A New Year's Day Perspective

Occasionally, the unusually tall, scraggly dogwood reminds us of its presence. One of only a few trees on the property of this old mill building turned artist lofts, it’s branches often scratch at the second story window in the wind - sometimes violently. Almost daily, its many branches allow the city sparrows an opportunity to gaze into the apartment. A link between the wild and the urban, it sometimes feels as if the branches are actually inside the apartment. This tree is a gift.

But today, the dogwood stands completely still and free of onlookers. Looking out the window to the East through the bare branches, it looks as though a gentle snowfall may begin at any moment. Turn a bit and gaze out the opposite window to the West, and you might believe a summer rain has just ended. It does not seem like winter, nor summer. It feels somewhere in between. It is hard to define.

Tomorrow, in this part of the world, we celebrate “New Year’s Day”. A man-made, illusionary place marker said to be the day when one year ends, and another begins. It is created for convenience and logistics. That is all. For the dogwood, and everything in nature including ourselves, there really is no such thing as the first day of a new year. Seasons and years in nature do not have clear beginnings and endings. Nature is not linear. It is a circle. You could choose any day and say it is the first of a new year. None would be more valid than another.

The dogwood stands as a firm testament and visual illustration of the circle of time and absurdity of beginnings and endings. It is a representation of the fluidity of a year and a life all at the same time. Its western side is always bare. The branches are dead, but still present and completely essential to the stability and strength of the tree. The leaves are gone for now, and reveal the bracts of next year’s flowers. They appeared long, long ago last summer. Here there is no first day of summer, fall, winter, or spring. There is no New Year’s Day. It is one beautiful, mysterious, continuous circle without beginning or end.

If we have learned anything by this the third pandemic year, it is that things evolve in their own time. Life is process. Change happens over time and often not according to our schedule. To say that this or that will happen because the calendar says January 1 is just not realistic.