There’s this window up above the chancel, where the pulpit used to stand, and one of the ceiling crossbars hits it perfectly to form this little, tiny, equilateral triangle that I would stare at during the time to meditate, or during songs I had come to know by heart, or just before service started. I watched a full year through that window. The first Sunday I went to services there, November 8th, it was blustery outside, and I watched some leaves fly by that window; I remember thinking, “what am I doing in a church?” I watched snow come, my first full winter in Maine. I watched the snow start to melt, the branch that was outside that window heavy with water, bare of leaves. I watched as the weather turned warmer, as the sun shown in the side windows, warming my right arm and leg and half my face, that branch got little green leaves sprouting on it. And as summer came it was full of big leaves. Summer wore on the leaves began to look tired and we slipped seamlessly into autumn, and those leaves blew off, a few at a time, until that branch was bare again.
Just one year. But a big year. I graduated from college. I got a car. I mourned the loss of a friend who died far too young. I started to try to make some concrete decisions about life, and I was told over and over and over that I didn’t get to do that. Not yet.
Anniversaries are so arbitrary. We can mark the passing of a year in so many ways. Birthdays, weddings, graduations. For me the year has always started at the start of the school year. September meant new beginnings and, usually, a new school. January 1st seems so bleak, especially in this part of the country. You are already colder than you’d prefer to be, and it’s only going to get even colder for more never-ending weeks. Birthdays have never been a big deal for me. I suppose “graduation” fits in with the year starting in September. Then you have those three months of… nothing.
Except not anymore. As an adult you don’t get 3 months, or 2 ½ months, or 6 weeks off from work in the middle of the summer. September passed this year without a new pencil or notebook or promises to always do my homework, no really, I swear, I’m actually going to do my homework… no, really.
My friends are starting to scramble now, as the middle of the term has already passed. But things that sent me into a tailspin just 6 months ago, phrases like “week 9” or “final project,” don’t matter to me. This arbitrary atmosphere that college, or any other institution sets up, really throws you for a big loop when you leave.
Time’s a strange thing. Things that felt like they would never end are over and done with. But things that I am thinking about for the future feel like they will never come.
As a kid years are EVERYTHING. Are you 7 or 8? It’s very important, you know, even though you are all in the 3rd grade. Are you in 3rd or 4th grade? Also very important, despite being on the same little league team. Birthday parties define weekends for some kids (not for me – I was invited to probably a grand total of 3 during my entire elementary life, and not 1 during middle or high school aside from my best friend’s). The winter holidays were a BIG DEAL. So is, I am told, Easter. I actually had no idea that people celebrated Easter aside from little old ladies who went to very tame churches until I was in my teens.
But what do I have for year markings now? I prefer not to celebrate birthdays, I don’t celebrate Christmas, I don’t have anybody to celebrate smallpox and racism day (erm… Thanksgiving) with, I am still not quite sure what the point of Easter really is. I am not in school, and I won’t be for awhile. None of my friends will be in town on January 1st.
A bigger question is, does it matter if I mark years off or not? What if I choose to mark off time in 14 month chunks, or 7 month chunks? What if I don’t mark time off at all? Could work.