In less than a week we will begin a new year. We are always hopeful that somehow this invisible line in the sand caused by the flip of a calendar will somehow cause a miraculous shift to the better. The excitement and hope that we all experience causes us to make a plan, make a list, make amends, and universally go into the New Year with a tremendous level of optimism and determination.
Tabula rosa, the clean slate. I, myself, am right there with plans like that each year. In this approaching year it feels even more necessary. I suspect there’s not anyone reading this that won’t be happy to see 2020 in our rear view mirror, but I wonder why we’re so focused on a singular, set date to begin?
Yes, this has been a hard year for a myriad of reasons, all slightly different for each of us depending on our own circumstances and emotional state. I struggled, as many have, but am determined to be grateful for all of the blessings I have received. I enjoyed my Christmas Day with my husband and cooked and ate and watched some television. I also started this painting. I had begun to think about the year ahead and sat down at the canvas to push some paint around while I thought.
Sometimes the years are mundane, only becoming as good as we pre-determine them to be. Oh, I know, there are those things we have no control over (like illness) but we inadvertantly set limits based on our limited vision. What if we truly start over and remove the ceiling? I have to say that by this point in the year I am positive that the next year will be better than ever, and I feel the most control. Maybe that’s where I make my mistake. I’m not in control and really shouldn’t try to be because I will always aim low based on my limited vision.
As I started to paint I was thinking about my love for the dramatic sunrise, sunset, water reflection or shine and I realized that in all of those scenarios the light is already fully engaged and somewhat predictable. I enjoy painting light in full splendor. However, there is something truly amazing and inspiring to view emerging light that begins when you are in the darkness. If you’re in the woods, especially in the middle of the Winter when it gets very dark early and stays dark later, that darkness can be very deep. When dawn starts to grow the first little bit you are literally thrilled to be able to differentiate between solid and the space between limbs, branches and voids. Then, there is that magical moment just before you actually see the source of the light, but you can begin to see the effect of the light. The limbs and the edges of the branches begin to reveal because of what you can’t yet see, and wherever the light hits new snow it becomes almost luminescent in a joyous response to the light. As light increases, so does color. It is … awesome.
I must admit that I don’t believe I fully captured on canvas what I had in my head but it was good practice and good to think. I will no doubt try to capture this predawn time of day again sometime because the hope of this first light is very much like the first day of a New Year. It does not, cannot, and should not attempt to predict the weather for the day, the temperament of the month ahead, or the forecast of events for the year but we forgive the beginning of a day or the beginning of a year because we know that noone or nothing can see the future. We forgive because it did, after all, start out with pure hope like we do.
It’s up to us whether we sustain that new hope, impact the next month with our stockpiled supply of new hope, and potentially set a good course for the rest of the year. Moreover, we are not limited to one calendar day and doomed to wait until we start again. New beginnings are repeatable. Despite what looked like a disastrous year, we have done good things both large and small. Whether you’ve stayed healthy, calmer or resiliently upbeat, you have a proven record of successes every day to show for it. You have endured. You have loved. You have become stronger.
Make this New Year like that of the first new light of the day; full of new hope. If we stumble out of the gate, start again.
I share this image with its flaws and struggles much like the passing year as an excercise in pondering – a 16″ x 20″ oil on canvas entitled, Dawn in the Dark Wood.