Saturday, December 31, 2011

Farewell to 2011

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

I always read these lines from Tennyson aloud on New Year's Eve, as I say farewell to the year that was. And I always do a review of the year that was in my trusty little notebook. My reviews are always positive. All I list are my "nice things and accomplishments," not my heartbreaks and failures. Every month as the year progresses, I keep a running list of "nice things and accomplishments," and then I compile my master list for the year in its entirety, in the categories of creative writing, scholarly work and teaching, and personal successes for me and my family.

This year, three things stand out.

First, I wrote my longest and most ambitious novel, still untitled, though right now the working title (for me at least) is No Exceptions: the story of a seventh-grade honor student who brings her mother's lunch to school by mistake, a lunch that has in it a knife for cutting up her mother's apple; she turns it in immediately, but is now facing mandatory expulsion under her school's zero tolerance policies. Writing this book was a great joy for me. It was so long, and all-encompassing, that I wrote on it everywhere. I wrote while lying in bed in my hotel room at the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics conference in Cincinnati - I wrote while sitting in cafes in Santa Fe - I wrote while visiting a wonderful librarian who is also an amazing composer in the charming guestroom of her home in Missouri. Wherever I was, I wrote. This reminded me how much I love writing, especially when I am in the middle of a long, compelling project.

Second, I dealt with the painful and difficult task of readying not one, but two, ruined properties for sale. It took me YEARS to face the fact that I had to do this, and that in order to do it I was going to have to borrow tens of thousands of dollars on top of massive debt I already had - and I was going to have to toil without ceasing for weeks and months - and I was going to have to dwell in the land of heart-rending memories. But face it I did, and do it I did, and both properties sold and are now out of my life. Oh, my darlings: whatever you have to face, just go ahead and face it! Whatever you have to do, just go ahead and do it! You will be so glad and grateful and relieved that you did.

Finally, I had the adventure of moving (temporarily) to Indiana and starting a new life there in a whole new part of the country. I had never before even seen a field of soy beans! I discovered what it is like to teach at a small liberal arts college in a town of 10,000 people where I can walk everywhere (and where "walking everywhere" means walking three or four blocks to get everywhere). I learned how happy I am in a small, compact, manageable little world. Maybe some year hence I'll learn how happy I am in a huge, bustling, overwhelming city. But right now happiness for me is French toast and hot chocolate at the Blue Door Cafe in Greencastle, Indiana - where I'll return tomorrow evening on a 6:59 p.m. flight from Denver to Indianapolis.

So those were the three highlights of my year. I wonder what the three highlights of 2012 will be.

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