A word for the year
The light. It’s something I forget every year, this annual new year gift: the pale, slanting sunlight which January brings as the days begin to lengthen. The new light washing through old windowpanes. Splotches of sun on the wall, the first of the year, making the children’s budgies trill and twitter with pleasure. Pearly morning mist on the frosty fields; long-drawn afternoon sunsets of golden haze.
Around the start of the year I noticed several people on social media choosing a ‘word for the year’. The idea came from the ever-inspiring Susannah Conway although, by the time I realised that, I had already found myself choosing a word. In fact I think the word chose me.
My word for the year is ‘light’.
Well, good for you, I hear you say, but what on earth does a ‘word for the year’ actually mean?
I’m not sure either. That’s the appeal of it. I’m not following Susannah’s work, but I felt instinctively that it would be an interesting and very possibly enlightening (pun intended) exercise to focus on a word and to see what it suggested to me, where it led, and what unanticipated meanings might emerge in the course of the year. Already I see that choosing light (over darkness, by implication) means looking for the good rather than the gloom in people and situations, which is a helpful mental habit to learn: what I didn’t anticipate was that it might mean – has already meant – speaking up, taking action in defence of what I believe to be good.
Another meaning of ‘light’ that has occurred to me to reflect upon is the Christian one, ‘Christ our Light’ as we acclaim at the Easter Vigil. It’s no bad thing to have a guiding light in this world. In the words of the gospel of St. John, ‘the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.‘ [John I.5] Comprehend as used here ,in the early seventeenth century language of the Authorised Version (the King James Bible) has the meaning not only of understanding, but also of surrounding, taking in, absorbing. The darkness cannot understand, and cannot overcome, the Light.
As I have been writing, the wreaths of mist across the fields have slowly lifted, revealing glimpses of the snowy hills beyond the woods. The budgerigars (the first of whom was 2015’s much-pleaded-for Christmas present to younger son) have been keeping me company: I moved their cage closer to me on the nearby windowsill so that they could enjoy the pale afternoon sun. Strange to see their tropical colours of turquoise and lime against the backdrop of frosted branches and cold white hillside. For a little while, though, before the long dusk makes it too chilly, they revel noisily in the unexpected novelty of sitting in sunshine.
What a gift it is, this clean new light of January, at a time of darkness both literal and metaphorical in the northern hemisphere. If you are wondering about that and other allusions, by the way, be assured that I’ve always made Dancing Beastie a politics-free zone, and I intend to continue that. For the moment, at least. We all need some places where we can step out of the fray to rest a while, to draw breath, and reflect that there is beauty in the world; that despite our fears and worries, there are so many things for which to be grateful.
Not least, the light.