03 January 2011

Happy New Year, Life Gardens, and a River of Stones

Happy new year. Well, a belated one, but no less sincerely wished for.

Just looking at the phrase "happy new year" derails my original train of thought for this post and makes me wonder: what makes this year new? The end of the old year was full of a flurry of parties and entertainments as we tried to keep the cold winter's night at bay. Yesterday, to rest my tired body, I submerged myself in a bath of warm water. The light from the window refracted on the luridly pink wall, just like it has any number of times whilst I bathed and I realised that, really, the day was no different than any other day that had come before it. The new year and the old are separated only by ink on a piece of paper that hangs on our walls to mark the days. The sun rises and sets on December 31st and January 1st, on birth and death, love and loss, beginnings and endings with no distinctions made. It is as though the stage is constantly set and the lights will be switched on and off regardless of the performance that is to be given.

For a moment, I was adrift in an uncaring universe which had become simply a place in which things occurred. No direction, no point, no purpose. Every day like the last. When I entered the bath, I was happy from a several evenings spent with a good friend and generally hopeful about the year ahead. I was energetic and motivated. Now I was saddened, listless and not terribly motivated. I reflected on this sudden change of mood which was triggered by nothing but the workings of my own mind and I saw how within me I carry seeds of love, of laughter, of sadness, of hope, of anger, of joy. And each day they have the chance to flourish or die under the impartial and fair sun. Under this sun I am tending my own imperfect garden and I’ve got to do my own digging to get anything accomplished.

It’s a disjointed set of analogies but it helped me realise that pondering Big Questions and trying to figure out What To Do With My Life shouldn’t demotivate me and distract me from the beauty of a single rose sprung from a laughter seed and shouldn’t allow me to plant an entire packet of anger seeds in carelessness.

To return to my original question: what makes this year new? I can say that 2010 was one hell of a year: losing a brother, moving house, starting a new job, etc. It’s been a lot to take in. But there’s been a lot of beauty too and sometimes, absorbed as I am in the whirlwind of my mind, I forget to take these things in as well. So what makes this year new is my wish to step onto the unmarked snow in the meadow of 2011 that stretches before me and be there for every step of it. It’s not so much a fresh start as a fresh mindfulness Maybe 2011 will bring better things, maybe it will bring worse things, I can’t know. But every day I’d like to try to drag myself out of my own preoccupied head a bit more and, in doing so, be a bit more engaged with the people around me, love a bit better, forgive a bit more.

So it seems like the perfect time to introduce A River Of Stones, a clever project cooked up by my friends Fiona and Kaspa to encourage us to slow down and notice things. I’ll be posting a small stone every day for the month of January here on this blog. You can read more about small stones here but briefly “a small stone is a very short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment.” A good idea, good practice and good exercise. For all the reasons above, I’ll be doing this for January. And for one other reason as well: it will also force me to write a little something every day. I think about writing every day, and I used to be do it regularly, but not any more. Why? I don’t know but it’s time that I got on with it.

So here’s to 2011, to 2010, to unmarked meadows, to the meadows we’ve trampled to mud and to just getting off my ass and getting things done. Now if you’ll excuse me....I’ve got 3 stones to post.

P.S Do join in! It's not just a project for's for everyone!

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