Last night I was packing all my personal belongings into the two suitcases I brought to Lyon. The family is moving, so I’m moving too. This year has been one of what feels like perpetual movement, from “home” in Baltimore to various farms–about six, in total–to family in Western Maryland and vacation in Eastern Maryland, to Sweden, England, France.
Every time I pack my things, I get a little better at it. This time is no different. I’m not necessarily faster, but I am more relaxed, more organized, and more precise. And, most importantly, I discover what I do not need.
Last night, I realized I did not need probably half of my clothing. Or the camp mirror that broke during the flight over here. Or the alarm clock (I use my phone). I also find a few things I would be so sad to part with. The tee shirt I’ve been wearing since I was 10 or 12, the jacket I bought at a cool thrift store in DC when I went to get my French visa, the perfume I bought just a few days ago but have already come to appreciate as part of my routine.
Before the New Year’s party I went to, one of my necklaces broke. At first I was horrified, but then I realized- not a big deal. Then the backing of an earring fell off, probably while I was dancing. No problem. I found Rolling Stone magazines in the bathroom and felt suddenly at home. (It has become a small tradition for me to buy a Rolling Stone when I fly from the U.S.)
At the stroke of midnight, the party came alive; everyone stood and did the peculiar (to me) kiss-on-the-cheek thing (faire la bise)–to everyone in the room. Bonne année! For me, it was not a familiar scene, but the meaning of the gesture was familiar. Fraternité, egalité, liberté. Forgetting the worries of the year past, we look forward with hope to the new year. And to do that successfully, we need each other.
I struggle to write this because I really need to finish packing and I have been speaking French for the past twelve hours, so my brain is still in that mode (in my head, this is all in a French accent and I’m translating half of it as I go), but I also struggled for weeks before trying to come with the theme for this post. It’s not for lack of ideas, it’s for lack of an ability to properly encapsulate all I feel about New Year’s.
As a celebration, it’s superb. It is truly egalitarian and hopeful and celebratory, and at the same time we are reminded to reflect. This is really all I could ask for from a holiday. But on top of that, we also make a point of gathering with friends and people we quickly turn into friends; we reaffirm our links with our community and we forge new alliances. While I am so often hopeless and despairing, New Year’s is a time which never fails to uplift.
This morning I awoke, I went to the window to find the sun, and although it is just another day in the calendar, I felt more strongly than usual the turning of the day. I arose with the taste of possibility mingled in champagne breath. My morning bath was a small baptism. And now I am about to fly (in an airplane, but still).
While on the whole I do not have much more hope for the human population than I did yesterday, I do have hope in finding shreds of community and piecing them together like a quilt. I do have hope in the universe itself, and the ability for life to continue even if that is not human life or life as we know it. Writing this, I’ve had the Sweet Honey in the Rock version of “Redemption Song” running through my head. I recommend looking it up, but as I could not find it on youtube, I will conclude this post–and begin the new year–with an old favorite of mine which somehow seems appropriate.