Not My New Year

I’ve flailed about here all morning, trying on a variety of topics for the first post of 2011. I’m feeling intimidated like this is the first post I have ever written, or worse yet, the first post ever written In the History of the World!

I think they call this being melodramatic.

My original plan was to write a follow up to my reflections post by looking forward and listing some of my plans for 2011. It’s not that I don’t have them, it’s just that I’m not inspired to write them out. You see, I’ve never been able to get behind January as the start to a new year.

Throughout my school years and for at least a decade more, it was because I was in the habit of preparing for new beginnings in the fall, at the start of a new curriculum. I’d also say it has something to do with this climate and the fact that I’m a gardener. I’ve lived in Southern Ontario my entire life and can say with authority that not much changes through the months of December and February. With some fluctuation from year to year, it is generally cold and frozen. Sometimes there is snow. Sometimes the snow thaws and then it freezes up again. There is a slight ebb and flow to the winter season; however, rebirth and renewal are not words I would attribute to this time of year.

How am I supposed to be moved to start fresh, create something new, and enact great change when all I want to do is hibernate a little longer? It’s all so forced.

On New Year’s Day I sat on the couch with my phone randomly scrolling through hundreds of saccharine New Year’s cheer and what felt like over-enthusiastic promises for the year ahead. I was happy to have had the time off to decompress from work, but I didn’t feel like getting on any of these fluffed out floats and joining the parade. When I said as much on Twitter, I received several replies from people who were feeling the same as me. Eryn’s reply especially was a reminder that as gardeners a new beginning comes at the start of the growing season when the first new sprouts emerge from the soil and we can sink our hands into fresh earth again.

January is when seed catalogues start showing up in our mailboxes. It’s when we begin to sink into making plans and dreaming up the gardens we will grow. It’s when we start to collect seeds, and begin to sow the long season plants like tomatillos and eggplants under lights. In my part of the world, January is the start of a process that will build in excitement and anticipation as it leads up to something big. But make no mistake, it is not the main event itself.

So far, the most important resolution I’ve made this year is to make a bigger deal of spring when it comes. By the time it rolls around I am often already so lost in it, or have already been writing and speaking about it for so long that I never think to just stop and take a moment to revel in it. That’s what these sorts of traditions are about, in part. They’re about taking pause and grabbing hold of the energy that comes at the start of a new beginning. It’s about respecting the harshness of winter and celebrating that we’ve made it through to see another spring.

That’s what I’m going to do this year. I’m gonna have my parade when the Vernal Equinox rolls around. I’m gonna stop and make a big stink out of it like I never have before. Until then I’m going to take my time emerging from the winter slumber and not pressure myself to feel change and excitement that I simply do not feel right now. Sorry New Year’s revellers. I’ll see you in the spring.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “Not My New Year

  1. I will resist the impulse to wish you a happy new year until March 20th, 2011 @ 23:21 GMT.

    The most exciting thing about January 1st for me is putting up the new calendars, though I confess I feel compelled to reflect and plan, important activities I don’t always make the time for.

    As I commented on a blog yesterday, “for gardeners, the year never really ends…we just keep looking forward to each new season. And here we are, in January, the month of planning and anticipation.”

  2. Love it. Now is definitely not the time I feel inspired to make new commitments…give me some sunshine and light…then I will feel more energetic. I’m still hibernating.

  3. If it were not for the catalogs and my grow lights for seedlings (my husband calls that area of house the “mini farm”), I’d never make it through the next few months!

  4. I can’t speak for any other part of the world, but here in Northern California, come January I definitely feel a sort of renewal. I think it has to do with the light; it suddenly changes for the better and becomes more golden, highlighting all the greys in the landscape in a way that I can’t adequately describe. After the poohness of December’s light, I get excited come the new year. But yeah, that’s because here in Northern California we don’t have the kind of winter that acts like a bad guest and sticks around too long. Heck, we already have a bunch of bulbs leafing out around this time! :)

  5. As someone who went from school, to a decade of on-again, off-again college, to becoming a teacher, I totally agree with you. September is the new year in teacher-land. My colleges are bright-eyed and optimistic in September, full of energy and ready to have the Best Year Ever!

    January, by contrast, is the time when we really get into our groove and get down to work. The honeymoon period is over, the class knows the routine, the first round of report cards have gone home, and it is time to really be productive.

    For me, this pattern works better for me than the calendar year. And I’m in California–I don’t even know how you could try to be excited about new beginnings in the dark, dark, days up north! So yeah, school year.

  6. I’m late to this discussion but I’m no fan of New Year’s either. I like celebrating the vernal equinox Having a birthday that coincides with the first day of spring pretty much means I’m in party mode at that time of year anyhow. (actually I enjoy celebrating both equinoxes and soltices but I’ll take any excuse to throw a party)

    My true celebration of the start of a new growing season however is Mayday (aka Beltane) – for a number of years I have made point of getting up (or staying up) to see the sunrise on May 1 and join the festivities with some like minded people in High Park. It’s bit silly and we get some strange looks but it’s also very joyful!

  7. Seed catalogs plus the promise of wildflower explosions. And I’ve become partial to Lonely Planet travel guides — checking out the hikes upon foreign trails and skipping through botanical gardens where at the very least I can sort of understand the universal scientific names. And at the very least, locally, mushrooms! I realize I’m writing from coastal California so I’m sort of a brat on the winter front, but hang in there y’all…..

  8. I still remember the first time my son laid eyes on some of our blooming purple crocus. He just stopped dead in his tracks, sat upon the grass, and petted it. It was a reminder to me to appreciate all of the seasons as they come, and to really look at the beauty they behold.

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