The house is quiet this morning, with only the companionship of a few electrical appliances doing their jobs, an ancient ceiling fan, a refrigerator as it cycles, the clicks of keyboard letters as I write this.
The furnace heralds its presence with furtive clicks as the circuit board asks the burners if they are ready for one more round, the burners respond “All systems GO” with a muted roar and the concluding movement in this symphony begins as the big system fan starts to run.
The furnace reminds me to be grateful it is there to keep the house cozy and that I am here to enjoy its warmth and comfort. Its medley of clicks and whirs and faint vibrations is like a call to prayer, reminding me who I am, where I am, and what I have to give thanks for.
The windows show only blackness punctuated by a scattering of lights like earthbound stars. A car whispers by, an oxymoronic terrestrial spacecraft, maybe grounded, or like the angel Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life” who hasn’t yet earned his wings.
It is hours before dawn. Later, when most everyone else starts preparing for the annual celebrations of Christmas, I can only imagine activity in the kitchen as food is prepared, lights through the house as the occupants rise to the aroma of coffee and roux. From under the bathroom door comes a crack of light and the rainy sounds of a shower. Getting ready for Christmas. But not here. I am alone.
This is not a jeremiad. I am not lonely. Solitude, when it is no longer night but not yet day, is a necessity this old part-time hermit values highly. It is a time of tranquility and clarity of thought. This is how I keep my mental balance.
This special morning is also a vantage point to sum up what this dying year has brought us and, by peering towards the future, see what of our hopes and fears may come to pass. So quickly will December, a month whose name comes from its once being the tenth in its series, become January, named for a Roman god of beginnings who was literally two-faced, a handy asset for the completion of his work, to peer simultaneously both forward and backward in time. What would Janus see if he were sitting beside me now?
Maybe things will be better or worse by the time this is read, but everything seems fine as I write. My own family members are involved in pleasant social activities. No one is sick, poverty-stricken or living in danger. Those I work with, long time friends I keep in touch with electronically, and the few my solitary path has come across from time to time, are probably doing as well as the handful of Christmas cards I received suggest. I wish them all the best.
It’s probably better I can’t see the future. Much of today’s news is ominous. Still, I expect to survive it. One must stay optimistic.
My memory, like old ink entries in a journal, fades with time. Still, there are many parts of 2011 for which I am grateful. My health, for one, following a near-death experience a couple of years ago, is almost back to normal. I am not rich; my standard of living is far from what the brightly-colored blizzard of ads on TV and in the mail insist I should be enjoying, yet somehow I will complete the year with all bills paid and no one my creditor.
Maybe what I am the most grateful for is the realization that while I am old - not even middle-aged any more since there are no 148-year-old men still alive - I am certain that the foreign greeting that translates, “May you live in interesting times,” is almost certain to come true for me in what few years I have left.
I can think of no better wish for everyone. And so, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may all of you find yourselves living in interesting times.