Even though January 1st is an arbitrary starting line, a merely symbolic threshold, I spend the end of every December reflecting on the year that is passing as well as the year that is coming into being.
This year the reflecting is more fraught and the planning more hopeful because, frankly, the past few years have not been optimal. Filled with death and disappointment, depression and pain, 2014-2016 were heavy years for me and for many other people. Don’t get me wrong, some amazing things have happened in them, and every morning has begun with a sunrise (eventually) and ended with a sunset (eventually) which I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have written poetry, had coffee with friends, held my partner and family close, laughed at the antics of my dog, read some very good books, and felt my heart full to breaking. At the same time, it has indeed been breaking.
I have held to a few rituals to keep my head above water. In 2015, I wrote a haiku every day. In 2016, I’ve been writing an American sentence every day (which is like a haiku, but all on one line). I have for over a decade kept a digital journal. For the last four months, I’ve been writing by hand in a notebook, delaying my morning entry into the digital world for a little longer.
Alaskan mornings get darker rapidly after the autumnal equinox. At this point in the year, just days from winter solstice, I’m usually awake for almost four hours before the sun rises. So my writing is a small pool of light in darkness, born in an increasingly precious sanctuary from the sadness of the world at large and from my own portion of grief that I carry.
Do you have a practice that tethers you to this world, despite grief, fear, or depression? A friend of mine runs almost every day, another is devoted to yoga, but a writing practice has layers of benefits – your writing skills, your attention to the world around you, and your empathy increase. It is harder for your little boat to be swamped by rough waters when you have your map and sextant at the ready.
So many people have asked me about my haiku practice that I thought I might offer a little course via email in developing your own practice. It will be a low-key affair; I’ll send you an email every other day throughout the month. Each email will contain writing instruction, sample haiku either by the old masters or a contemporary poet, and a writing prompt. You can complete the lessons at your own pace, and for a month after the completion of the course, you can send me a packet of five haiku on which I will provide feedback.
If you’re interested in signing up, go here: http://www.beingpoetry.net/learn/. I’ve made the course “pay what you can,” on a scale starting at $15 and going up to $30. You can sign up at any time in the next two weeks. If we have more than 10 participants, I’ll open a private Facebook Group and we can trade work and talk about the lessons.
It’ll be our little way to start the year on a path together. I hope you’ll join me. And please, invite your friends.