I awoke at 5 AM today, much earlier than I needed to. But this meant that by 5:45, I am fully showered and dressed, and sitting on the couch with a cup of tea on my right, a fluffy Bernese curled up on my left and a snoring Yellow Lab at my feet.
The house glows from the lights we had put up the weekend after Thanksgiving, the very same lights that are scheduled to come down this afternoon. It starts with the warm white running above the long kitchen island. From the other side of the house, the little lights from my office windows combine with the wee tree I decorate with cow ornaments. In the middle of the hall, the staircase shines brightly with its multi-colored hues twisting around the banister and railing. At the end of the piano, tiny lights peek out from the ends of bare twig branches, all festooned with those winter bird ornaments from Target that I can’t seem to resist. And then, at the end of the loveseat, at the tip of Aspen’s nose, reigns the massive main tree of honor. Every year, my three kids insist that it must be one of the largest at the tree farm, and so it easily boasts another ten strings of cheery color and elegant white.
I leave the house dark this morning. Instead, I choose to sit quietly to start the new year, waiting for the sun to come up yet again.
I have a few hours before I need to prepare the fire pit for a few friends who are coming over. I am much calmer than normal. For about twenty years, we’ve been hosting a brunch for about 70 neighbors and friends. Of course, this year (wait, this new year!), it’s yet another casualty of COVID.
As I sit on my loveseat, I rub Sofie with my toes and pet Aspen with my left hand. It occurs to me that they don’t really care much at all about a new year. To them, it’s just one more day, one more sunrise. It’s just us humans who are excited about changing a calendar and feel this wonderful sense of optimism and fresh start.
It’s easy to let thoughts wander when snuggled under a blanket in a dark house, staring out at the sky as it shows the first glimpses of sunlight rising in the east. It makes me remember the other times I’ve started my day in stillness, waiting for the sun. There was the mad rush in June, to see the sunrise over Lake Erie, pushing three sleepy young girls out the hotel door. There was the time I snuck out with my sister to watch over the Atlantic over Labor Day, leaving the two cousins peacefully sleeping in their beds. I remember the quietness of a special October sunrise my husband and I viewed together on our hill, the weekend we camped with friends.
But the strongest memory is from nearly a year ago in early February. I was on the floor in our mudroom, caressing our Rottweiler Abby. She was living out her final days, and I slept on a cot near her. Every morning, I reminded her of all the sunrises we’d watched on our morning walks, reliving the memories of all those good times, thanking her for nearly twelve years of joy.
It is no small irony that I think of Abby as I sit this morning with Aspen, the puppy who came in after Abby left us.
All around me, I hear people saying “good riddance!” to 2020. I share most of this sentiment. Abby’s death was another bad thing about 2020, something I couldn’t stop—just like I can’t stop COVID’s devastation.
We mourn Abby still.
We feel grateful for the constant of Sofie.
And, we welcome and embrace Aspen and all she brings to our family.
It feels like it is the same thing about changing over the calendar. While so many are ready to just put 2020 away and never think about it again, I have this suspicion that 2020 likely had some good things to teach me. I’m thankful for the routine, happy moments that have continued in spite of all the changes. And yet, I’m excited and ready for 2021, feeling that same sense of optimism and hope that comes with a new start to anything.
The sun is coming up now, and the day—and the new year—begins. This silver lining of quiet and clarity seem a good way to start the year.