Burning the Old Year

Holy crap, it’s the last day of 2013. I haven’t posted anything on this blog- this hobby that I love- since September, and now it’s December. The end of December. Gross. I’m kind of embarrassed and a little bit frustrated with myself for that.

I actually have written a few posts, but I’ve left them in Draft Purgatory where they will likely remain until I delete them or scrap them for parts. This whole year, for a variety of reasons that I haven’t mentioned here and one reason that I did, has taken a lot of my energy and focus. It’s hard to put anything out there when you’re not sure where to begin and when you know that even if you do find a starting point, you’re not sure you’re ready to follow it to its conclusion.

When I look back on the year, I see that instead of writing and creating, I did a lot of reading, listening, and thinking. I took things in instead of putting them out. Probably a good thing. I recently read two of David Sedaris’s essay collections that I hadn’t read before, and in one of them, a friend of his comments that people are like stoves. We each have four burners: one for our health; one for our work; one for our families; and one for our friends. To be successful, she says, we have to shut off one or even two of the burners. It sounds like a selfish move, but I thought about that idea a lot. She has a point. I was the most productive writer of my life when I was living in China and had very few social and work obligations. The only family I saw during that time was Matt.

This year, though, I couldn’t turn off any of my burners. I needed them to stay on so I could keep slogging through. I’m also older- I mean, obviously, but this year, I felt the plates shifting, moving me into the next stage of my life. My career path is exciting. My marriage is strong and alive. And in the words of Kathleen Edwards, from an interview I recently listened to: “I just want to breastfeed something.” These things require burners, and I’m still figuring out where to get the fuel.

It’s almost 2014, and before midnight, I need to finish the one project that I wanted to complete before the summer even started: writing about our trip to Ghana. I’m halfway there, and I’m going to devote the rest of my afternoon to burning at least one of the things I didn’t do.

*               *               *

Burning the Old Year
By Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.

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