How do we measure a year? By its global triumphs? Its tragedies? The number of quiet moments we were able to make for ourselves or others? Our personal triumphs and tragedies?
As we come to the end of 2016 I’m happy to say goodbye to the parts of it that caused pain (the election, horrific deaths as people flee war in their homelands, the gun violence that periodically convulses our nation—though not enough, it seems for us to really do something about it, a concussion, shingles, the death of my mother) even as I’m aware that some of these things will carry into the new year (as I look at the list I just typed I realize that only the concussion doesn’t carry over in some way into 2017).
I long for more of the things that brought deep pleasure in 2016: moments with my beloved, capturing beauty through the lens of my camera, un-programmed time with friends, being profoundly moved by moments of vulnerability with parishioners, seeing a spark become a dream become a reality in events like the Homecoming Weekend, the Orlando Vigil, the Standing on the Side of Love service, Bishop Robinson’s visit, and so much more.
Marking time and moments in time is important, as is taking stock. Usually we discover that our list of blessings is so much longer than the list of difficulties.
As we come to the end of the year I offer this image from the ocean in front of my mother’s home in Maine, to accompany the poetry of John O’Donohue. “We bless this year for all we learned/ For all we loved and lost/ And for the quiet way it brought us/ Nearer to our invisible destination.”
AT THE END OF THE YEAR
The particular mind of the ocean
Filling the coastline’s longing
With such brief harvest
Of elegant, vanishing waves
Is like the mind of time
Opening us shapes of days.
As this year draws to its end,
We give thanks for the gifts it brought
And how they became inlaid within
Where neither time nor tide can touch them.
The days when the veil lifted
And the soul could see delight;
When a quiver caressed the heart
In the sheer exuberance of being here.
Surprises that came awake
In forgotten corners of old fields
Where expectation seemed to have quenched.
The slow, brooding times
When all was awkward
And the wave in the mind
Pierced every sore with salt.
The darkened days that stopped
The confidence of the dawn.
Days when beloved faces shone brighter
With light from beyond themselves;
And from the granite of some secret sorrow
A stream of buried tears loosened.
We bless this year for all we learned,
For all we loved and lost
And for the quiet way it brought us
Nearer to our invisible destination.
— John O’Donohue (To Bless The Space Between Us)