Saturday, December 31, 2022

December 31: Great Canyon of Clouds, Happy New Year, Namaste

Santiago eats as night comes on . . . 

Under the stars and with the night colder all the time he ate half of one of the dolphin fillets and one of the flying fish, gutted and with its head cut off.

"What an excellent fish dolphin is to eat cooked," he said. "And what a miserable fish raw. I will never go in a boat again without salt or limes."

If I had brains I would have splashed water on the bow all day and drying, it would have made salt, he thought. But then I did not hook the dolphin until almost sunset. Still it was a lack of preparation. But I have chewed it all well and I am not nauseated.

The sky was clouding over to the east and one after another the stars he knew were gone. It looked now as though he were moving into a great canyon of clouds and the wind had dropped.

This passage seems like an appropriate one to end the year of The Old Man and the Sea.  The fish is still alive and pulling the boat.  Santiago is eating, preparing for the coming battle.  And there are no sharks anywhere in sight.

It is New Year's Eve.  In a few short hours, I will countdown to midnight, blow some cheap party horns, and shout "Happy New Year!"  

We shout that phrase at the top of our lungs at midnight every December 31st/January 1st.  Maybe it's a prayer, ancient and hopeful--summoning goodness and luck and grace for the coming 365 days.  Sometimes it's an exclamation of relief.  Thank God the old year is over!  Good riddance.  Shalom.  Aloha.  Godspeed.

When you think about it, so many ways of saying "goodbye" are also ways of saying "hello."  Aloha--goodbye, hello.  See ya--see ya later, see ya soon.  Ciao--Italian, same thing.  Salut!--French.  Namaste--Hindi.  

That's what we're really doing on New Year's Eve--bidding farewell and welcome in the same breath.

I, for one, am happy that 2022 is going to be in my rearview mirror.  It hasn't been an easy twelve months.  In fact, they have been filled with sadness and loss, grief, a search for meaning.  Just because we are now going to be writing "2023" instead of "2022," it doesn't mean the doors of heaven have been blown wide open and the saints are going to come marching in.  The same monkeys that were on my back in the old year are riding on my shoulders in the new one.

Yet, I have hope.  In the midst of all of my struggles last year, there were blessings and grace.  My son is doing great in school.  My daughter made the Dean's List again this semester.  All of my close family and friends are healthy and happy.  I got two classes to teach next semester at the university.  So, although I've been fumbling around in the dark since last February, there is light.  Like the moon pushing through storm clouds on the winter solstice.

I'm blowing in the New Year at my parents' house with my sisters.  We will eat a lot of junk food, play board games, and pop some balloons.  It's the first time we have been able to celebrate together since 2019.  COVID sidelined the party in 2020 and 2021.  Our ranks have certainly shrunk.  In 2019, my mother and sister, Rose, were still with us.  Yet, despite the empty places at the dining room table, I think we will all feel joy at just being together.  Alive.  In the moment.

So, ciao, Santiago.  Aloha, great fish.  Namaste, Ernest Hemingway.  

Saint Marty wishes you all a Happy New Year!  See ya in 2023.

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