Last weekend I was stricken with the cold from hell, the one that seems to be sweeping across the country. I shivered with fever, every bone ached and even my brain was wracked with pain until finally, mercifully, my body slipped into a sleep so deep that I barely woke for 36 hours. When I got sick the skies were dark with icy rain and snow; when I came to, drenched in sweat, fever breaking, Christmas was upon us and I was told that I had missed a spring day of 70-degree warmth.
And so the world rapidly cycles, in sickness and in health, with life and with death, through love and through loss. In my wrung-out lethargy I looked back over the year, and thought, it was a big year. My older son proposed marriage to his beloved; they will soon marry, and it gives me deep joy to see their bliss. My younger son will finish a course of studies and set out to…well, I was about to say, “find” his path. But we don’t find paths, do we? We carve them, into what seem like impenetrable terrains, never certain where exactly we are going; even when we are certain we are fooling ourselves.
Babies were born to friends, friends were lost to illness. It was a big year. But every year is a big year. Every day is a big day. That is what we realize when we are older. That we are lucky enough—and that is all it is, plain dumb luck—to be here makes it a big day, a big year.
My family gathered in Rhode Island for the holidays. After days of illness I was able to stand upright without being dizzy, and I felt refreshed, as if the fever burned to ash something bitter I had not quite gotten done with, and needed to. Theo presented his brother and fiancee with a beautiful tea cake, a pu’erh, as a wedding gift. He explained, it gets better with age. Every year the couple is to have a tea ceremony to mark the occasion of their anniversary, and every year, like their marriage--we are certain of it--the tea will taste richer and deeper and yield up a bit more of its mystery.
Theo led the first ceremony, pouring water into a tiny pot, letting it brim over and pool in a deep bowl, and as we drank—and drinking tea, quietly, meditatively, is one of my favorite things to do—the sun broke through the sodden clouds that had cast a grey pallor on the day.
A flash of midday brilliance sparkled through the holly trees. If this were my usual cup of tea, I would have simply stared in wonder at the shifting light, the life, the pallor. Instead, I noticed the drama outside, and then turned my gaze back into the room.
I am here. Everything I love, and everything I need, is right here with me. For a moment, I live in a charmed circle. Luck gives us another day. Love makes it a holy day. May your new year brim.