Hear that noise? That's the sound time doesn't make when it rushes past at light-times-infinity speed. That's the sound I didn't hear all year, and probably the reason it doesn't seem like more than a month has passed, since the first time I sat here writing a similar tribute to 2005. That was what, eleven months ago? Eleven whole months since I wished for peace on earth, and great things to come for IN and all its readers in 2006.
Odd as it may seem given what I just told you, things this year – microcosmic things – moved pretty slowly. That is to say, my brain and everything associated with processing and likewise regurgitating information (and oh what a process it is), crawled like an impaired snail. That book I promised to have on an agent's desk by December of last year? Yep, it's still lying face down under my coffee table, waiting for "next week," when things finally calm down enough to tackle it.
Lesson learned? Things will never be that kind of calm, and you know the saying about fools and waiting.
Still, book or no book, this year was all full of inspiration. And though I didn’t write as much as I would have liked, I did compile a huge notebook of things I could write about, "next week" (see also: next year), after I send out my book, when things finally calm down enough to get to it.
This year, like last, I traveled to California and New Mexico, but also added Tokyo and Kyoto, during the drunken splendour that is Cherry Blossom watching season, to my list of topographic wonders. I drove two small children through eleven states, and met various relatives along the way – including my dad, who met me in Amarillo, Texas, and then drove with me through much of Southern New Mexico, up to Santa Fe; and later, my mom, who joined us for a number of patriotic monuments and oddities (hello, Corn Palace).
I climbed 750 feet down into the mouth of Carlsbad Caverns; looked for signs of intelligent life in Roswell; threw sand snowballs under a thunder black sky at White Sands National Monument; marvelled at how small Mount Rushmore looks up close; visited the homestead of Jesse James; and saw a whole lot of US national and state parks and monuments I never guessed existed.
Which brings me to the one thing I got from the year that I hope stays with me. It's something I noticed when I wasn't doing that kind of looking. When you go, without much more than a map and a tenuous plan, the world starts to look pretty uncomplicated. You notice the architecture change, the way people differ from community to community, dark shadows that single out nesting mountains, and the rise and fall of terrain in ways you miss when you're stationary. You notice that there's a whole lot of world moving around outside your own. And though things haven't been so nice around the planet the last few years, in so many quiet ways, it's still awfully, awfully beautiful.
Some people do suck, and the world definitely has its issues, and sometimes, it all makes it so hard to write anything that seems substantial enough to surpass the enormity. But there's still a lot of good stuff to talk about; a lot of the kinds of colour and character and breadth of culture that inspire great stories. There are people who still live in small tucked away places that talk to you like a neighbour when you pass through; still land that looks pristine and rugged; still hope and peace, and, best of all, wonder. The same kind of wonder that compels us to write, compose, and paint. That same kind of wonder you felt when it all seemed new.
My wishes for the 2007 New Year? To remember the life outside my own and to be less complacent. That you all get away, and breathe, and see things, even for just a few minutes, the way you see your first anything – in the way that brands you, like a first look, love, kiss, story, hope, wish, or dream of succeeding. For us all to go out, open our eyes, and make good. To provoke thought. And communication. To write the world back into coherence. Because we sure could use more togetherness this year.
Jennifer Edelson is a former practicing Minnesota attorney, now regular IN columnst, freelance writer and legal writing professor. Her writing has appeared on all the finest refrigerators in the Twin Cities. Jennifer can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org