A Blog of Personal Thoughts
End of the Year Notes
Forgive my ramblings, but these are my end of the year notes. I like to summarize what I’ve done this year and lay plans for the next. It’s not that I sit in my study looking at piles, when I am not a pile person. No, it’s more that life offers so many opportunities to see, write, listen, read, walk places I haven’t been in a while. I need more time to investigate such vast interests that and interest me. Thus, I end up with too much to do. I must have some point at which I organize my thoughts and doings.
However, there is only one of me. How do I do what I want with each and all of my grandchildren? How to I travel to the places I still want to go? How do I write all that I want to, finish all those I’ve started? In 1964 I went to La Iglisia de Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece in Barcelona. Only the four spires and the altar stood then. Craftsmen worked stone by stone as they built other parts. Today it is almost complete. I don’t need to wait till it is complete. I just want to go again. The first time, a college friend and I walked up the narrow winding steps of one of the spires. What a view of Barcelona and the Mediterranean. I don’t plan to walk a spire again.
I want to go back to Kiev and to the Pecherskaya Lavra, the Monastery of the Caves. I don’t know why I like cathedrals and churches so much, but I find a peace in each of those whether a Quaker meetinghouse or an elaborate church. I find it’s like being in the woods or alone on an ocean beach, perhaps at the shore here or in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
I also want to go back to Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland where I lived in my 20s. I think I’m living in a similar place, the one I desired long ago along the ocean.
I wonder what that has to do with looking at the results of this year and planning for the next. They sound incongruous. This next fall, I’ll go back to Nova Scotia with one of my nieces. She’s not been before, but is interested in her Calkin family history. That would be Calkin, Burgess, and Acker family history. That’s in the plan for 2024. I learned two important things on my last trip there. One was that many of my father’s expressions came from and are still used in Lunenberg. Another was that my relatives in the Lunenburg area thought those in the west were, well, perhaps a bit odd. Those in the Truro area said, don’t they talk funny over there? I was tickled by that as the two areas lie 189 km (107 miles) apart with not even a mountain range between. With relatives in both spots, no one sounds or seems odd to me.
What am I going to do before the end of 2023? Tidy up those personal, random piles that seem to have nothing to do with anything else. Send out Christmas/holiday cards, if I get around to it. I should as I didn’t last year and I’m not dead or dying yet, as some may assume. Why do I want to do that instead of email a card? It’s fun!
I need to sort organized piles to put things where they belong and that will help with planning 2024’s writing articles, poems, and a new book. The music for tidying is Lucky Dube, Bob Marley, Shostakovich’s Jazz Album, Creedence Clearwater, and Liszt. They keep me moving. The music for writing is Mozart, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Brahms, and others who keep me seated, wandering the room, or contemplating.
For all this I cherish the long, dark days of winter. I like its hibernating quality. I think that’s part of the draw I had when I wrote my first novel, Nikolin, the historical novel of the monk who had himself bricked into one of the walls of the Pecherskaya Lavra at the beginning of the Russian Orthodox Church. Winter is s good time to write and to plan for the next twelve months.
A lifetime friend recently asked me when I was going to retire. “Never!” I replied. Why bother! Yes, I gave up a regular 8 to 5 plus some evenings job and officially retired complete with parties, a retirement plaque, and the accompanying financial benefits. For me, though, it was an opportunity to do other things I love—consult, write, and travel. I thought it would also give me the opportunity not to have all those little piles around. That last piece didn’t work out.
There. I just paused and got rid of one random pile. One piece went in the wastebasket and others to their correct spots.
My friends make fun of me when I say I need to get organized. They view me as some sort of organization model. I’ve come to realize how I got that way. First, I grew up in a family that required organization. My sister-in-law once expressed amazement that I knew which bureau drawer held my underwear, or pajamas, or scarves and hairbrushes. I then realized that I have organized my drawers the same way since I was four-years-old. I’d never thought about that before. My spices are alphabetized. That way, I don’t have to think about where something is. I reach for whatever I need while I think about something else such as adding the thyme while reaching for the oregano. I’d rather think about what I’m writing than read labels while cooking.
The other reason I like, require really, organization is my epilepsy. Most of my life I’ve periodically gone off on some random lack of thought or awareness, only to return and have no idea of what I was in the middle of. I hated piano recitals for that reason. I would leave with the music, but where would I be when I returned? I had no idea what I was playing. Perhaps I should have gone for jazz rather than just classical. Then those out-of-nowhere hops would have been more forgivable. Writing, I can do that because I could repair the disjointed bits. When reading my work in public, I only have to follow the words in front of me.
So I demand organization. To summarize the year and plan the next year removes the randomness and offers me an outline for my life for the year or even the month or week.