Happy EFFing New Year

It’s raining, it’s cold, I have two visiting dogs under my feet but no one else, and it’s only 10:00, early enough to believe I have plenty of time to ready the house and larder for a new wave of guests arriving tomorrow. And it occurs to me that this moment is the closest I’ll come to a quiet, contemplative chunk of time before the dreaded New Year.

It may surprise you to learn that I loathe the approach of any new year almost as much as my ultimate fear, The Tidal Wave. And of course it’s both comforting and heinous that as time passes, new years arrive with much more alarming frequency. I won’t bore you with my hate list; after all, there is much to love about December 31 — sequins, party hair, dangly jewels and pushed-up breasts, Prosecco, expensive cuts of rarely-enjoyed red meats, laughter, friends, family, and maybe a kiss or two.

No, this year I’ll write about the bits that remain a part of our lives no matter the date: creation, decisions, choices, beauty, ugliness, successes and failures, but always love and always seeking.

I’ve cleared the business checkbooks off the kitchen table and replaced them with possibilities — a good start to any day — a small copper substrate and my prettiest ornaments — glass, copper, ceramics . . . and a cup of tea. I finger each in turn, assessing both its beauty and its meaning, the blatant and the quiet. I’ve already chosen a name for the piece, but haven’t yet settled on the partners that will commingle to make it whole.

And then (of course, you saw it coming), I can’t help thinking how so much of life is about the choices we make — and those that are made for us — sometimes by our allowing and other times in spite of our kicking and screaming. I can’t help wondering how our choices combine to make us who we are. What would you have done, and who would you be, if life — in all its incarnations — had not interfered? Who would I be? Would I still make art if I had grown up like other little girls? Would I write if I hadn’t been too shy to speak? Would I have danced if I had been good at kickball? Would I be a mosaicist if drawing came naturally to me? Am I a laundry list of second choices, or was I blind to a deeper truth for too many years?

Have my choices been internal or external? Of me, despite me, or not me at all? And the choices I make for 2012, now that I am old(er) and (wise)er, will my choices be more on target, or have I learned to settle? Will I wish for more of the same because my life is blessed, or does my spirit still long to blaze a trail?

I’ve never been called spontaneous, and I’m tickled pink to love what I love. I’m happy to eat the same cereal every morning, wear the same jeans, and walk the same well worn streets (of Rome).

But in the minutiae of life, I confess that I have a special affection for the unexpected — the tarnish on the bling, the twisted touching skirts with the sublime. Our time on earth is so very much not a one-note dance, and I love the barely-noticed reminders of LIFE where we seldom think to look. And so it’s a no-brainer that I will select at least a bit of the everyday to tell my story in mosaic.

And of course here’s the thing: I like to think that my choices in art, as my choices in life, are intensely deliberate. But 90% of the time it’s the deliberate choices that I end up tossing into the bin, and the seemingly random finds that grab my heart. It’s almost as if my presence on this earth is not only arbitrary, but completely unnecessary — as if the “I” that I so carefully cultivate is no more than a worker bee robot for someone else’s fresher ideas, clearer vision, spot-on choices.

And so I end 2011 much the same as I started it — working, dreaming, becoming, creating, loving, encouraging, choosing — and wondering how much of my life has to do with me, and how much of it could have been the guy down the street.

But I’m learning one thing, and that is that in the end, it probably doesn’t matter. Maybe being the vehicle is a cool enough ride.

Bears Do It

The house is de-frocked and the champagne chugged, with leftovers picked apart,  floors de-needled, the last family member waved off, and even the cat has lost interest in the sole remaining pile of boa-fluffed stockings. I celebrated the official end of this holiday season by wearing my pajamas until 4:00 and then, finally bra-ed and tee-shirted, curled into the Big Leather Sofa with my blankie for three hours of CSI Las Vegas. Hibernation Season is upon me.

If January is synonymous with Beginnings, why is it so cold, so drear, so wet, so gray, so solitary, so comfortless? The only reason I can imagine is that the universe conspires to bring us into ourselves to create an internal nest that will warm us, heal us, reinforce us for the year ahead.

I don’t see abundant evidence that the human race is so universally evolved as to view the new year as a time of introspection. Sure we make resolutions, but 90% seem to involve diet and exercise, and a look in any direction provides ample evidence that the healthy eating promise is rarely kept. On New Year’s Eve we’re all eager to ring in a new annum that “can’t be any worse than this year,” and yet we’ll almost certainly be aping the same refrain at the close of 2010. Hope springs eternal, and yet how do we actively intend to put away the old and bring forth the better?

Maybe in the case of new beginnings, we take action through inaction, by curling up like bears turning our bundled backs on the world we’ve known and diving within to seek new possibilities, new paths, new nuts, new berries. I can spend hours staring at a pattern in the carpet, the steam from my tea, or colored chunks of glass awaiting an adhesive. And oddly, it feels good, and it feels good in the same way that finally cleaning the house feels good, or throwing out half of an uneaten sugary candy bar. It feels healthy. And holy.

Here’s wishing you an extra layer of fleece, a log on the fire, and a week’s worth of stew in the crock pot. I’ll be dancing in the streets with the first spring thaw, but for a few more days, bring on the holy. I won’t be answering the phone.