Life starts all over again . . .

. . . when it gets crisp in the fall.  

That’s a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s American classic “The Great Gatsby.” When polled, most Americans pick fall as their favorite season and October as their favorite month. But, what’s this business about life starting all over again? What is there possibly about fall that could feel like a new beginning? The hummingbirds have disappeared in search of warmer weather. The leaves will soon change color and fall off the trees. The natural world is preparing for the sleep of winter. Fall is the beginning of the end, if anything, right? 

According to the Gregorian calendar, the same one we use to know what day it is and schedule meetings, January 1st is the start of a new year. Close to the beginning of winter.  Most of the world observes January 1 as a collective beginning. But, that particular day is not the only new year. 

February 1st, 2022, will be the first day of the Chinese Year of the Tiger. This observance is also known as the lunar new year because it falls on the day of the new moon between January 21 and February 20. 

In India, the New Year depends on several factors — whether a person is following the Hindi solar calendar or the Hindi lunar calendar for one, and the region of India in which a person lives, for another.  For some communities in Northern India, Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, is celebrated as the start of a year. 

The Jewish culture celebrates the New Year at Rosh Hashanah, a two-day event marking the beginning of the lunar month of Tishri in the Jewish calendar, another event determined by the new moon. The most recent Rosh Hashanah began in the evening of September 6, 2021.

The Celtic New Year is Samhain, the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the start of the new year. This always coincides with the day we more commonly call “Halloween” and continuing into the following day, November 1st, what Christians call “All Saints Day.” 

Many modern pagans mark the passage of time with the wheel of the year and its eight seasonal festivals or sabbats, including the four major solar events — the two solstices, and two equinoxes. These include Samhain, and although many will use this Celtic observance as the start of a new year, part of the beauty of the Wheel of the Year is that it shows the continuous turning of time thus making no day and every day the beginning of a new year.

Beginnings are possible at any time. Each morning can be a new beginning.  Each moment, even.  If you are one of the many who love fall and come a bit more alive in September and October, then you understand how something feels like it’s beginning at this time of year. So, on with the pumpkin spice and on with the hoodies and on with the autumn decor. Let the holiday planning begin. Mark the calendar with travel dates.  

The equinox has passed and taken summer with it. Fall is here, the air is crisp, and life starts all over again. 

Happy Now Year!

I have a New Year’s tradition of great melancholia that would seem as etched in ritualistic stone as high mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  At this time every year, I swim in thoughts of days gone by and wrap myself in the blankets of memories, both happy and sad.  I am “Auld Lang Syne” personified.   I contemplate where I have been and ponder where I will go.   I repose and reflect and resolve.  This melancholy is almost painful.  Whatever it is I am remembering, focusing on, mentally chewing up . . .  no longer is.  I attribute all kinds of importance and solemnity to something that doesn’t even exist anymore.  And I have done this every year about this time for as long as I can remember.

Except this year.  This year is different.  And I think I’ve figured out why.

About a week ago, Susie and I were having a conversation and this sentence came out of my mouth, “The purpose of life is learning how to be content.”

Does anybody else out there act as your own teacher?  Do you learn as the words come out of your mouth, as if you are audience to your own lecture?  Two truths came to me almost instantaneously with this sentence.  First, the purpose of life is different for each life.  Second, the purpose for MY life is to learn how to be content, and I’m starting to get it.

So much of my life before was waiting, anticipating, hoping, striving.  Over the last few years, my life has become . . . happy.  Wow.  I’m really happy.   I love my life.  I love my partner and the family we have together.  But it’s more than the “biggies.”  I think happiness comes in the appreciation of the minute details of everyday life.  I love my house, and my yard, and feeding the birds, and planting garlic, and growing rosemary, and baking bread, and walking my dog on a crisp December morning.  I love the view out the sliding glass door from the desk where I work all day.  I love watching the blue spruce we planted a few years ago grow in the front yard.  I love taking a break from work to take the food scraps out to the compost pile.

I had a great year in 2008, and I look forward to 2009.  (And, yes, I do have a resolution and, yes, it involves a treadmill and scales.)   But, in this moment, about 24 hours before the ball begins dropping in Times Square, I am content and happy and . . . in this moment.