Monday, 5 January 2009

The Journey - a reflection for the New Year by Elizabeth Ayres

When the sun sets. When the sun sets on my river. When the sun sets on my river, and the wings of gulls turn to white gold. And the leaves of trees turn to green gold. And the clouds turn into carnelian cobblestones that pave, east to west across trembling waters, a red gold road. Then, yes, I shall find me some shoes of gold vermillion. And a sturdy gilded staff. I shall set my feet upon this crimson highway, and before too long I shall meet the evening star.

When the sun rises. When the sun rises on my river. When the sun rises on my river, and an incoming tide of light submerges, one by one, the sky’s small pebbles of light. And the leaves of trees emerge from silhouette. And the groaning onyx waters turn to flashing silver sighs. Then, yes, I shall know I have arrived, face to face with the morning star.

And yes, I think it matters. That my celestial assignation is not with a star at all but with a planet. Venus. Except for the moon, Venus is the brightest object in our sky, in closer orbit to the sun than earth. First to appear in the gloaming, last to disappear at dawn. Alpha and omega. Venus, the planet named for love and beauty, who watches over our endings and beginnings.

In Roman times, the goddess appeared in many guises. Venus Cloacina, the Purifier, giver of peace. Venus Genetrix, the great Mother, who bestowed fertility on folk and field. Venus Felix, the Lucky; Amica, the Friend; Libertina, the Free; Obsequens, the Graceful; and, Verticordia, the Changer of Hearts. Venus. Our morning and evening star. Fashioned from the same nebula that formed the planet earth, named for all our yearnings, watching over.

The sun has set on the river of time we called 2008. Rises on the same river, 2009. Pause. When you set out along this highway, where were you going? Are you sure you want to arrive there? Take stock. Is there something you might wish to put down? Something else more suited to this journey you think you might wish to take up?

Get serious. It matters. All the fields and all the folk, all the planets and the stars, we’re all made from the same stuff. Protons, neutrons, electrons. A trembling flow of atoms and molecules. Action and reaction. Electromagnetic currents that groan and sigh. One vast and mighty river, what happens to me happens to you happens to them and it forever. Ask questions. The year is just beginning. As of January 1st, you had 365 days, 8,736 hours, 524,160 minutes until it ends. Let’s say today is your morning star, still lingering in the dawn of 2009. Before your evening star appears in the year’s gloaming, what do you want to accomplish? Think. Don’t answer off the top of your head. Don’t answer for yourself alone. Look beyond family, neighborhood, country. Look beyond your own lifetime. One vast and mighty river, remember? What happens to me happens to you happens to them and it forever.

And don’t be glib. Don’t say “world peace” if you don’t mean “world peace.” If you’re not ready to do something to make this a more peaceful world. And if you’re not ready, admit it. Spend the year asking the Changer of Hearts to change yours. I’ll do the same. What happens to me happens to you happens to them and it forever.

So when the sun sets on our river of minutes, hours, days, years. When the flow of atoms ceases for you and me. We shall leave behind our trembling and our sighs, and ready ourselves to set out upon a golden highway. To meet, face to face, that from which we were fashioned. Our alpha and our omega, the sum of all our yearnings. When the sun rises.
Elizabeth Ayres is the author of Know the Way (poetry, Infinity, 2005) and Writing the Wave (how-to, Perigee, 2000), and is completing Land of Our Belonging: Encounters with the Wonder of Earth, Sea and Sky, from which collection this piece is taken. She runs a Creative Writing Center with writing retreats in Chesapeake Bay country. She performs her essays on Internet radio -- -- Saturday evenings at 6 p.m. eastern time.

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