Sunset over the Nashwannuck (Dec. 28,2008)
Well, if the calendar on my fridge is telling the truth, it seems another year is about to be put to bed. Can you believe it? Is it me, or are the years accelerating? They all go fast, but this one flew like the wind. I hope 2008 has been your friend. And if not, that 2009 brings whatever 2008 left you wanting for, and then some.
I'm not really looking forward to this year's batch of 'highlights of 2008', 'top 10 lists' etc., because I fear they'll be full of the same doom and gloom we've been fed from the news on a daily basis all year. Personally, I believe things are only as bad as you decide them to be. Headlines and newscasts seem determined to remind us of all that's bad in the world. If you ask me, front page be darned, there's still a whole lot of good out there. It's all about what you decide to focus on. Let me get you started...
Gas prices topped $4.00 this year.
I paid $1.54 a gallon yesterday.
Housing prices dropped 18% in October.
More people can afford houses. They're buying only as much house as they need. Even I can afford a house now.
Foreclosures are way up.
Interest rates are at an all-time low of 4.5%
Retail sales 'plummeted' 4% this holiday season.
4%? Is 4% really a plummet?
Recent ice storm costs cities millions.
Neighbors and strangers came together to help each other get through days without power and heat.
The Patriots didn't make the playoffs.
11-5 without Tom Brady and many others. Their games were actually more fun to watch this year.
Red Sox didn't win the world series.
Yah, but how about that comeback game against Tampa Bay.
I think you get the idea.
On a lighter note, if you're not wandering around Northampton during First Night tomorrow, might I suggest popping down to Cottage Street just before midnight. Sure, it's hokey. Sure, it's over in 10 minutes. But like I always say, the ball drop from the wall of the Brass Cat is one of the coolest small town events of the year.
And if you happen to be warmed up and in your running gear, I invite you to join me and the gang for our annual 5K NYE midnight run. If the current weather report holds, it may be more of a frozen slide this year. It starts right after the ball drop outside the Cat, and here's the route. It may seem like a crazy thing to do at midnight on NYE, and it definitely is, but it really is a great way to start the new year. (Note: It's actually the 4th annual).
Speaking of New Years rituals, did you know?:
A Spanish New Year's Eve custom is to eat 12 grapes at midnight, one piece of fruit to bring good luck for each of the months ahead.
Eating noodles on NYE is a must for those of the Buddhist faith in Japan.
In Great Britain: a household's luck during the new year is said to be determined by the type of person who first steps foot across the threshold after the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve...
A dark-haired man is thought to be the ideal visitor for bestowing good luck. Unlike St. Nicholas, the early morning caller is particularly welcome if he leaves behind a lump of coal--or better yet, a coin--both considered tokens of prosperity.
To keep evil away, many in Japan observe the New Year by stretching straw rope across the fronts of their homes.
It Peru, it's custom to stand in a doorway and throw 12 coins over the left shoulder for each strike of the clock at midnight. This is believed to bring the person financial prosperity.
You may not have 12 grapes around or a dozen coins in your pocket at midnight, but I always thought this was a good one to end a year on...
During Tashlich, the Hebrew ritual for Rosh Hashanah (New Year), those of the Jewish faith throw bread into moving water as a symbol of releasing the previous years's transgressions. The bread feeds the fish and birds, so it is also a way to connect to all of God's creatures.
However you choose to usher out 2008 and greet 2009, I hope you enjoy, and that 2009 brings with it all you desire and a little bit more.
And if you're throwing bread into the pond tomorrow night, give us a cheer as my frozen friends and I jog by...