The gathering storm

I feel odd about the year winding down. No, that’s not exactly right. To put it more precisely, I feel odd about feeling odd about the year winding down. I ask myself, why does it matter so much?

As these last days curl off the calendar, one by one, everyone is focused on this coming event, this next turning of the year. It so thoroughly pervades our thoughts that we don’t even quite notice it, so obvious is this particular elephant in this particular room.

It is quite like the feeling I remember as a child on summer mountain afternoons, as storm clouds slowly massed in one corner of the sky, and the darkness gradually spread outward, swallowing the blue sky while a chill filled the air. You could always feel when a storm was coming — that peculiar sudden drop in air pressure, the way even voices sounded different in those moments before the deluge. And then eventually the delicious sound of a million raindrops drawing closer, a veritable wall of water rushing toward you, an event so much larger than mere human scale, and yet somehow so personal.

The New Year is like that. We each bring our memories of other storms in other days, of the friends we were with, and how we felt about them. Even now, with four whole days to go, I can already feel the air pressure drop. People are aligning themselves, choosing where they will be on New Year’s Eve, making their resolutions.

By any objective measure it is just an arbitrary day, a moment, a trick of the calendar conjured by an accident of history. And yet we all feel it just the same. And when it comes, and the raindrops splash upon our upturned faces, every one of us will look up with hopeful eyes, each in our own way, for the dawning of a new year.

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