making sculptures, and John and Ruth, my best buddies in Texas, continue to put up with me.

Amidst the astonishing privilege of the beauty and prosperity of what surrounds me, I know that the earth is in a terrifying mess. I ache for the horrors in Darfur, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel, as of course I ache for the horrors in many people’s homes in the USA: the horrors of incest, abuse, addiction, and cruelty know no political boundaries. An email just arrived for me from Genocide Intervention, one of the internet sites campaigning to do something about Darfur, quoting Viktor Frankl affirming “the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Yes. That is the one freedom we all retain, so long as our minds and bodies hold out. But some of us have much greater obstacles than others.

I think of all the movies I’ve enjoyed this year, the ones that moved me most were the documentaries: Born Into Brothels, Turtles Can Fly, Promises, Dark Days, and films that took me beyond myself and strengthened my sense of connection with people whose lives are shaped by powers that at the moment are not bearing down on me–City of God, The Story of the Weeping Camel, Unveiled, Ikiru, Everything is Illuminated, Paradise Now, Central Station, Tsotsi. I can hold this beautiful blue-sky day in my heart and also remember sex-workers and their children in India, people who strap bombs to their fragile bodies and go out to blow themselves and complete strangers to pieces, and suffering all over the globe–human and animal. I can be filled with joy for my privilege and the privilege of most of the people I know; I can keep company with old griefs that have become traveling companions; and there is still room–the imagination is boundless–to hold the bare fact of inutterable suffering.

As the news spread that Saddam Hussein was hanged yesterday, all the news reports I heard compared him with Hitler and Stalin but never mentioned that he was trained by CIA forces and put into power with the help of the USA because when he rose to power, supporting him served US interests. It’s interesting what isn’t being said. I want to say it. I want to read what isn’t being said through official channels, which is one of the reasons why I rejoice to discover blogs from all over the world. I want to hear more stories, feel more connections, learn deeper humility and greater tenderness than I have yet known.

I wish for all of us who are privileged to be alive and well and reading something on the internet to feel our privilege, to feel the responsibility that comes with that privilege, and to love more this year than we did last year. Wherever we all are tonight, whether we sing Auld Lang Syne or not, may we hold each other–and this beautiful blue marble spinning in space–with greater reverence this year than we did last.

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6 responses to “New Year’s Eve”

  1. Rhea says:

    Bravo! Of all the sentiments expressed here, this is the one I am most grateful for: “Amidst the astonishing privilege of the beauty and prosperity of what surrounds me, I know that the earth is in a terrifying mess. I ache for the horrors in Darfur, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel, as of course I ache for the horrors in many people’s homes in the USA: the horrors of incest, abuse, addiction, and cruelty know no political boundaries…”

  2. Nacho says:

    Kendall, what a great post! Love the recollection of the year, the recognition of suffering, and the joy of Being. I couldn’t agree more with you on Hussein and reports of his death. It was tragic really — and it doesn’t seem to me at this point that it will help reduce suffering and more of these “monsters,” – certainly not when we are so good at manufacturing them. My fervent hope is that we will indeed learn and make it a better day, year, world, universe, life.

    Hugs to you,


  3. 2007: Happy new year.

    Congratulation your blog.

    Freguesia do Ó/São Paulo – Brasil

  4. Christopher says:

    Thank you, Kendall, for this post. That thought from Viktor Frankl reminds me of Epictetus, whose survival manual is at
    The thought that we control nothing but our attitude toward things nourished one of his disciples, the Spaniard Francisco de Quevedo. Into a survival kit I would pack (too late for Lorca, Pessoa, Walter Anderson…) Quevedo and Epictetus and who else? Never very good at packing, I’m posting a translation of one of Q’s poems:

    Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645)


    I looked at the walls of my town,
    once strong, now undone,
    tired by this fleeting age
    that ruins their valor.

    I went out to field and saw
    streams unloosed from ice,
    the cattle complaining of the hill
    whose shadows stole the daylight.

    I went into my house and saw it, stained,
    to be the spoils of an old dwelling;
    my staff more crooked, less strong.

    I felt my sword defeated by the age,
    and found nothing to look at
    that did not remind me of death.


    Miré los muros de la patria mía,
    si un tiempo fuertes ya desmoronados
    de la carrera de la edad cansados
    por quien caduca ya su valentía.

    Salíme al campo: vi que el sol bebía
    los arroyos del hielo desatados,
    y del monte quejosos los ganados
    que con sombras hurtó su luz al día.

    Entré en mi casa: vi que amancillada
    de anciana habitación era despojos,
    mi báculo más corvo y menos fuerte.

    Vencida de la edad sentí mi espada,
    y no hallé cosa en que poner los ojos
    que no fuese recuerdo de la muerte.

  5. admin says:

    Beautiful! Thank you. I answer with an excerpt of W.B. Yeats’ poem, Lapis Lazuli:

    All things fall and are built again
    And those that build them again are gay.
    Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
    Are carved in Lapis Lazuli,
    Over them flies a long-legged bird
    A symbol of longevity;
    The third, doubtless a serving-man,
    Carries a musical instrument.
    On all the tragic scene they stare.
    One asks for mournful melodies;
    Accomplished fingers begin to play.
    Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
    Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

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