Shirley stood in the doorway, broom in hand, fiercely shouting out into the 15 degree night, her dogs jumping excitedly about her feet. "BE GONE! BE GONE!" I was absolutely sure that whatever or whomever she was shouting at, most certainly had high-tailed it out of there. Still, it felt weird to observe this elderly gentile lady turn into a New Year witch.
Though she was a practicing Episcopalian, I knew she also had "aulde ways" about her. I couldn't quite join the two together in my mind, but she was fine with it. There had been times when she seemed to glow with with lunar light, or sprinkle the stars over a room full of people with her exuberance and wisdom. I remember the time we sat against the tree trunk and I felt enfolded by it as she introduced me to her own special source of strength.
When I think about it, I realize that her ways were little different from anyone else. As a society, we make a lot of noise celebrating the New Year. We leave the past year and all the mistakes we made in it behind us, sweeping it out of the way to make room for the fresh future with a new freedom in our hearts.
As I wrote about last year in this blog, my mother, raised in the hills of Pennsylvania, sent me out in the snow on New Years day clanging pot lids together to scare away all the bad luck from the previous year. Later that day, she scoured and cleaned the house from floor to ceiling. Another form of sweeping out the old year. From an early age, I learned about resolutions, promises we make to ourselves for self improvement. I asked myself how I could stop myself from being a naughty girl throughout the whole year, not just through the Christmas season, and I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish. Some of which was not always so high minded.
I know many people do not observe this old practice of resolutions, but I do. I take stock of my life. Like the ancient pagan God, Janus, I look back over the year and contemplate how it unfolded. Sometimes I am disappointed that I didn't achieve a certain goal. But, I don't allow myself to dwell on it as I am always pleased about some aspect of my life that turned out well. And like Janus, I look forward to the future with eyes open to possibilities.
When Shirley slammed the door against the night demons, she turned to me with a fire in her eye and said, "No regrets! Just go out there and live it with determination and spirit!"