What are we to make of the year ahead? Whether it’s about the environment, the stock market or the pandemic, predictions seem to vary widely.
I recall the mythical story about Zhou Enlai, in response to a question about the impact of the French Revolution, saying “It’s too soon to tell.” And that reminded me of the old-fashioned Victorian cards that pictured a cherub wearing a sash that carried a New Year’s greeting
It’s early days yet, and the new year will appear in its infancy.
My friend Pat sent me a Christmas card that contained a quotation from a letter Rilke wrote to his fiancée Clara on January 1, 1907:
And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.
What wonderful letters people once wrote, before the days of email!!
I enjoy a British website which regularly sends out what they properly describe as “letters of note”:
Check out their website to order one of their beautiful editions of collected letters or just to sign up for email notifications which will send you random letters from time to time.
Today’s letter was from Sylvia Townsend Warner writing about having received an empty matchbox, one which was “neat and charming with a tray that slides in and out as though Chippendale has made it.” She writes that she had shut her imagination up in it instantly, and “it is still sitting there, listening to the wind in the firwood outside.”
At this time, I doubt many people are celebrating the gift of an empty matchbox so enthusiastically, but I do hope some of us are taking time to actually write real letters of thanks for our gifts.
Many have spoken about how thankful they are these days, especially for the various connections we can still have. Without close interactions, we’ve made greater attempts to greet our neighbours. We’ve made telephone calls. We’ve connected with old friends through email and social media. We’ve learned how to employ Zoom for family gatherings. We’ve used our wonderful postal services much more frequently to send and receive parcels, Christmas cards, and even real letters.
I’m hopeful that, if we keeping sticking together while following the rules, the sun will continue to rise, spring will come, and we’ll find new ways to meet the real challenges that we’ll face in the year ahead.
I like the Victorian notion of relating the new year to the image of an infant. Neither has done anything wrong yet. They both need us to love and hope and care for them in order that they may flourish.
Let’s give 2021 the care and hope it needs. Let’s help it become the best year it possibly can be.