Yesterday I wrote, "On the second-to-last day of the year, I'm looking for ways to sum up and let go. The morning has been spent making gorgonzola wafers with piñon nuts, from my Santa Fe Kitchens cookbook; synching Carmina Burana to my iPod; reading Jane Hirshfield on Zen and poetry, for inspiration; watching a whole bevy of birds delightedly splashing in the bird baths once the ice melted.
I'd like a ceremony of some sort, to mark the turning—whether a silent retreat at Green Gulch, a night walk to the caves at Bandelier, a visit to Glastonbury's Chalice Well, leis thrown out onto the white waves at the Place of Refuge, which the sea turtles have come back to over the years.
We'll spend the last day of the year in Santa Cruz."
And so we have begun it. (Sunshine and the sound of water.)
On the last day of the year, over the years, I’ve liked to climb up to the line of caves at Tsankawi and sit facing the sun, then on the way home buy red wine tasting of the Provence earth from Kokoman on the Pojoaque reservation. Or eat cracked crab with a smidgen of prosciutto and some lemon-pepper linguini, while summoning good friends from books, the word-artists and sages. Or sit looking out across Keauhou Bay, the birthplace of the stillborn king, and reinvent myself; set off above the ocean a flurry of Chinese fireworks with charming names.
At Tsankawi—which in Tewa means "village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti"—I found the year and years like petroglyphs written on the long sandstone cliffs all around me. I always asked myself there why I didn't stay in Santa Fe, work for the School of American Research, be a real artist? Live in the canyons? Closer to myself. To the vital red earth. I'd press my hand print into the cold snow; pick an indigo berry from a juniper tree and crush it in my fingers to release its inner nature and transfer to my own skin the vivid, spicy fragrance of the juniper that is so quintessentially of that place, and of me.
On the Kona Coast, over the years, I wrote my end-of-year notes time and time again. Whether idly, or querying; happy or -un.
Yellow fish in the curl of a wave.
An empty bottle of New Zealand lager, and an unspent Roman candle.
I wrote: "Recently somebody said 'you have to re-invent yourself from time to time'—and when more naturally than at the start of a new year? Somehow I'm always conscious of 'taking stock' in Hawaii, of re-defining (if not out & out reinventing) what is most and best me; though that tends to get lost almost immediately back in the daily grind.
"We always go to the Place of Refuge, a sacred place on a perfect white palm-circled beach, where those who had broken the kapu (sacred rules of life) and offended the gods, or defeated warriors, or noncombatants, could find sanctuary, cleansing, and new life—so to visit seems appropriate for the process of personal renewal. A place for second chances.
This time we also walked along the beach to the hotel, now abandoned and ruinous, where I stayed four or six years ago and—in this same effort at re-defining—took my coffee out, mornings, to the black rocks of ruined temples, and mirror-still tidepools, to write and think and read Robert Browning's poems. The image of an empty hotel (and that one, mine, particularly) is unsettling—maybe because it's so intrinsically contradictory.
Am I like a sea creature, then, that moves on from one borrowed shell to another? Is it only the shells that are ever re-defined? The stones of the old temples piled now into sea-walls instead, and in another year fallen again and awash with rock-crabs?"
Again, another year:
"The Chinese fireworks have better names than ever:
Successive Happy News
Overlord in the Sky
Mandarin Duck Disporting Water
Bird in Fright (flight, instead, surely?)
And the ponderous coils of firecrackers, one hundred thousand all on a strand."
And that year or another, a collection of observations:
. The fisherman with his empty bucket says, smiling, 'I guess we'll have sardines for our supper.'
. Smoke along the road to Kealakekua—chickens roasting, hundreds, barbecued, on spits.
. On Thursday the dive boat has anchored offshore—strung with Christmas lights.
. On Saturday morning they practice dancing, with the bamboo sticks.
. The old Chinese man on the lawn between the Kona Inn and the ocean paints ideographs, with a fat brush—I remember the sign for thinking within motion, the self and the journey which is within.
. At the Saturday farmers' market we buy a bagful of papayas and flowers— pink ginger, orchids, mixed anthurium, $5.00.
. They are fishing off the rocks. The volcano has been taken by cloud.
. The second boat whose mast is constant in my view of steeple, mast, and white plumaria went out this morning with a striped sail.
. I drink a dry white wine from the volcano. Not as fine as Etna or the other volcanic whites, but surprisingly good.
. Dried leis on the statue of the fish god—the walls of temples and the breakwater—all lava, seaworn (the petroglyphs for crossing).
No conclusions. No wise words to carry me or us or anyone into the unwritten new year—only an offering and a blessing, an awareness of what all has passed. And what remains, enduringly, endearingly. Love and delight in its myriad guises.
All happiness ahead, fellow voyagers and celebrants. Let us now invoke the New Year.
image: She Who Is, Invocation