Jim McGuire: This year’s coming to an end


By Jim McGuire - Contributing columnist



December is fast coming to a close as January eagerly queues up to take over. Soon we’ll commence a brand new month in a brand new year at the start of a brand new decade—a sort of calendar trifecta.

We’re already a week deep into official winter, which arrived with the passing solstice. While the cold may increase in days ahead, so, too will the span of daylight. True, we’ve only added a couple of minutes so far since turning that corner. Not enough to notice. But by the end of January, we’ll have gained nearly a full hour of blessed light!

And here’s another gift.

Because 2020 is a Leap Year, we’re also being allotted bonus time—366 days instead of the usual 365 in which to complete our annual circular trek. Imagine—this time around we’ll enjoy the astonishing miracle of an extra day. Just try buying one of those on Amazon!

There’s an old saying that the only thing constant about life is change. Whether we’re paying attention or not, the great celestial clock is always tick-tocking. Time and season are never static, never exempt from the ceaseless motion of the spheres, nor the spinning, tilting, elliptical journeying of our home planet.

Nothing is permanent—neither river nor mountain. The indelible stone is merely a misconception based on limited perspective. A false impression akin to standing on a windswept beach and insisting the world ends right there, simply because we can’t see anything but ocean all the way to the horizon.

As both proof and comfort, we pull out our fancy almanacs and calendars and point to their neat lines of data. A laughable process, really, since we’re only fooling ourselves into thinking we’ve thereby gained a measure of control. Selling ourselves a bill of pure self-delusion. Just ask a farmer how much weather control an orderly calendar gives him. He can probably use a good chuckle.

The beauty and value of this interregnum period—the space between Christmas and New Year—is that it gives us time to rest and readjust. We need a reprieve, a brief pause to settle back and watch the year’s final few days go limping past, bent and wizened, like a gray-bearded old man, his battle-scarred cane tapping feebly as he carefully negotiates the faint pathway.

Meanwhile, a diaper-clad replacement, young and bright-eyed, waits impatiently in the wings. What does this wailing upstart know? Will this youth prove wild and difficult? What will the new year bring?

Only time’s fullness can answer such questions. For now, they remain unknowable. Our job is to be prepared—or at least committed—to taking things as they come and planning for the short term.

Soon we’ll change our calendars and begin a new around-the-sun odyssey. Meanwhile, it’s sufficient to relax in the afterglow of the holiday festivities while doing our best to retain something of lasting value from all the recently spent energy.

Amid a few quieter, more relaxed moments, I think it’s possible to sense a bit of seasonal magic still hanging in the air. Neither substance nor shadow, not quite corporeal yet more than imagination, they’re both elusive and fragile…yet unquestionably real, albeit as difficult to focus upon as dust motes drifting in a shaft of sunlight.

Perhaps what we sense—what we recognize on an ethereal level—is an essence, sort of a ghostly echo of seasonal joys, along with memories from the previous twelve months. Highlights and experiences from our just-completed passage.

That’s the value of these settling-back days—the opportunity it gives us to savor the past while anticipating the future. The rare time to sit quiet, listen, and pay attention to the such informative resonance.

For me, much of what I need, what I value and require to make me happy—much of what actually defines me as an individual—comes from the outdoors and my closeness to nature.

Creeks and woods, birdsong and wildflowers, croaking frogs and humming bees, winter starlight, summer mist, a partridge thundering from a blackberry thicket, a trout rising to a mayfly—all these and a thousand similar things flow through my life as surely as does blood through my veins.

If years have taught me anything it is this—that seasons are but a ripple on time’s eternal river, while faith and hope, miracle and mystery endure.

Life is the greatest adventure. And I firmly believe both blessing and promise can always be found if you’ll settle back and learn to look with both eyes and heart.

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By Jim McGuire

Contributing columnist

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalwanders@gmail.com.

Jim McGuire, a nature columnist, resides in Englewood, and can be reached at naturalwanders@gmail.com.