New Year’s Day brought triumphant sunshine to Seattle. So, my wife, son, and I climbed the Great Mound in Gas Works Park, where I shot my Sundial series last summer. As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones seeking sun-soaked views across Lake Union to downtown. (All the empty bottles scattered around suggested it had been a great spot for New Year’s Eve revelers, too.) But of everyone gathered there, the person who stood out most was this guy who seemed at once to be saluting the sun and cleansing a heavy spirit. A lot of people were milling around, talking and laughing, but he stood silent and alone, bending back and forth like a metronome as the angular winter light washed over his face. A strange, but beautiful scene with which I can think of no better poem to introduce than Naomi Shihab Nye‘s “Burning the Old Year,” especially the last three stanzas. (You can find the whole poem here.)
So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.
Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.
Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.