I wake early on New Years, on a few hours sleep, and not from light through the drapes—it is a blue dark still behind folds of clouds, and below the red and green and yellow lights of the city are barely visible, muted by a gauze of fog that hugs the streets but is punctured here and there by the steeple of a church and the sharp fingers of Doug Fir along the distant hills. Cars cannot be seen except for the flicker of headlights and the thrum and rumble of motors gunned and idled, and day does not seem imminent—it is less dawn now than the melancholy of evening, the diminishing of hush, child, it is time to rest. I was too old for riot, though I rang in the New Year by a fire in a house on a hill with a well-chosen song and a half-dozen old friends, and now there is this new clarity: hello, world. You are here, I am here. Let us make peace with that uncertain arrangement, for distantly a train-whistle lows and I hear the click of wheels headed somewhere, declaring promises: come, be carried, be bound.
And now the day comes and there are breaks in the clouds where there is a ghost of blue and this light of this first day is white and erasing, unrelenting, and the fog is only a thin mist on distant hills and the squared blocks are there and the streets are there and now the cars are plain in their bustle and crawl, make sharp turns motor up and rev and screech brakes, and somewhere out of sight someone even honks, as if to say, I can make noise here in this wide open world, bare and plain and full of demands. I must rise and shower and get in my car and drive to a cabin where my parents and brother's family eat my mother's New Years soup, Japanese Azone brought over from the old country, deep broth of boiled chicken carcass and kombu and shitakes and shoyu, ladled out in great bowls stacked with mochi and clams and lotus root and purple potato, my favorite meal, well worth rising for even into such unforgiving light, but if it is a blessing to have places to go then it is perhaps an equal blessing to do so on a morning we are supposed to forget last years sorrows and burdens, to abandon regret, and think of where we are going, what bounty awaits. I wish you all, friends, a year as good as the Azone that awaits me by a wood-burning stove in a cabin on a river beneath a grove of Douglas Fir where the voices of my nephews fill the rooms.