Ritual on New Year’s Day

I’ve been doing this for months now, writing little notes and essays for anyone to see, like graffiti on a public wall. I’ve got used to the rhythm of it, as an important part of my life. It’s legal, free and gives me a kick. I’ve long had fugitive thoughts and feelings which seemed precious at the time. This is my way to preserve them. If it wasn’t for the sharing, I wouldn’t bother. Most of my readers are doing the same. We write, we offer feedback on what we read. As far as I’m concerned it’s literature, why not? If posterity doesn’t want our scribbles, nothing’s lost. There’s a dignity in oblivion. I’ll still keep a copy, in case someone, somewhere, sometime, might deem it worth a look.

Originally posted on New Year’s Eve, 2006

Sunflower field, Dec. 31st 2006

Yesterday, I think it was on the feast of Bakri-Eid (goat-sacrifice), I went out in the morning and saw men and boys in white caps and long loose clothes, streaming from every direction to our local mosque. Thus I see for myself that  rituals still flourish and that everyone, myself included, yearns for a congregation of the like-minded, for mutual affirmation of our being. When we see others doing as we do, or vice versa, or we simply follow the crowd, we confirm to ourselves that we’re not entirely crazy. We need a little encouragement and support; even more so when we’ve chosen to become lone hikers into the unknown.

Climbers on bare rock-faces must be roped together: one venturing, the other braced and anchored, ready to take the weight of a fall.  One of the most moving films I’ve seen in 2006 was Touching the Void. Two climbers are scaling a cliff not just vertical but overhanging in parts. One, who’s already broken his leg, falls off, remains swinging over a deep crevasse, unable to climb back up. His companion above doesn’t have the strength to pull him up. They are unable to communicate.. After lengthy agonizing, the climber above cuts the rope,  leaving his companion for dead in a deep crevasse. A true tale of courage, extremity and loneliness—with an unexpected happy ending.

Perhaps inspired by this tale of intrepid Englishmen, I ventured out on New Year’s Eve, leaving the Christmas tree of our cosy hearth for the wild outdoors at twilight. Instead of a climber’s rope I was linked to Karleen by mobile phone. The wind and rain came in wild gusts, driving saner human bipeds indoors. I set off along muddy paths back to the sunflower field, planted last spring but left unharvested for pheasant provender in the autumn. I’ve put up photos of its earlier states, in September and early December. Last evening the flower heads were blackened, shrivelled, hanging down in terminal despair: no longer tracking the weak winter sun which in any case was hidden behind rain-clouds. Not long after, it went below the horizon, darkening the sky.

What keeps those sunflowers still standing? How is it possible to tell when a plant is dead? As a Christmas present someone gave me Tree Wisdom: The definitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees. Is there a soul in plants? The book mentions dryads, a kind of nymphs supposed by the Greeks & Romans to inhabit trees. This would have been a valid supposition before the advent of biological science. But it doesn’t answer my questions.

12 thoughts on “Ritual on New Year’s Day”

  1. Hullo Vincent

    A very Happy New Year to you and your beloved!

    I was to leave last evening for a few days with friends. Owing to severe fog conditions in Delhi, flights have gone haywire. Finally, late today morning, I realised that my plans have necessarily to be cancelled.

    That also occasioned some reflections, on specific as well as broader matters.

    I visited your blog now to pick up the link to your earlier post/s on “angels”, to link to something I wanted to write, on the same subject. Reading this latest post of yours – we are dwelling in the same thought-feeling frame / stream.

    I would like to think a wonderful new time has just begun, notwithstanding all outward appearances. Reading your post only reaffirms this for me. One could call this “a time of angels”.

    I trust you will join me in this certainty.




  2. “Why do we do this?” is an interesting question to which you gave an insightful answer.

    A month ago I scarcely knew what a blog was, and had no thought of starting one, and now I have two Weblogs and have been instrumental in encouraging three other people to begin blogging. Your well-established blog is an inspiration.


  3. Rama, good to hear from you, and I look forward to your reflections, particularly as you may have time on your hands after unfortunate cancellation of your plans.


  4. Your entries certainly are both interesting and quite inspiring. I am glad to have found your site through Fleming.

    The concept of internet communities is rather a strange one, but in essence, I see people casting lines through their postings, hoping perhaps to engage a kindred spirit or kindred spirits or even no more than an interesting 'catch' in the form of a comment or idea. I would imagine that many of the individuals who create these 'blogs' are very individualistic, the sort of people who never have felt they 'belonged' entirely to any group, organisation or community yet who nonetheless hope that there are others like themselves somewhere in the world. One often finds a line or paragraph in a novel or film that gives one a sense of instant recognition: 'Ah, I too have had this thought/emotion!' Novels and films are a one-way street, however, and in many cases, the writer or creator has been dead for years or centuries.

