What I Wish I Had Done and Written on New Year’s Eve

This article appeared in the NewYork Times on New Year’s Eve, and I hope it’s ok to post it in its entirety, because I think it is lovely. “I always wonder what it would be like to belong to a species — just for a while — that isn’t so busy indexing its life, that lives wholly within the single long strand of its being.”

New Year’s Eve

At midnight tonight, the horses on this farm will age a year. That is the custom — every horse has the same birthday, Jan. 1. Like all things calendrical, this is a human convention. When it comes to equine conventions, I know enough to notice some of the simpler forms of precedence: who goes first through a gate, who gets to the grain feeder ahead of the others. But I can report that the horses make no fuss about their common birthday or the coming of the new year. Tonight, like any other, they will be standing, dozing on their feet, ears tipping back and forth at the slightest of sounds. There is something deeply gratifying about joining the horses in their pasture a few minutes before the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve. What makes the night exceptional, in their eyes and mine, is my presence among them, not the lapsing of an old year.It’s worth standing out in the snow just to savor the anticlimax of midnight, just to acknowledge that out of the tens of millions of species on this planet, only one bothers to celebrate not the passing of time, but the way it has chosen to mark the passing of time. I remember the resolutions I made when I was younger. I find myself thinking that one way to describe nature is a realm where resolutions have no meaning.

It’s not that time isn’t passing or that the night doesn’t show it. The stars are wheeling around Polaris, and the sugar maples that frame the pasture are laying down another cellular increment in their annual rings. The geese stir in the poultry yard. A hemlock sheds its snow. No two nights are ever the same.

I always wonder what it would be like to belong to a species — just for a while — that isn’t so busy indexing its life, that lives wholly within the single long strand of its being. I will never have even an idea of what that’s like.

I know because when I stand among the horses tonight, I will feel a change once midnight has come. Some need will have vanished, and I will walk back to the house — lights burning, smoke coming from the wood stove — as if something had been accomplished, some episode closed.

What I did on New Year’s Eve was not spending a freezing cold midnight in the mare’s pasture, but hanging out with friends, talking, laughing, being human.

On New Year’s Day, I made these mitts from a ball of handspun I got from Anne at WoolyWonka.


They were a quick knit and the yarn is so beautiful. I just sort of made them up as I went along, and will put a recipe together if anyone is interested. I wanted close fitting stockinette, long enough to cover the gap between mitten cuff and sleeve, with the intention of wearing them under some leather mittens. I’ll let you know how they work out. I was also concerned about having enough yarn, and I have lots left. Another pair of mitts? A nice neck gaiter or headband? Nice to ponder.

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that 2008 is a good year for all, especially this planet earth. And Happy Birthday to all my equine friends.



3 responses to “What I Wish I Had Done and Written on New Year’s Eve

  1. As beautiful as that passage is, still better to join with the humans to welcome a new year. Thanks for sharing that . Wishing you a great 2008. Nice gloves. too!

  2. I didn’t go out to visit with the equine crew at midnight, but I did check on them. Lots of fireworks over the valley with bad icy footing in the pasture and new horse – I worried at least one of them would get hurt, but since lead mare Hap wasn’t too upset by them, the boys calmed down.

    Have a simply spectacular 2008!

  3. I saw it and enjoyed it very much.

    Midnight didn’t find us out with the cattle and horses (and cats), but indoors together playing Monopoly. But we did check on them in the evening, and I do agree with Klinkenborg — whose writing I love — about his appreciation for nature as “a realm where resolutions have no meaning”, and thinking that it sounds grand.

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