The old year ends, and the new year begins
Following the bear

The magic of beginnings

Sheepfield 1

I know people who find the ritual of New Year depressing, but I have a great affection for those moments in time that allow us to push the "re-set" buttons in our minds and make a fresh start: the start of a new year, the start of a new week, the start of a new morning or fresh endeavor. As L. M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) once wrote, "“Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

"Every man should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page," advised the American theologian and abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher. Some people, of course, find a blank page terrifying...but that's a feeling I've never quite understood. I love the feeling of potential inherent in an untouched notebook, a fresh white canvas, even a new computer folder waiting to be filled. It's the same sense of freedom to be found at the start of a journey, when all lies ahead and limits haven't yet been reached.

Fear of failure, of course, can dim the pleasure of new beginnings and cause creative paralysis at this crucial time. When such anxieties arise, I remember this useful advice from Helen Keller's mentor, Anne Sullivan: "Keep on beginning and failing," she said. "Each time you fail, start all over again, and you will grow stronger until you have accomplished a purpose -- not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember."


All beginnings, of course, are proceeded by endings, and as artists we must comfortable with both sides of the equation. “We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned," said mythologist Joseph Campbell, "so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. ”

Winter solstice is now passed. The days are growing longer. Like bears in their dens and seeds in the ground, this deep, dark time of year enables our growth and renewal  in the months ahead; and I've come to see this slow, thoughtful season of hibernation as something precious, rich, and necessary.

The calendar turns, and a new year has begun."It's time to start something new," said Meister Eckhart, "and trust the magic of beginnings.”