snowy agastacheIt’s a word often used at the head of a year. As with many interesting words, it has meanings that overlap and inform each other.

We use it for firmness of purpose, as in New Year’swinter agastache resolutions. We use it for fineness of detail in an image, as in the resolving power of a telescope, a microscope, a camera. We use it for the passing of discord into harmony in music. We use it for turning disputes and contention into peace. The word contains all this. Can we use our firmness of purpose to look not at the surface of our situation, but deep into its substance to see what it’s made of? Will what it’s made of help us turn its discord and contention into harmony and peace? That’s hard to see, and hard to do. It’s much easier to see the meaningless structures that stand in the way, obscuring the heart of the thing. It took thousands of years of the sun appearing to rise and set – as we still say it does – before we recognized that wasn’t the truth at all. We say that we hold to our beliefs, when often it’s the beliefs that have a grip on us.

snow redo winter agastache2020 was a year very much in need of resolution, in all the facets of that word. We didn’t get there. Let’s try again for 2021.

New Year’s Morn


winter garden ladyIn 2020, all three classical music stations I listen to started playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving – usually anathema – and they all gave the same apology for it: wasn’t it a year well worth hurrying on its way out? True, but it was a whole year of our lives. Wasn’t it good for something?

I’ve come across many considerations of this question, often with interesting results. The New York Times points out that we all “stand this week as the living footnotes of tomorrow’s textbooks.” I like that. Some found that “there’s some pieces of normalcy that I don’t really want back.”

In the Washington Post George Will, or anyway his headline writer, said “2020 was a booster shot against human hubris.” He hoped for a better “appreciation of the fragility of life and social arrangements.”

The LA Times said “the success of measures to make voting easier and more convenient,” might even be expanded in the future. It also made us realize that “overcrowded airports, long lines and baggage fees” were not the worst things for travelers to worry about.

bitsSeveral writers have noted that this plague was a demonstration of how, all across the planet, we are irrevocably interdependent. I think this was what motivated the outrage of those who protested being required to wear masks. They said it violated their liberty, but what it really violated was their wish that they, their communities, maybe all the U.S., were and could remain separate from that whole rest of the world, whose influence they saw as something pernicious that could, should, and would be kept at bay. An old, deep strain of American thought, tapped by recent politicians but not invented by them.

bits assembledIf adversity builds character, what a lot of character we all must have now. Let’s hope we can use it to muster the strength to give up ideas that have outlived their relevance. For gardeners, the return of seed catalogs reaffirms that a new season is approaching, filled with possibility. Old favorites and new varieties, the tried-and-true and the experimental, it’s all there to choose from. I greet my seed catalogs with a smile, looking forward. Happy New Year!