Year of hours


Rainer Maria Rilke

You come and go. The doors swing closed
ever more gently, almost without a shudder.
Of all who move through the quiet houses,
you are the quietest.

We become so accustomed to you,
we no longer look up
when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow. For all things
sing you: at times
we just hear them more clearly.

Often when I imagine you
your wholeness cascades into many shapes.
You run like a herd of luminous deer
and I am dark, I am forest.

You are a wheel at which I stand,
whose dark spokes sometimes catch me up,
revolve me nearer to the center.
Then all the work I put my hand to
widens from turn to turn.

From The Book of Hours, trans. Barrows and Macy


Tonight after I got the baby to bed I ate the last of the peppermint bark. It’s official: the holidays are over.

The older I get the more ambivalent I grow towards New Year’s Day. On the one hand, I am increasingly troubled by melancholy at the letting go of another year. Aging is making me maudlin on so many planes of my life. On the other, I am full of faith that this is the year I will change in ways both positive and fundamental, ignoring the facts: that I am still biting my nails even as I type, that I  was less than beatifically patient with my children between the hours of four and six p.m. (also, regrettably, a.m.). I fail at so many things every day; why should 1 January and all the days thereafter be any different?

And yet I can’t kick the feeling that this year promises a sea change. I’m not sure to what I can ascribe it – the looming approach of a milestone birthday, the fact that this is the year I may well be finished with the parenting of infants, or the fact that said infant has basically stopped sleeping at night, which makes me feel light-headed, impetuous, like I might as well go for broke. Under the fatigue is a thin rod of resolve that this year, I will work on a whole host of projects that are near and dear to my heart. Chief among these is simply learning to work. It is my fiercest hope that by the end of this year, I will have developed a creative practice that will sustain me through the vicissitudes of young parenthood and the broken hours that are available to me.

There is so much I want to do. Over the last year – which was by most measurements an excellent one – I was frequently frustrated with my inability to make the most of stolen hours as they were available. I had that terrible Annie Dillard adage running on a loop through my mind: How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives, and it was depressing to see how slowly the labour of my days was adding up. I mean what I think of as writing work, not the necessary and unending labours of parenting and housekeeping and finances. I hope that in a year’s time, I’ll have aligned my days with my hopes for my life in a way that satisfies me.


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