Article ~ Bradford L. Glass ~ January 2017
I’ve never been one to look forward to, partake in, or enjoy any of the myriad choices for entertainment on New Year’s Eve. I’m not much for crowds or for noise anyway, but the whole New Year’s Eve hoopla always seemed kind of silly to me. I know it works for a lot of people, but as an introvert, I’m not on that list. Many years ago, after being continually pressured by friends and family as to why I don’t go out on New Year’s eve, I decided to start a ritual of my own. (I guess introverts do stuff like this.) Figuring that New Year’s Day, rather than New Year’s Eve, was really the new beginning, and probably in obvious response to those who chose to judge me as antisocial, I decided to label my ritual “Screw First Night; Make Mine First LIGHT.” 2017 marks the twelfth year, I think, I have done this, and this ritual has become a very important part of my year and my life, and I cherish it.
So this morning, as on previous New Year’s Days, I got up about 3:30 a.m., made coffee and a picnic breakfast, and headed out to a place where I could have a direct view toward sunrise. This year it was to the lighthouse at Nobska Point in Woods Hole here on Cape Cod. I set up my camp chair in the dark, sat quietly for a few hours, eventually witnessing the brightening of the skies, followed by beautiful sunrise, at which time I returned home. For the first portion of my time sitting, in addition to coffee, of course, I reflect with gratitude on the year past, noting the high points, low points, and learnings, all in an environment of reverence, respect and appreciation. For the second portion, I look ahead to the year coming, and envision the possibilities life holds for me. I frame this exercise with two questions, courtesy of Phil Cousineau, in “The Art of Pilgrimage.” The first: “Where does my curiosity lead me now?” The second: “What is my deepest longing?” During the year, then, it is my intention to keep the results of these musings in my consciousness, so as to see how they might guide my way.
Gratitude: Above all, I am grateful for this life I have been given, and the opportunity to experience it as I choose to – including being here in this place right now! Although this past year was difficult in many ways, I am grateful for having time with my dad during his last days, and for connecting best I could with his rigid personality and constrained consciousness. It is my good fortune that his memory loss brought him back to a time in his life when he spoke lovingly about my mother; this was very touching for me to hear. I am grateful for friends, family, clients, and for every single one of the conversations I have with people on a daily basis, recognizing that although I’m mindful about how their presence touches me, perhaps in only a few of these do I truly know how the connection may touch them.
Curiosity: I’m a curious person by nature, so this question could take me down some very interesting roads. Today there were two that stood out. One was an “intellectual” curiosity, to better understand the motions of our planet, moon, solar system, and local stars. When I am out in nature, I can SEE these motions happening – planets moving against the backdrop of the stars, stars rising four minutes earlier each day, moon completing its cycle every 29 days, etc. Although I ‘mostly’ understand these things, I want more; I want to be able to “get it” without having to “figure it out” each time. The second was an “experiential” curiosity, about human nature, perhaps spawned from my thoughts about our planet. With the beauty, majesty, and mystery of life all around us, everywhere, and with the gratitude, reverence and respect I feel being in nature, especially at times like today, I am curious as to why and how life is experienced as so difficult and stressful by so many people. True, this dilemma forms the basis for a good part of my coaching and writing, but I find myself very curious to understand more deeply what happens for us over the course of our lives, and how we lose the beautiful innocence, playfulness, curiosity and wonder with which we come into this life … then as adults struggle so hard to regain it. This month’s newsletter is about one example of the ways I see us having become sidetracked, hijacked by our unconscious minds, as it were. This year, I intend to renew my inquiry and exploration into these ideas so as to deepen my presence.
Longing: I don’t believe I have ever had quiet time in nature, either on New Year’s Day or any other time during the year, of either long or short duration, that I have not longed for even more of that experience, and the feelings of reverence, reciprocity and mystery this time evokes for me. I realize how important it is – in order for me to be me – that I have time alone in nature. It puts me directly in touch with who I am, the source of my being, a deeper sense of the possible, and the unity of all life. To me, that offers a sense of groundedness that not only brings me peace, but is the very foundation of who I am and what I do in the world. I also can’t help thinking how the experience of quiet contemplation in nature might, for so many people, introvert and extravert alike, be an antidote to the stress, overwhelm and chaos that seem embedded in the experience of everyday life. (See the observation above).
A last note: One thing that is a constant here is that my ritual happens independent of weather. I have experienced all kinds. This being New England, all kinds are possible in January. Once, perhaps 10 years ago, it was almost 60° and pouring rain the entire time. Another, four years ago now, it was crystal clear but with a wind chill of -30°. This year was moderate by comparison, almost 40°, raining as I started, but as if to add to the magic, clearing during my time there, planets and stars emerging while it was still dark, then leaving me with a beautiful sunrise at the end. I often recall the quote, (whose source I don’t remember,) that suggests, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.”
A few pictures attached … first light, and sunrise.