February: New Year, Take Two

A few years ago I began the personal tradition of celebrating the New Year in early February.  Getting it all together before January 1st is just too much pressure:  reflection on the past year, dreams for the new one, resolutions, intentions.  Yule tree down, calendar up, house cleaned/heart cleaned, all in readiness for the Fresh New Year.  All of this just days after beloved relatives have vacated the festive holiday table, and my head is still reeling from the work and the delight.

I love to ponder all of these things, to go forth into the new year reflectively, thoughtfully, brightly, and with focused intention. But the idea of January 1st as a deadline is the last thing I need. So these days I acknowledge a New Year’s grace period, and  take all of January to allow such visioning to unfold.  This year I spent the three days around Epiphany (January 6, appropriately a day of seeking and following the Star) making a little personal retreat at St. Placid Priory, a women’s Benedictine monastery where I often go to write and to think.  I wandered their woodland trails (maintained by my own cute dad—that’s another story), wrote in my diary, daydreamed, meditated, and napped.  I came to some clarity, and wrote it all down.

priory gate upide

tree arch jpg
Gateways at the priory–one made by humans, one made by arcing branches and licorice ferns.

Last year was a difficult one, demanding my attention in unexpected ways, and taking me down a path I never imagined I’d be traveling.  Work was slow and intermittent.  But the universe is benevolent, the earth finally feels firm beneath my feet once again, and onward we go. Thanks to my understanding editor and publisher, the book I’m working on has a new deadline (it was originally due a few days from now, and is now due the end of the year), and The Tangled Nest, which has been waiting in hibernation, is waking back up. (And just in time:  we have a new non-human housemate I am dying to tell you about!)

priory path jpg

And so here it is February 2nd, the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. This is the Gaelic Feast of Imbolc, and Saint Brigid’s Day.  The Christian Feast of Candlemas, the Festival of Lights, the Presentation at the Temple.  And of course, Groundhog’s Day—the day we contemplate our future as we stand between shadow and light, and turn for insight to an animal guide.  What better day to celebrate the new year?

tree gateway jpg
Maple and mosses gateway on a dark morning.

As I turn the fresh calendar page, I feel tempered by my experience of the past year. Paging through my diary from early January 2014, I find myself blissfully unaware, with sunny butterfly visions for a new year of radiant joy. This year, the creatures that draw me as as guides are not daylight creatures—not butterflies sipping nectar from flower petals as their wings open and close under the sun’s warmth—but creatures that wander between worlds, with a foot in both light and darkness.  Moths, foxes, owls.  These are the animals that currently visit my dreams, imaginings, and writing.  And if that sounds dark, it doesn’t feel dark.  It feels comforting.

Happy new year to all.  Anyone care to join me in starting it again?

Many thanks to Waverly Fitzgerald, who in her book Slow Time (which I reviewed here), and her website Living in Season, inspired my thinking on a New Year’s grace period.




  1. Lyander, I am so relieved to read this post. I always feel pressure to have plans/intensions in hand by January first. This year, aided and abetted by a husband with a concussion and a cough that kept me in slow motion for weeks, I was forced to engage in a whole month of reflection. Miraculously the world did not not end, and I was able to make some very thoughtful decisions about how I want my next few years to look. Less running about and selling my work at markets, more staying close to home and hanging out with the crows and other birds, working on one of a kind pieces and painting, writing my blog more regularly. We’ll see how all this looks next February. Thanks, Lyander, for your blog and also for your last two books – Crow Planet and Urban Bestiary, both of which changed my view of the world. Happy New Year … and Groundhog Day.

  2. Each bit of your writing I read finds an echo in my own heart. I’ve wanted to tell you just that for awhile now, but life always got in the way of the right words.
    I too am coming off some difficult years, with a hibernating blog to prove it. It’s curious that you mention owls as they keep peering into my life as well. Everything from a swimming great horned owl in in my neighborhood to being gifted a cutsy owl phone cover from a stranger. I once had a professor who admonished us several times to pay attention to the unseen curriculum in life. Owls seem to have been glaring at me until I finally noticed.
    I am interested to read as your thoughts about these creatures unfurl.

  3. What a lovely tradition of moving into the new year at a pace that’s perfect for you. And how wonderful you had a chance to retreat – and in such a beautiful place! Wishing you a 2015 filled with endless blessings.

  4. Karl Neice

    I will join you in starting again. Your books have awakened my urban naturalist (along with other mostly bird oriented authors), and I’ve aged into an opportunity to leave my longtime job with punishingly late hours and settle into a place (Greenwood) that is walkable and a good hub of natural discovery (Green Lake, Carkeek, Golden Gardens), with the opportunity to easily access Union Bay and Lincoln Park and maybe even the Eastside if my papers are in order. Thank you so much.

  5. kt

    We missed you! Happy that you’ve had the gift of time. Eager to hear about the new housemate. Delighted to know more of your writing is in our future. Hoping to hear you speak at the Eastside Audubon session soon. Be well and keep the pace that works for you. We’ll be here.

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