A curse for someone who has to sit down in the morning and write a column is to be asked, “What are you going to write about?” It is doubly effective if the question comes right before the last one to be written in the year, when, I suppose, it is time to strike a note of some gravity or prediction or resolution.
So, as I sat down at the computer on a quiet morning the day after Christmas, I came up blank. There was little noise in the house other than the breathing of our ancient pug, who was resting in the dog bed she reluctantly shares with our pet house-pig. The north wind of the night before had stopped; looking through the kitchen windows, even the smallest of winter’s bare branches were still. Our children were still asleep, tired from a long run the day before. Starting early with presents, then a brunch here, then a round of visiting that ended at nearly 11 p.m., it had been a good day.
So I sat, thinking that I welcomed the near-total silence in the house. The year, and especially the month or two leading up to the day after Christmas, had been demanding. Summer had come and gone with its frenetic pace. And then, when I thought things were about to wind down, Hurricane Sandy upended normal routines. Against the tense backdrop of the presidential race, the war in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan continued to add to the lists of the dead, though Americans seemed increasingly immune to the news. Then came the Newtown, Conn., killings.
This has been a year for reflection necessitated by events, but events that are difficult to process. The great annual reset that is the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, could not come soon enough, as far as 2012 is concerned.
I love winter here: The office phones ring less in January and February. The great and unrelenting river of e-mail narrows a bit. There is time for a walk on the beach, time to plan. There is time to be with our thoughts between distractions, and this I look forward to most of all.