Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy 366th day!

1 year = 365.242199 days.

I just had a lengthy conversation with Jake regarding how many days technically exist in a year, and about precisely what day/hour/minute/time we are on right at this very moment in 2008.

All I can tell you is I now have a headache and understand little of what Jake had carefully attempted to explain. It's not that I'm an airhead--I'm actually quite capable. But numbers make my head spin, especially fractions. So I will continue with my (possibly ignorant, incorrect) statement that today is the 366th day of the "old" year. I'll leave it up to some non math-phobic person to correct me, should they be so inclined. So...without further ado: Happy 366th!

Ahhh, the "new" year. It's incredible all the expectations we place on this evening and the following day. As if instantaneously the calendar flips and jumps confidently forward, and so must our lives. But nothing transforms magically, and chances are that whatever efforts we put into the last year will undoubtedly seep into the new one. Seemingly, our past good, bad and questionable deeds inevitably improve or inhibit our abilities and accomplishments for our next set of 365.24 days.

While some New Year's Eves prove disappointing or bland, others are truly special and magical enough to make you deeply appreciate the transition of one year into the next. I have been lucky enough to experience such a night only a handful of times, typically when I am far far away from home.

About 10 years ago, I spent New Year's Eve in Japan. Though it was long ago, I remember it well. For various bizarre reasons, I found myself alone at the strike of 12:00 a.m., in the streets of Tokyo, attempting unsuccessfully to navigate the Japanese rail system, speaking not a lick of Japanese, and rather lost. It was wonderful. The New Year's holiday in Japan (正月 shōgatsu) is like no other, and is one of the most important holidays observed there. It is not merely a celebration, but a festival, and it is marvelous. The Japanese, who generally tend to be soft spoken and somewhat reserved, really let themselves go and enjoy this special time. Their joy is evident and contagious, genuinely spiritual and joyous.

As I stood outside in the cold that night, wondering which way to turn, I looked at the people around me and was warmed by their cheer and enthusiasm. Suddenly, I became aware that I was in a foreign country, with no one to rely on but myself. It wasn't frightening or lonely; it was invigorating. I remembered a quote from one of my favorite books at the time: "My mind is my friend," and at that moment, midnight struck. I did eventually manage to navigate my way back to my hotel (if you have ever travelled in Japan and do not speak/read Japanese, you know what a challenge this can be) and contently fell asleep recalling images of rejoicing and playful Japanese couples and teens. I awoke the next day with the kind of clarity, drive, and freshness that I often longed for on past New Year's Days. That morning, the possibilities seemed endless, exciting, and attainable. My fond memories of that spontaneous night and meaningful quote continue to be a source of strength for me to this day, just as Japan has held a special place in my heart ever since, and is somewhere to which I have returned as often as possible.

That year was definitely a year of growth for me, both spiritually and emotionally, and I do believe it had to do, in part, with my attitude about the future as I awoke on the first day of the New Year. I learned a great deal on that trip to Japan, as it was my first time in Asia. It was then that I became further motivated to incorporate crafting into my life consistently, since I was positively influenced by the Japanese people's well known appreciation and high regard for aesthetics, art, and paper craft.

Japanese crafts are an important part of the New Year celebration. Some people make their own cards for the occasion, choosing to draw/paint an image on special paper or use stamps to create a unique postcard for friends and family, while others purchase beautiful ready made cards, postcards, or envelopes to distribute. The following New Year, I made my own New Year's Day postcards for friends and family, using little colored and patterned paper squares positioned to create various patterns which I glued to card stock, and special New Year-themed stamps with nice pictures or messages, all of which I purchased the year before at my favorite stationary store, Itoya. I hope to incorporate some of the techniques, materials, and ideas I learned about and use, into our own wedding decorations, invitations, and crafts.

As for my travels to Japan, never would I have guessed that over 10 years after my magical moment in the streets of Tokyo, I would later find myself in that very spot standing next to the man I now plan to marry. Life is a series of circles, after all. Very few of us navigate life in a straight line, but rather return time and time again to places, people, and thoughts we once had. To me, that is the beauty and the curse of time.

Similar to my experience that night over a decade ago, I feel motivated to face the year ahead. It will be a year of change, a year of challenge, and the year I will wed.

Whether you also will be getting married this year, are already married, or single, I hope 2009 will be as wonderful, healthful, successful, and full of love as you hope it to be. Whether your New Year's Eve this year is as fulfilling or meaningful as you envisioned, I hope you have a memory of a special New Year's Eve past which gives you strength to face the future with positive anticipation. And may your efforts and dreams from 2008 positively affect your triumphs for the next 365.242199 days of your life.

Happy New Year!

Photo Credit: midorisyu: A 2008 handmade postcard for the New Year.

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