Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The New Year

The excitement of a new year was dulled for me by the sudden passing the last week of 2007 of a colleague and friend who was the same age as I. She struggled for many years with multiple sclerosis, but was passionate and determined to live as good a life as possible. She adopted a child from Bulgaria when she was 45, and mothering was a great adventure for her as well as the "hardest thing" she'd ever done (her words). Her death has put a pall over my usual mood of anticipation for the new year, as I imagine other losses to come.

I have also been feeling a bit depleted by a slow-moving virus I've had for nearly 2 weeks--it's almost out of my system now, but it did cut into my holiday delight and partying (probably a good thing, for since I couldn't taste food as well as I usually can, I didn't eat as much).

I sent out this poem as a new year greeting to some friends:

by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered caf├ęs and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Happy New Year to all.

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