Mythologist Joseph Campbell has written that in spite of the seeming chaos of our lives at any given moment, the past when seen in hinsight will appear well-planned. The continuity of our lives was one of my favorite themes in the novel Dune. The image author Frank Herbert used was that of a desert wherein those with second sight who thought they had been wandering could see through meditation the events of their past aligned across the dunes as a perfectly ordered set of footprints leading up to their present location.
We are who we are, I think, and making abrupt changes at the end of a calendar year is unlikely to be effective—and might be dangerous if we knew how to keep those noble resolutions we made during the last days of December.
Author Smoky Zeidel often speaks of the fallow periods in a writer’s life—or, in anyone’s life, for that matter—as periods we should accept and learn from rather than fight. Winter, a time when seeds wait in the darkness of the earth beneath the snow, is symbolic of fallow periods. As in the old story of Taliesin out of pre-Christian Welsh mythology, we germinate in the darkness of the womb and undergo many changes before we emerge into the springtime of our full potential.
Perhaps our hopes and resolutions at the beginning of a new year aren’t really abrupt, desperate or rash changes in personality, lifestyle and direction. They may well be part of our continuing evolution toward our truest dreams, more on course than we realize as the new year approaches.
The Darkness of Winter
The darkness of winter is often said to be synonymous with the underworld, the last place any of us logically want to visit. Yet, the visionaries amongst us say that, like seeds in the soil, all things are born in darkness, arising with a new voice when the time is right.
My 2011 novel Sarabande is, among other things, a story about my protagonist’s descent into the underworld where she will prepare for the next steps in her life. At the moment, I have yet to extricate myself from the underworld I envisioned for my young protagonist because, as Robert Adams discovers in the book, men are not by nature equipped to navigate the dark regions without a guide.
Writing that novel was a learning experience. So, too, is my period of re-acclimation back into the real world. Part of writing is the fallow period that arrives after the writing itself is done. The same process is probably true for most of the major experiences of our lives. Even the best of them might carry us through periods of confusion, depression and even sadness as we gather close around us what we have learned and how we have been changed.
I’ve quoted T. S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” in other year-end posts because I’d rather spend winter with great expectations for my voice of the new year than thrash about in the darkness making rash promises and finely phrased resolutions. The flow of the seasons is (obviously) a natural river of time in the temporal world and whenever I’m pressed to make a resolution, it is “to keep swimming with the current.”