Sunday, January 15, 2012
THE END OF THE BEGINNING
When does the New Year end? and the regular year begin? In our rush to get back to work, on with our resolutions and to stash the Christmas decorations away most of us start the year on January 2nd. But when exactly does the baby become a child?
In the Shinto tradition the new year lasts until January 15th—now that’s a generous holiday. Of course in modern Japan like most modern countries people get started as soon as possible after the New Year’s Day. We are uncomfortable with fallowness. Even though I’m a gardener and supposedly more connected to the seasons than many other people, I have been very productive since January 2nd. Not gardening necessarily, though I have done a bit of clean up and pruning. I’ve been busy trying to get my unruly office in order, no success yet, and in getting my new website launched.
Each Year around New Year’s Day, Michael and I travel down Crooked Mile Road outside of Granite Falls to Tsubaki Grand Shrine. We go to wander the beautiful site of this Shinto shrine, to stand on the banks of the Pilchuck River which bends and eddies there with poetic vigor. We go there to receive the New Year blessing from the high priest, who sweeps a wand of crisp white paper over our heads, booms on a great deep voiced drum and jingles bells. Though it would be easy to dismiss this ritual as ancient mumbo jumbo, I can’t help but put some hope into it, as I do in touching the great stone frogs which are said to bring good fortune to those who return to the temple each year.
When we came home the mild weather had induced the tree frogs to start their spring songs. It fills the night air of the sleeping swamp that lies around our farm. They boomed and jingled like temple bells and drums. Though I know that spring is months away a great positivity rose up in me. After all the witch hazel’s already in bloom and I saw a flock of swans today decidedly flying north, though the ground was covered with snow.
And the baby has stood up and started to walk.