The older I get, the more a new year makes me reflect on the past, rather than look to the future. The passing of loved ones, the challenges and triumphs, the regrets, and the ridiculously fast growth of the many kids in my life all make me marvel at what a year can bring. This year, however, I find myself very much looking forward at the vast expanse of 2014 ahead of me and delighting in the possibilities of its blank slate.
In the last two months of 2013, my husband and I had a baby and moved into our first (non-rented) home. And so, as we counted down to midnight (honestly, we did the UK midnight, because actual midnight seems to get later each year), we faced a house rife with potential and a new roommate whose every day offers a new experience. For him, the world is covered in a blanket of fresh snow awaiting his footprints. As he learns about the world around him, I’ve returned to this poem by Margaret Atwood, who captures the newness of this time beautifully:
You Begin, by Margaret Atwood
You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth,
this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.
Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.
This is the world, which is fuller
and more difficult to learn than I have said.
You are right to smudge it that way
with the red and then
the orange: the world burns.
Once you have learned these words
you will learn that there are more
words than you can ever learn.
The word hand floats above your hand
like a small cloud over a lake.
The word hand anchors
your hand to this table,
your hand is a warm stone
I hold between two words.
This is your hand, these are my hands, this is the world,
which is round but not flat and has more colors
than we can see.
It begins, it has an end,
this is what you will
come back to, this is your hand.
Old papers thrown away,
Old garments cast aside,
The talk of yesterday,
Are things identified;
But time once torn away
No voices can recall:
The eve of New Year's Day
Left the Old Year lost to all.
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I must change my life, I thought. Is this what Rilke meant? That I should “get healthy?” I should eat better, drink better? I jumped to this conclusion in the aisle at my grocery store.
I've had climate change anxiety since college, but bringing a baby into the universe intensifies it. My anxiety no longer only extends the length of my lifespan. I tell my husband Taylor I regret having a child because I can't stand the thought of Jackson in pain. He holds up our son’s wiggly, plump body. "You really wish he didn't exist?"