Apropos of the new year, and following on a post by Chris Guillebeau, I have been contemplating a theme for 2012. 2011 was in many ways a year of transitions for me, especially the big one of finishing up my PhD. I had been thinking that 2012 could be the year of foundations, of setting things up for the future. Something about this wasn’t sitting quite right, however; probably because I have studied way too much medieval allegory and I’m not actually laying any foundations this year, so the metaphorical ones are lacking, er, grounding. When I buy land for my One Day House and Garden, then I will be laying foundations.
This got me thinking about my feelings one February while working on my dissertation. (I think it was last year, but the two years spent focussed on my dissertation rather blur together.) I was frustrated, panicked even, by the sense of a looming blank wall across the future, a feeling that my life was funnelling into a dead end, that the road suddenly went over a cliff. I couldn’t see where I was going, but I was rushing along ever faster towards it, and it didn’t seem good.
I went to Ottawa that Reading Week to visit some friends, and while there got rather sick and spent several days sitting on the couch reading the first three Anne of Green Gables books, and there I had a small epiphany. At one point in Anne of Avonlea, I think it is, Anne is explaining that she doesn’t know what’s coming, but she is excited, because the road of her life is approaching a blind corner, and adventures will follow.
An epiphany: I was not approaching a cliff: but a corner. And indeed, so the last while has proved to be, with a new job, a new city, finally being done. I think I’m coming up towards another one, another blind corner, but this one seems less of a rushing river running towards it and more of a hard slog to get to the crest of the hill.
So we come to this year’s theme. A hard slog; an approaching corner; the hope of new vistas; lots of walking planned, physical and metaphorical. A hiking metaphor seems most apt.
Several years ago, my dad and I hiked part of a circle loop somewhere near Elbow Falls in the Rockies near Calgary. It was supposed to lead us up through the woods to a valley with a nice prospect into the mountains. Very good, we thought; we’d hike a few hours, eat lunch, come back.
We set up a rather steep hill in the woods, trusting in the guidebook’s assurances that this would lead shortly to a pleasanter incline and alpine meadows. It didn’t: some hours of solid uphill later we came to the alpine meadows, and, unexpectedly, found ourselves on the top of a mountain with a view to Calgary.
We consulted the book and saw we’d accidentally followed the second arm of the loop. The guidebook called this “a relentless plunge downwards” — a fair description of what we’d just spent several hours climbing up.
The ‘relentless plunge upwards’ has become something of a byword in my family. I like the idea of this being my theme for the year, the relentless plunge upwards towards a unknown vista. I don’t know what I’ll find at the top of the next few months, when I turn the final corner of 2012 and look back to where I’ve been and forward to new possibilities.
The year of the relentless plunge (upwards). It captures the sense of approaching corners and the hard work of doing all those wonderful things I’ve been thinking of doing and also the hope of new views and interesting flowers along the way.