Lists and Letters

The year-end making of lists has rather a long history. The most important list, at least for young true believers this time of year, is one that gets mailed; allegedly to the North Pole.

Letters to Santa aside, annual lists have grown to encompass all manner of categories: Best Movies to Come Out this Year; Ten Best Restaurants to Open This Year; The Top Five [Whatevers] to Do/Visit/Drink/Experience/Buy. Et cetera. These lists are as ubiquitous as the pseudo-personal holiday letters, full of bonhomie and good news, that many people send to their apparently numerous friends, acquaintances, and relatives.

Since a list of people to whom I might send a perky Christmastime recitation of accomplishments and transitions is rather short (and the list of those who might be interested in such a missive shorter still), I’ve never written a holiday form letter.

While there’s no throng of BFF’s, waiting to hear about my exciting and fulfilling year, I do, Dear Reader, have you.

(You’ve been warned: now’s the time to go do something more productive, like giving your cat a bath, for example, or changing the oil in your car.).

So, for those still reading, here is my very first Holiday Letter! It might become an annual tradition, but we won’t know ‘til next year, will we?

– – –

2015 Draws to a Close

A Rainbow in the Canyon

Hello, All, and Happy Christmas!

Twenty-fifteen has been a year of transitions and blessings for me. As you may have noticed, blessings sometimes arrive in disguise, and it can take a while to realize what’s wrapped up in that package.

Knowing each other as we do, Dear Reader, I can tell you that 2015 began in turmoil and anguish for me. The relationship I had been living with, had been enduring, for over eleven years – a relationship that had become increasingly oppressive and demeaning – came, finally, to an end. Came to an end is not precisely correct. It would be more accurate to say that it collapsed under its own terrible weight.

I expected to feel sad, and perhaps depressed, but I did not. Instead, I felt relief: I was suddenly freed of a great burden that I had thought I might never be able to shed.

I spent a lot of time alone at home after that. Well, not actually alone: Capt. Blackie was, and still is, here with me. Or I am here with him. One can never quite tell with cats.

My working life continues to metamorphose. While I’m still working as an architect, as I have for the last 35 years, I have pursued writing with increasing seriousness over the last six years (hence this blog). I’ve had a few pieces published. The most recent, “The Fundamental Clarity of Light”, appeared in the Blue Falcon Review last January. It’s a fiction piece, but is based upon my experiences as an infantryman in Viet Nam, in 1969 and 1970.

Those experiences are also the basis for my book-length memoir, “The Wars I’ve Fought”, which creeps ever closer toward publication (thanks in no small part to the services of a very capable editor).

I’ve read a good many books this year. I won’t list them all (some aren’t worth mentioning anyway). A few of the good ones are: “The Fall of a Sparrow” (Robert Hellenga), “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” (excellent; by Katherine Boo), “Point of Direction” (Rachel Weaver), “Delights & Shadows” (poetry by Ted Kooser), and “The River at the Center of the World” (about a journey up the Yangtze River; by Simon Winchester).

You may be wondering about the photograph above, showing a rainbow over a wide canyon. I took the photograph in October, at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It signifies another personal transition that occurred this year. It is, in fact, the single largest blessing to come into my life in a very long time. I fell in love with a very kind, thoughtful, and beautiful woman. She need not be named here (and would prefer not to, anyway), and besides, she knows who she is.

She has helped usher into my life a joy and contentment I feared I might never find. Yet I have found and continue to discover those things, with her. She was with me when I took the photograph. It was quite remarkable, seeing the rainbow below us; as though it was rising up out of the canyon. It seems a perfect metaphor for my life right now, and an excellent description of what the year 2015 has been like for me.

Well, that’s it. The past is receding, as it is wont to do, and the future looks brighter than ever – which, admittedly, is easy for the future to do, since it hasn’t happened yet. That’s the future’s job, though: to look bright and shiny and optimistic. That being the case, I have to say that the future is doing its job quite well just now.

I hope you and yours have a perfectly lovely Christmas, and a prosperous and fulfilling 2016.

Cheers, Michael

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