Tsunami relief
On Va'era

Anticipating year's-end

The last week in the calendar year always feels like vacation. Even if I'm working, my thoughts are always half-on the upcoming festivities. At New Year's we host dear friends -- usually around forty people, give or take a dozen -- for a three-day gathering of cooking, feasting, singing, building things (last year, this ger), dancing, gaming, and generally reconnecting. This year we're spreading the party around, each night at a different household, but I'm hoping the general feeling (a combination of family reunion, slumber party, Entmoot, and temporary commune) will persist.

The tradition started at the end of 1999. Everyone was talking that fall about their plans for the Big New Year's, but we didn't want to go somewhere expensive or luxurious. As a lark, we invited a few dozen friends out to our rural corner of Massachusetts. (We joked that they should bring bags of rice and a generator in case civilization as we knew it came to a screeching halt at Y2K.) We didn't think many people would come. We were wrong. We had such a good time that we did it again. And again. And again.

We're absurdly lucky to have friends who will gather from far and wide (many are in New England, but others come from New Mexico, Pennsylvania, California) for the mere pleasure of seeing one another. On New Year's Eve we'll have a potluck feast, and we'll roll back the rugs and dance. Otherwise we amuse ourselves in various low-key ways. At any given moment during New Year's somebody's probably going on a hike, somebody else is orchestrating a board game or a role-playing one-shot, and somebody's playing fiddle or accordion or the organ. Somebody is cooking, somebody is washing dishes (and putting them away in odd places), somebody is singing or organizing a Shakespeare reading. It's noisy, it's intense, it's chaotic, and I look forward to it all year. Though we're always exhausted when it's over, I can't imagine calling a halt to it; the tradition enriches me in ways I can barely articulate.

We also talk a lot. About our work, our play, our dreams, what we're reading, what we're working on, what movies we each think the others absolutely must see.... Predictably, there's usually at least one good conversation about new year's resolutions.  Last year and the year before, my resolution was to find some time each day to write, exercise, or sing. I'd come to the conclusion that I'm happier when I'm doing those three things, and though I don't have the discipline to make each a daily practice, I figured if I could manage one of the three each day I'd be in good shape. The resolution does me good even when I don't live up to it; I plan to renew it, adding davven/meditate to the list.

I have several goals for 2005, many of which revolve around writing and learning. Become competent in Biblical Hebrew, for instance. (Fourteen chapters down; sixteen to go!) Compile a second book-length poetry manuscript. (I intend to start sifting through a vast pile of poems, the last five years' worth, in January.) Read Torah more often. (I'm slated to read on the first Shabbat of 2005.) Visit a new country. (We're planning a February trip now.)

Goals are different from resolutions, in that goals are finite and can be crossed off of my to-do list. Resolutions are more like directions, aims, paths. I've got goals aplenty, but of resolutions I have only two: I want to try to live up to my fourfold path, and I want to enjoy the relationships in my life as much as I can. Sometimes that means grooving on blog conversations; other times, stepping away from the computer to hang out with my marvelous spouse or nearby friends. And once a year, at year's-end, it means logging off altogether for a few days to celebrate the end of one spiral and the start of another with people who are dear to me. Torah study, blogging, poetry, travel: all are important to me, but all can wait. People are most important of all.

An early happy New Year to my readers! Thanks for taking this blog journey with me. I hope 2005 brings joy to us all.