Old Year Gratitude; New Year Hope

This year — 2020 — is almost over. It’s been quite a year! Decades from now, I’m guessing that people will remember it most as the Year of the Pandemic; the year that Covid-19 changed the way that many of us lived. For many, it has been a year of loss and loneliness. Others have been able to lean in and read lots of books or learn new things, or just back away from an overly busy life. Wherever you find yourself at the close of this year, I hope that you have been able to find bright moments through it all, and  that the New Year will bring hope and peace.

Old year gratitude, New Year hope and a poem.

The old year didn’t really last a decade

New Year reflections on a wedding in the time of pandemic.

The big event in our family was the wedding of one of our sons during the time when gatherings of more than ten people were not happening. Since the chapel had windows, some family members were able to watch from outside (the peeking-in-the-window photos are some of my favorites!). For the rest of the family, we streamed the tiny, intimate ceremony from an iPhone. After the ceremony, we all, even the bride, pitched in to take photos in a serendipitously-located field of bachelor buttons. So much was different from what was originally planned, but it was no less special and meaningful. And it was certainly unforgettable!

Since I work from home anyway, my daily routine did not change much. I missed going to church and running basic errands, and nearly lost track of time as days ran together without much happening. What changed most was conference travel. Most of the homeschool conferences I usually go to didn’t take place, so we missed all those weekends of traveling, packing, unpacking, and repacking boxes (tons?) of books, and the chances to see friends that we’ve made through many years of conference-going. Instead of in-person encounters, I spent a fair amount of time on Zoom, which can be better than nothing. But it’s not the same.

In the end, there is always hope

With the New Year just hours away, I’m contemplating things lost and things gained. Although there were losses from not being able to travel and do many of things we normally do, there were things gained, too. I want to have eyes to see both, a heart to be grateful, and a spirit that is hopeful.

For the year just past, I am deeply grateful for a new daughter-in-law,  more time at home and with family, and the reminder that busy-ness and overconsumption can creep in, even when we desire to live a life focused on what is good, true, and beautiful.

For the New Year that is coming, I hope to live in peace, discerning and doing the things that truly matter. I’ll have specific goals, too, including releasing a refreshed edition of Excellence in Literature (never fear, changes won’t be large; the current edition is still quite functional!) and putting more great resources on the EIL website,. I haven’t quite finished the goal list yet — I’m trying to keep it winnowed to the most essential things in each category, as we really don’t know what the New Year will bring.

For our country and the world, I hope that the challenges of this past year will usher in changes for good, as sometimes happens after times of trauma (this article from the Smithsonian offers a hopeful look at “How Epidemics of the Past Changed the Way Americans Lived“).

I hope that the disruption in classroom education can lead to much-needed positive changes for students of all ages, including the incorporation of the ideas of Sir Ken Robinson and other sound thinkers about education. Some of the best learning can happen with a library of books, a stack of notebooks, and ample time for play, but there are families for whom language, ability, access, or even awareness of options is an obstacle. Is there a way we can reach out to those families with help and hope?

For you, dear reader, I offer you a poem of optimism and hope, and I wish for you a New Year of clarity, peace, and hope. And lots and lots of great reading!

Ring Out, Wild Bells

From “In Memoriam” by
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

You can read more New Year poems at Excellence in Literature. Happy New Year!

*The poetic reading is by Ted Delorme, and the musical accompaniment is the “Ode to Joy” theme from the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, by Ludwig van Beethoven. For me, the combination of poetry and music seem to perfectly express a spirit of New  Year hope and joy. I hope you enjoy it, too.

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