Is there anything more in-betweeny than the week between Christmas and New Year’s? The hoopla and anxiety surrounding Christmas is gone, and we all glance sort of tiredly towards New Year’s Eve, wondering whether to go out and celebrate or stay home, maybe order a pizza and watch the ball drop. The first day of January arrives and we are grateful because January gives us permission to eat less, buy less, simply do less and be less in the world. Right now, caught about halfway between the holidays, we sort of wander, go to movies, work shorter days or don’t work at all, half-heartedly visit those we didn’t see on Christmas day and if we are really, really lucky, spend some time on the couch quietly reading.
I’m even more in-betweeny than I normally would be since my last day of work at the hospital is next Thursday. I chose to work a couple of extra weeks to get everything in order but it’s really hard to get everything in order when almost everyone I work with took this week off work. Everything feels off-kilter right now. This is partly due to the exhaustion of holiday travel and the fact I need to pack tomorrow for our New Year’s weekend, and partly because I’m transitioning into a new phase. Plus in December I don’t write and I had to cancel my gym membership since I won’t be in Detroit anymore so things are all off-balance.
Our trip went well. Both sides of our family seemed happy and healthy and appropriately grateful to see us. There were definitely some….moments….mainly with our days in Pittsburgh but we all made it through and quite frankly with all of our disparate personalities that is saying something.
As much as I like spending time in New York and Pittsburgh, I still experience a thrill in crossing the Ohio border into Michigan, coming home. I love the way more easternly cities look – all those row houses built into hills, all those hills resting beneath thick billowing clouds, everything sort of bleak and damp and rough around the edges…I’ve never been one to be overly dazzled with sunshine and blue skies and long stretches of beach, no – dark dirty cities are the swamp to my frog, so to speak. Pittsburgh is a wonderful city to live in as a writer – the cost of living is incredibly low, every other building is a restaurant or bar, it rains all of the time and so there is never any reason to do much other than read, write and meet up with friends. I always feel a pang when I return there, but since my brother owns a restaurant there and he and his girlfriend are hoping to buy a house soon, it looks as though I’ll have enough reason to return for a very long time. And frankly, growing older really must change the body because I had my first ever case of acid-reflux after devouring my first cheeseburger in over a couple of years, and I had an allergy attack from all the cigarette smoke in the bar.
I’m not sure what it is that makes Michigan, with its many foibles, home for me. S. and I were trying to pinpoint reasons last night but couldn’t really verbalize what we felt. Is it the way the cattails freeze in the ditches next to the highway, paralyzed for winter but promising spring’s return? Or is the way the air smells, like warm pine needles, sand and water in summer and like ice and soot and snow in the winter?Or is it the way the amber evening light glints through miles of pine and birch trees? Or is it the way the roads widen when you cross the border, the desire to open your arms wide and spin around flooding you, because you are home? There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but for me Michigan has always felt like home, and no matter what adventures S. and I have before us, it will probably remain that way.
Regarding reading, I’m still working on the incredible Country of My Skull, which is hard to read for long periods of time because the material is so intense. I finished T.Jefferson Parker’s The Fallen, and I’m happy to say he recovered nicely from California Girls and created an incredibly engaging character in Robbie Brownlaw, who tells the story in a touching first-person narrative. Parker’s creation of Brownlaw puts the readers in the hands of a very reliable narrator, a very nice place to be indeed. Other than that, it’s a California mystery which Parker excels at creating. I’ve started Gilead and THANK GOD I’m enjoying the narrative voice because otherwise…no chapters? I’m sorry but I simply can’t get behind such a structural choice no matter how much white space the author provides. S. took one look at the text and swore there was no way he could read it.
I have some reading plans for the New Year. I hope to read 13 new classics in 2007, and during my 30th year I hope to spend some time reading old favorites again. I have one month left to finish my From the Stacks challenge, which I think I’ll make, and I hope to read most of Hemingway’s work (separate from the classics challenge) because I need it for an essay I’m writing.
I sat down last night to review last year’s resolutions and draft new ones and I found it interesting that the only resolutions I met for 2006 were my writing resolutions, and I met all of them. Last year I resolved to find a writing group in my area for workshop, and I found the BEST group, full of talented, smart writers. I also resolved to have one piece of writing accepted, and I had two. And finally I resolved to attend two writing conferences last year, and I met that one as well. All the others – take a self defense course, volunteer steadily, etc. went by the wayside. I’m perfectly okay with that. I won’t share all of my resolutions with you, as I tend to be fairly resolution-happy and make a lot, but my writing ones include publishing more in 2007 than I did in 2006 and attending one interesting writing gathering, be it a colony or conference or something. I also hope to go one place I’ve never been before and begin reducing our eco-footprint on the world. Yes, there are more. I like the structure.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of Christmas form-letters but this year S. and I received some lovely ones which helped me change my mind and even entertain the possibility of one of our own next year. One of my favorites came from friends of ours in Pittsburgh, and while I intend to blog Saturday morning about a couple of books I want to talk more thoroughly about, this is really my end-of-the-year post, and so I am sharing the last line of the letter we received from Abby and Art, which I found powerful and perfect and true:
May you all be happy and healthy in the New Year, and may 2007 bring us all together in a world that is peaceful, whole and just.
Amen to that. Amen to that.