    People in the past had to journey thousands of miles sometimes to find a 'kindred soul' and would do so, following the rumour of a special teacher or community of philosophers somewhere and venturing forth on the quest for wisdom or adventure. Through the internet, physical distance has been conquered and one has the freedom to travel effortlessly from continent to continent. Sometimes this 'virtual travel' is no more than entertaining, but once in awhile, it can be inspiring.


  5. mcluhan said many years ago that the internet would recreate tribalism and the global village would emerge. i tend to believe he was right.
    corporations and governments will nave to change strategies to keep up…….


  6. Freyashawk, you have summarised excellently how I feel about blogging as a new form of interactive literature, that is to say a community of readers, authors and thinkers. We can instantly choose so we need not waste more than a second on those blogs which do not correspond to our interest or mood.

    I know a lot of people who blog are competitive: they want to be popular with hundreds or thousands of readers. To me this diminishes the concept of community where there is reciprocal valuing. I feel I have already reached a saturation point in the number of links I've posted (that I try to keep up with) and commenters.

    Perhaps the australian aborigines, native americans, tibetans or other people with well-developed spiritual powers were able to communicate by means of telepathy. For us we have this internet way, and I have in any case long held the view that language communication, verbal or written, is more telepathic than we assume!


  7. Interesting post to happen upon, as I have been reflecting on this question of late. I know that the reasons I have blogged have to do precisely with what you speak of in your eloquent piece here. Your words are so masterfully woven together and so beautifully expressed.

    I know blogging has been a way for me to feel a sense of community, to share thoughts, to be inspired by the gifts of others, to provide Love a forum for expansion and expression and Unity.

    But I also admit to a level of frustration. Feeling mostly ineffective at using written words, and largely fumbling around with words, especially when I read the words elsewhere (including here)…I find I haven't written lately, and wonder a bit about that too and whether or when I will again. So it is a good question to ask right now about blogging, and why we do it. I'll have to submit that question a bit deeper.

    I hope the new year brings more of your inspiring prose, your generous sharing of your words and your life and your heart and your thoughts… I grow to appreciate this place of gathering more and more.

    Happy New Year.


  8. Serenity, I have been checking your blog daily and wondering what happened, almost with concern. You have been such an inspiration to me and I am sure to so many, not to mention an encouragement which has kept me going when I doubt whether I am succeeding to communicate to anyone!

    I never felt you were fumbling with words, even when challenging you, to discover what you mean by Love, and so on. And you have been far too generous about mine.

    Happy New Year to you and yours, and hope we'll still meet in these words (which certainly serve their purpose) for a long time to come.


  9. Vincent,
    Well, I must return to thank you for your kindness and your generosity in your comments to me. You are truly an inspiration in the gentle, quiet wisdom you impart in your writing and always in your comments. I offer you my sincere gratitude. I have often wondered if others feel as I do about their own writing. When I read my own words it is sort of like the way I feel when I hear my recorded voice on an answering machine. I almost cringe, as nails on a chalkboard lol!

    But I'm back to it again for better or for worse. I can't keep my fingers off the keyboard.

    Peace, joy and always Love be with you.


  10. Serenity, I hope you will keep reading your own words in spite of the cringe factor. I'm convinced we use a different part of our brain to edit than we do to write, in fact I've known it for many years. I used to scribble and scribble on Tube journeys into London, many notebooks full – now all lost and quite right too because my ideas at that time were rather sterile, but it's practice – and editing – that counts. It's good to put your writing aside and let it go cold, perhaps overnight, perhaps longer. When you read it again, the problems leap out at you but they can all be fixed, without destroying the original inspiration, or making the result seem overworked. (I once took a year to write an article of about 3,500 words on the novel Owen Glendower by John Cowper Powys, but nowadays, I find spontaneity to be the greater virtue!)

    Like dogs, we are trainable. It involves effort, inner conflict and occasional despair but in the end, we have taken to heart unconsciously what we were haltingly striving at with our conscious wills, and things assemble themselves “automatically” in some parts of our head, leaving us to work on the small details that we can actually cope with consciously. I am sure it is the same with cooking, painting, gardening, motor-cycle maintenance, jazz, composition—any skill you can think of.

    But there is one driver for all this, which makes all the rest possible, and that is profound enthusiasm. I used to want to be a writer, whatever that meant, but now I see that the art-skill to aspire to is life itself.


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