The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion. Outside frost and cold and a smattering of clouds but still only the faintest, nearly imperceptible luminance in the east. I glance through the blinds to see if the trashcan is still upright or dumped and its innards scattered to the four corners of northeast Kansas and cannot. Not yet. It’s rare that I set out the trash the night before mainly because of worries of marauding hordes of ravenous raccoons, but realistically we’d have the same problem if the trashcan was on the side of the house in its accustomary place. In other words, the danger level doesn’t change much in fifty feet. The only real concern is the wobbliness of the trashcan when perched on the uneven surface of the gravel road. Get one big coon on top and the others shoving on the side and down it will go. It wouldn’t stand a chance.
The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion. Each morning a huge, noisy mob of crows lift off from woods along the county line and disperse to the north and the south, a black cloud of unnameable proportions. Those heading northward skirt the shadowed channel of the Big Blue as if following a line of demarcation they could in no ways breach, two separate and distinct flocks each to its own claimed side. The morning flight out and the return flight back both take about two hours, squandering half the available daylight. Why they fly so far to forage is a mystery. They freckle the skies in their raucous, untamed numbers, a river of black-feathered sentinels.
The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion. I drove across the bridge spanning Juganine Creek whose dry channel was littered with dead leaves and mossy stones and recalled the time I walked its length from the top of the ridge to the south to its confluence with the Big Blue. There’s something fascinating about following things back to the source, certainly a backwards trajectory in my case but close enough to allow for artistic license. I think in some ways that’s why people my age and older are so involved in genealogy or family history. It’s not just a matter of who begat whom or when and where those begats begot but patterns and cycles and rhythms that might explain or at least allow certain indiscretions or misdemeanors. It’s not who we are but how we got to be who we are. Some seek justification, others vindication. Others just like to look for the usual characters that crop up through the generations. In my family it was Doc Scurlock, an enforcer who rode with Billy the Kid until he wisely accepted a pardon from Governor Lew Wallace and lit out for new lands in the scrublands of west Texas.
The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion. As far as I know I’m prepared for the next step. The calendars are hung, computer folders created and files formatted and ready for entries, this year’s financial records pored over and sorted and organized, a new manila file waiting in the file cabinet, photographs sorted, hard drives backed up. I can’t think of anything else. It’s all a mindset more than anything, something we must do due to our slavish dedication to the clock and the calendar. The solstice passed without thought or nod, an egregious lapse on my part. Solstice anchors us to star-time, the numberless clock of worlds spinning in space with each day no more than another in an endless cycle of rotations of sunlight. Sun rise, moon set. Orion lifting above the dark fringe bordering Juganine Creek, the seven nebulae of the Pleiades a ghostly smear at zenith, the changing of constellations, themselves mere fabrications of mythical beings as imagined from our lowly perspective.
The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion. The changing of the calendar, while largely symbolic of our culture and our civilization, always makes me feel a year older, like a birthday without cake and candles. It’s not a letdown (though cake is always welcome), but more of a closure of one chapter before the seamless transition into another. Birthdays have a different feel, part surprise that I’ve lived this long and part somberness at the accelerating rate of abatement. The closing of the year has a more natural, organic feel to it, almost a sense of adventure in that beyond that termination lies unexplored and untrammeled lands. The year bleeds away to its inevitable conclusion, but we do not. Beyond every ending lies a new beginning.