Making a New Year Different Than the Old One

Welcome to 2024! I’ve done a roundup of pieces I published in 2023 and my favourite books of 2023, so now it’s time to look forward the year ahead and what I hope and plan for it to bring.

But first, a highlight from December. We travelled to the Rockies where we enjoyed the mountain scenery, walked on a frozen lake, snowshoed partway into Hilda Glacier, and walked the dog around town three times a day. It felt like Christmas to me—the mountain scenery and a bit of snow (but not much), and the ability to walk everywhere which we don’t have here. I felt like I was home, and began to think again about moving somewhere that isn’t a 14-hr drive (yes, it really took that long to get home and was a marathon race in a single day) from our favourite place on the planet.

We got home with just over a week until Christmas proper. It was rainy and mossy and mildew-y—a bit of an anti-climactic return to reality. This year we decided to focus on Solstice and dial back our Christmas festivities, as we feel like the phases of the season are a more genuine way to celebrate than the commercialism of Christmas. We had tourtière for dinner and apple-ginger pie for dessert, made from our own apples and frozen in late summer. It was a treat to enjoy homegrown apples.

For Christmas we got a Charlie Brown tree from our back-40 and decorated it and a bit of the house on the 23rd. We hardly used any ornaments this year—part of scaling back but also because the tree was too small and the branches too weak to hold the heavier things! We weren’t going to do the full-on Christmas dinner, but D had bought a turkey anyway so he whipped up dinner while I was sleeping.

I enjoyed the week between Christmas and New Year. Lots of reading, sleeping, and thinking about things like where do we really want to live, what my next book project will look like, and more. On New Year’s Eve we de-decorated the house and tree and burned the tree in a backyard bonfire. Perfect way to say goodbye to 2023.

Burning the tree.

This year I have a few life goals that aren’t resolutions but plans.

I’m starting a new book project, which means I won’t be taking on any new freelance pieces and will reduce my time on social media (my Achilles heel). As part of the book-writing process, I plan to spend more time outside, walking and hiking. Not only will this help my mental and physical health, but I can also use some of these activities to kickstart my blog posts.

We’ll observe the main Celtic celebrations: spring equinox (19 March), summer solstice (20 June), fall equinox (22 September), and winter solstice (21 December). Every three months brings a day of celebration and remembrance, where we can reflect on the past season and think ahead to the next one. It’s a way of keeping track of time, of not letting the weeks get away from us without being marked in some way. It may seem like new age appropriation of another culture’s holy days, but I think it’s a calendar that’s open to anyone who wants to be more attentive to what they’re doing month to month.

I’m also going to keep a reading diary: a list of the books I read and what I thought of them, plus any interesting quotes that came up. I feel like I tear through books at a breakneck speed and don’t reflect on them as much as I should, though there are some I read twice to truly absorb their message. This holiday I’ve read several books for the second time, as background for my new book project.

I’m going to start the monumental task of digitizing my library. D found a program called LibraryThing, where you scan your book’s barcode and it’s automatically added to your online catalogue. You can search the catalogue, and even add a field that tells you where to find the book (second shelf on the dark green bookcase, for example), though that doesn’t help if you’re moving books around.

2024 is about doing what I can, when I can, and making the most of it. I ran across a thread on Twitter in which Francesca Reader wrote: “For the first time, I want to become physically active again not to reshape my body, but to restore my own wholeness as a human being. To become, in a word, embodied. If the writing dries up, so be it. More than I want to be a good artist, I want to be a well person.” (emphasis mine)

I, too, want to be a good artist, but I’m not a well person. One of the ways in which I can prioritize well-ness is to do what I mentioned above: focus on the new project instead of chasing one-offs. Get outside regularly. Take it easy when the days threaten to overwhelm me with their sometimes yawning, black emptiness. Sleep when I need it. Clearly differentiate between things I *have* to do versus things I feel I *should* do. Take care of myself in every way possible. Because if I’m not well, there is no writing, no getting outside. Not much of anything. So that’s my 2024 priority: do what I can to be well. The rest will come.

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