Thoughts on the New Year

It’s a new year! Sort of.

While my new year was supposed to start back on Samhain like it does for most pagans who observe the Celtic calendar, I can’t help but feel like the collective cultural observance of the January 1st changeover gives it a kind of new yearish weight that Samhain lacks for me now that I don’t live in the bubble of paganism I grew up in.

When I was a kid, Samhain was when you collected all your dead and heavy things and gave them up to the fire, to the land of the dead, to the past. This year, most holidays have passed with minimal or no observance– moving, grad school, the passing of friends, the big shifting things, well, they left very little energy for that kind of thing. When I did try to celebrate in normal fashion, things went poorly, so by Samhain, I’d mostly let the holiday observances go. So New Year’s Eve didn’t get a lot of attention, but both Bruce and I woke up the next morning and agreed that somehow even the air felt a little different. A little clearer.

Maybe it’s just that collective cultural letting go that did it. Maybe it was the pink champagne and junk food. Maybe nothing did it, maybe it was our imaginations. Either way, it was a sweet, lovely thing to wake up in my own home with my wonderful man and look out over our land and feel like I had a place in the world. (It’s a small corner of the world, and it admittedly still looks quite raw and new and is soggy with red clay and mud, but when Spring comes, I can’t imagine it’ll be anything less than gorgeous.)

This last year has been rough. You all know it– I could list all the things that have sucked, but yours likely sucked, too, statistically, so you probably don’t want to hear it. Suffice to say, I’m damn tired.

But! This upcoming year comes with a lot of interesting things. My story, “Gorse Daughter, Sparrow Son,” originally published in Strange Horizons this last August, has been selected for Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017, coming out this coming Summer (check it out, I’m on a list and everything.)

I’ll be attending my second grad school residency (the first one in which I’m branching out into cross-genre studies, doing popular fiction as well as poetry) in just a few days. I’m looking forward to seeing all my wonderful Stonecoasters again, and to working with the marvelous Jim Kelly and Cate Marvin for my workshops. I just finished up my first semester working with my incredible mentor, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, on poetry. I have no idea what kind of focus I want for my second semester– fiction, poetry, or both– and I’m hoping it’ll become clear during residency. I’m also super looking forward to being in Maine during the Winter– it sounds utterly ridiculous in terms of weather, and being down here in the land of red clay slush, snow sounds pretty awesome, and I do so love the cold.

I got turned down for the Ireland program for this upcoming Summer, unfortunately, but I’ll be applying for the winter program and may even be heading over there for a trip with Bruce at some point in the Fall if we can get things together in time. Either way, I hope to be joining Ted Deppe for the program in Howth come next January.

I’m in debt for the first time, and really excited about it! I’m aware that that’s a little weird, but mostly it just means that my first student loans came through, so I can actually afford to continue to go to grad school. Yay for debt!

I still don’t feel quite like myself– the displacement that came with leaving my apartment and moving back in with my parents for those couple of months really affected my mental state. I’m grateful I had a place with them, but it was very regressive for me, putting me back in this weird place of having to check and ask permission before I did anything and let people know where I was and– it was just very weird and I don’t quite feel like I’ve gotten back to center yet. Hopefully residency up in Maine will hit a reset button for me; I love being around those people, and I love the way Stonecoast challenges me to be the best version of myself, and hopefully that’ll mean that I at least feel like SOME more centered version of myself by the time I come back home. Probably a frantic, excited, somewhat exhausted version, but, well, it’s grad school. That’s kind of the point, right?

Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what I can become in this year (whether it’s actually new or has been going on since November) and what good things I can get done. And maybe, when I get back from residency, or even while I’m there, I can figure out how to collect all the dead and heavy things that have accumulated in my heart over the last year and do something with them– write them out or give them to the fire, I don’t know, but I can feel them sitting heavy in my heart as I try to find my way back to center.

I’d love people’s thoughts on what you think I should focus on this upcoming semester– poetry, fiction, both, whatever– and any advice you have for getting back to yourself after a big shift. I hope you’re all well and that the new year brings only the best for us all.

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