Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Intermittent rain over the past few days, combined with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, has meant that the margins of the snowbanks are receding and we can see, and gratefully walk on, the ground in many places. However, these conditions also mean that the best we can hope for over the next few days is slogging through slush -- the slush, at least, allows some traction with the ground below. Most of our snow-covered dirt roads on the island, after weeks of variously-equipped wheels laying down erratic tracks on them, are now topped by a layer of ice -- not too bad on the flat expanses, but deadly on any incline. We arrived home yesterday afternoon, fortunately, just before the slush donned its nighttime coat of ice, so Pater wheelbarrowed our cases over the kilometre home without much trouble.

Away for perhaps the worst week of this weather, I've been following our small community's e-mail listserv, and admiring our resourcefulness and community spirit. A neighbour trying to bake a seasonal specialty but reluctant to manage the difficult trek to town put out a call for a can of evaporated milk; several other neighbours, expecting elderly or less mobile guests for Christmas, posted requests for transportation from anyone whose vehicle was still managing to move over the unplowed roads; another neighbour, with a leg still recovering from a break earlier in the year, asked for a ride to and from the ferry. All of these requests were readily met, and many others, I'm sure, were accommodated less publicly. While I sometimes get impatient with the "fishbowl" aspect of living in a small community like ours, at times like this I recognize my good fortune living somewhere that brings out the best of human nature. I remember reading in Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point a reference to the optimum size for communities -- Dunbar's number, 150, is supposedly the number of stable interpersonal relationships one can maintain, and it suggests the limits to the size at which a group can maintain stability and cohesion. We number more than that here (and neither Gladwell, nor, probably, Dunbar himself meant a rigid application of the concept), but we know most island residents by sight, at least, if not by name, and while we don't all socialize regularly together, we cross paths on the ferry or on the docks, and there are generally not more than two or three degrees of social separation among us. As the year ends, I recall beginning it with a resolve to "Want what I Have," and it seems to me that this is a glowing example. Perhaps over the next year, I'll try to be more tolerant of those aspects of small-island life that irritate me, and more appreciative of those that delight and nurture.

Otherwise, though, I'm not going to make any New Year's resolutions except to re-commit to last year's. Of the many pleasures my blog has brought me (new friends rating high among those), an important one is the deepened appreciation for the riches of my life -- the joys of the quotidian and the domestic, especially. These are tough times, we're convinced, for those of us in the developed world, who fear losing some of the bounty we have; of course, they're even tougher, as they've long been, for those who've never had that. It seems especially important now, to Want what's right there in front of our lucky noses -- and, perhaps, recognizing our good fortune, to Want others to Have a bit as well. Pater and I are very, very fortunate in being able to contribute to the ongoing project of friends who work in the developing world building and repairing homes and wells and orphanages and medical clinics. Here, I suppose, Dunbar's number comes into effect as well, in a way. Despite the overwhelming, intimidating, obliterating numbers of people living in poverty, the connectedness and community effected by our friends empowers us to believe we can help. Because they work to show us manageable projects, one at a time (like the 150 our imaginations can manage), taking pictures, sending newsletters, gently insisting that we see numbers as people with dreams and personalities and talents and music and wit, we can afford to care rather than desperately pull the pillows over our heads. This committed, inspiring couple head off early in the new year for their 9th such trip working overseas with a community they have built, seeing changes they have made and that we've had a tiny part in.

So drawing from their inspiration, thinking of what the New Year means to them, I want to wish all my readers the joy of being able to contribute. May you enjoy much happiness and the ability to Want what you Have in this New Year, and may you find ways to pass that happiness along. Happy New Year! All the Best for 2009!

10 comments:

  1. Happy New Year. I look forward to your postings in 2009.

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  2. I'm so glad you didn't abandon the blog in 2008. Keep on posting!
    Happy New Year!

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  3. Happy New Year to you too. Looking forward to more musings and photos, more outfits and books, more links and ideas. All the best! Patricia

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  4. Bonne et Heureuse Année Mater!




    Orane

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  5. Happy New Year to you! And thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking posts.

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  6. As always, a thought provoking post. I love your wish for your readers that we have a chance to contribute. Really lovely wish. I wish you a year for you filled with wanting what you have and having what you want. Happy New Years to you, Mater!

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  7. a very realistic but positive post to start 2009 of with. thank you for that.
    i got jabbed pretty hard by someone's elbow today, and another person clearly thought i was a pick-pocket, and still i love my city.

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  8. Thanks to all of you for reading and for taking the time to post through the year. I look forward to continued blogchats with you over 2009.
    and yikes, Up/downtown! City life is not for the faint of heart!

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  9. The happiest of New Years to you Materfamilias!

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  10. All the best to you as well and a happy new year.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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