Post 1/2022 Saturday 1 January . . . It’s the first morning of the New Year. Slept in. The dishwasher needs to be unloaded before making coffee. Gray sky. Forecast of rain or snow for this afternoon. Happy for the new day. Mindful of moments past. Grateful for the precious present. Happy New Year!
New Year’s Eve tradition lives on
We rang in the New Year with a small group of friends. We met from 7pm to a whisker past midnight. It’s been a tradition, started in 1999, by friends Marlene and Stanley, who upon retirement moved to far away Washington state. Here’s a shout out to you, Marlene and Stanley, and others who have been part of this New Year’s Eve feast. Missed you!
We plan a six-course meal, the animated palaver giving way between each course to guided conversation on a given topic. This year the topic was, “Home Sweet Homes.” Each of us reflected on the home(s) where we were born and grew up, named the homes where we lived after we left our parental home, and told how family, friends, and kindred souls helped us make a place for ourselves in the world.
It was a nourishing, deeply felt sharing, a feast for body, mind and soul, capped with a champagne toast: “Here’s to a hope-fulfilling happy Twenty-Twenty-Two! Happy New Year!” In unison we read a prayer for the new year (Revelation 7:12) and had the first taste of the year with a dark chocolate mint smoothie.
Baby New Year
Baby New Year long has been in popular consciousness as the personification of the start of the new year, often paired with “Father Time.” One in a diaper, a top hat and a sash, the other carrying a scythe and hourglass. By the end of the new year, the baby will have grown and aged into Father Time.
At the turn of another new year, the new Father Time will turn over his timekeeping duties, impart his aged wisdom to the next Baby New Year, born on January 1, and time will march on.
From my book shelf
The book I’ve just finished reading is: On Foot: A History of Walking, by Joseph A. Amato (New York University Press, 2004). It poses a right proper stimulus for planning walks in the New Year, right? Still, I won’t begrudge anyone for not racing off to the library, used bookshop, or Amazon to get it. On second thought . . .
Why would anyone not want to know about the origins of bipedal humanity? About medieval pilgrims, beggars, mounted warriors and the early city walkers? About putting your best foot forward in the rise of upper-class promenading and strolling? About mind over foot: romantic walking and rambling? About North American walking, exploring the continent on foot? About city walking in nineteenth century London? About taming and cleaning up Revolutionay Paris? About disciplining the mob and marching the masses off to war? About the eclipse of the American walker by the motorist? About the transformation of walking from necessity to choice? (These questions are abstracted from the chapter titles.)
I was flabbergasted by this book, having read parts of it a good while ago. The flyleaf states: “For approximately six million years, humans have walked the earth. This is the story of how, why, and to what effect we put one foot in front of the other.”
For instance, I’m amazed at how a baby learns to walk, evolving from rolling over, to crawling, to standing, to taking first steps. Here’s what Amato says, “Going on foot provides the child with his or her first contacts with the earth. It gives the child elemental senses of up and down, straight and curved, short and long, fast and slow, standing and falling, hard and soft. At the same time, parents watch their children’s first steps to discover whom they have brought into the world. They read the child’s walk to discern health, grace, athleticism, character, and attitude.”
You’ll find corroboration on those points on the 39th and last page of the footnotes (pun intended, note 45). Some of the book is plodding, a bit repetitive, but strikingly insightful, full of aha moments, giving the foot its rightful place alongside, and rightfully before, the wheels we tend to elevate in all their indispensable applications and glory and problems.
How people now and in the future will get around, whether on wheels or on foot, will take some new thinking. A Chicago Tribune editorial (Dec. 9) asserted that “Chicago now has the worst traffic in the country. Where are the big new ideas?” The writer cited a study that showed “the typical Chicago commuter lost 104 hours (more than four days) to traffic delays in 2021.” The writer concluded, “Chicago must look ahead to a new world and plan accordingly.”
Spurned to action?
The year 2021 may have just scampered off the scene, but not all is lost in the reviews of noteable news from 2021. One such is an Opinion piece by Erin Brockovich in The Guardian newspaper (18 March 2021). Brockovich wrote a compelling article on “Plummeting sperm counts, shrinking penises: toxic chemicals threaten humanity.”
Compelling, I say, because the chemicals, Brockovich wrote, are found “in everything from plastic containers and food wrapping, to waterproof clothes and fragrances in cleaning products, to soaps and shampoos, to electronics and carpeting,” Some of them are known as “forever chemicals,” that is, they do not break down in the environment or the human body.
Brockovich based her article on the book, Countdown, by Shanna Swan, an environmental and reproductive epidemiologist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Swan found, Brockovich wrote, “that sperm counts have dropped almost 60% since 1973. Following the trajectory we are on, Swan’s research suggests sperm counts could reach zero by 2045. Zero. Let that sink in. That would mean no babies. No reproduction. No more humans. Forgive me for asking: why isn’t the UN calling an emergency meeting on this right now?”
I’ll leave it at that. Leave it to U and the UN. Thanks for a provocative article, Erin Brockovich, environmental advocate. You’ve got minds spinning.
From the recesses of old
In the course of sorting through old papers, I came across a verse I wrote in 1969 for a college publication. It may have come from a semester assignment of being a weekly Friendly Visitor to a resident in a senior home. I offer it as relevant to remembering and valuing the aged among us, including a modest nod to Yours Truly.
rocking chair one hundred window anxious moments voiceless cries and no one passing each hour erasing transfixed soliloquies and no one passing love hate tears coalesced and no one passing deathless testament dumb crescendo and no one passing no one passing
My parents were married on January 1. Theirs is a story of a home wedding, a blizzardly day, a feast, a delayed honeymoon, early moves, farming, raising six children, reveling in grandchildren, making the most of retirement. I remember the highpoints, the happy times, while most of the not so memorable stuff is lost in the mists of time–or times when the extended family can gather. Happy New Year!