Day 1. Homo Mobilis: I'm thankful for mobility, for my faithful little Hyundai, and for this bi-pedaled body that propels me today across living rooms, city blocks, and campuses.
Day 2. Spiration:re & in: For the breath that fills my lungs as I lay in bed, the tiny mouths inside those lungs that take the breath into my bloodstream, and for the breath-blood that wakes my body and mind.
Day 3. Will & Work: For the 111 students I have this fall, for the chance to drive with books to class each day and teach the things I've learned to think and love.
Day 4. Me lady: For the lady who has walked with me over strange terrain this last year and a half. Thanks, Shells.
Day 5. Color: For the pale lavender cloud bank on the horizon this morning, against a sea-foam green sky. And later, for the hummingbird flashing in the rain-damp shadows like a splotch of emerald paint over orange crocosmia blooms.
Day 6. Human energy: For the heat we give to one another in touch, for the heart-lifting light that beams from kind eyes and smiles.
Day 7. IPA: For the heavily-hopped ale first brewed by 19th century Brits, and now a Portland mainstay. Trivial? No, a daily friend.
Day 8. Fellow Citizens: For the abstraction and the people themselves, the diverse mass of fellow Americans who hiked with me down Naito Parkway, chanting for a healthier body politic. Not for the protest or even the message, but for the people gathered, the headless Leviathan, all arms and wings.
Day 9. Sleep: For the happy shadow that passes nightly over consciousness, providing momentary shade.
Day 10. Family: For the group of creatures who share my genes, my blood, who gather vociferously over pasta and wine, those few I loved intuitively as a child and now, after my thirty one years here, as their friend and fellow creature.
Day 11. Variety: For the four kinds of apples I bought out of the fall harvest-barrels at the grocery store-- the dry Jonagold, the smallish Ribstom Pippen, the exotic Swedish Gourmet, and the holy-heck-perfect Liberty-- and for their unique flavors, the variation from sweet to sour, the way they symbolize a refusal to streamline for the sake of capitalistic ease. Tasty divots in the landscape of an increasingly featureless world.
The calendar offers every year the same gift: a sense of newness, in the middle of winter. A new start. It's artificial, aside from its adherence to the moon's path, but welcome regardless. We've marked it to the minute. In this sense, a year's turn is like a day's turn: at the frigid midnight hour comes a clockwork tick, and it's suddenly not yesterday anymore. A new number on the corner of the screen. Artificial, yes, but that mental picture can move the heart.
We name newborn people, and I've sometimes given a resonating word or phrase to a newborn year, something to name the next 12 calendar months. These flag-words have often proved to be the opposite of a rally cry; the years they name have almost always been examples of the opposite of what the word or phrase described. The year of "Action" was for me a year of confusion and hesitation. Years of "Hope" or "Faith" became years of deconstruction toward a solemn skepticism and years of vision-less presence.
The word on my tongue in these first few infant weeks has been "Empathy," a word newly given to me through the course of many conversations about the failure of human hearts to understand each other, to get along. And as this word sets itself to slow-dry in the year's nameplate, Empathy, I already feel a profound self-examination setting in. In the year of reaching out, I'm finally feeling conscious enough to reach in and begin a lasting change within myself. I see the need: I've always talked big, talked prettily, but in the end I've never had the self-substance to believe something, to want something enough to act, to fight for it.
Last night, I saw The Social Network, the film about Facebook's birth and father, Mark Zuckerberg. I left feeling broken. And angry. I want to know this: why can these various self-focused technological geniuses manufacture within themselves the sort of force that enables the realization of whatever vision their ego allows, while I get sloppily lost in mental picture after picture?