El Año Viejo

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You’ve probably heard me tell this story about living in Colombia.  At least in el Valle del Cauca, the state where I grew up, there is a colorful tradition for New Year’s Eve.  It starts right after Christmas Day, when children in small villages stop traffic and ask for donations.  They make a man of straw and fill him with firecrackers.  They get a papier mache head ( it too is filled with straw and firecrackers) and wheedle an old suit from a neighbor or dad.  For a couple of days, the old guy sits out in front of the house or on the main square of the town.  Close to midnight on the 31st, everyone gathers around him and some member of the community (sometimes even the mayor of the town), dressed in drag in widow’s weeds shows up in high drama.  On the stroke of midnight that Año Viejo, the old sucker, is blown sky-high.  He usually leaves a last testament written in verse and and read with great fanfare and laughter.  And then the party goes on.

I love the symbolism, love the recognition that in the midst of hardship and suffering one should not get overly sentimental about another year that has ended.  There have been years in my own life that felt like they were only good for blowing up when they’d finally ended.  With all its sadness, all that changed out from under me in 2012, I couldn’t blow up this year.  For today, it seems enough to recognize there are some pieces of my life that are now in the past and best left there.  I stumbled on something in the past few weeks that I copied and put away for use maybe in a sermon, or maybe just to read.  It seems a fitting way to look at this in-between day.

For Those Who Have Far to Travel
An Epiphany Blessing

If you could see
the journey whole
you might never
undertake it;
might never dare
the first step
that propels you
from the place
you have known
toward the place
you know not.

Call it
one of the mercies
of the road:
that we see it
only by stages
as it opens
before us,
as it comes into
our keeping
step by
single step.

There is nothing
for it
but to go
and by our going
take the vows
the pilgrim takes:

to be faithful to
the next step;
to rely on more
than the map;
to heed the signposts
of intuition and dream;
to follow the star
that only you
will recognize;

to keep an open eye
for the wonders that
attend the path;
to press on
beyond distractions
beyond fatigue
beyond what would
tempt you
from the way.

There are vows
that only you
will know;
the secret promises
for your particular path
and the new ones
you will need to make
when the road
is revealed
by turns
you could not
have foreseen.

Keep them, break them,
make them again:
each promise becomes
part of the path;
each choice creates
the road
that will take you
to the place
where at last
you will kneel

to offer the gift
most needed—
the gift that only you
can give—
before turning to go
home by
another way.
Jan Richardson, Painted Prayerbook (http://paintedprayerbook.com/2011/12/31/epiphany-blessing-for-those-who-have-far-to-travel/#.UOGCQ6WLYco)

Tonight at the usual time and in the usual way, I will put on my shoes and head out to keep walking.  I will try, in the words of Jan Richardson, “to be faithful to the next step”.  I am less sure than ever before of where I am heading even though I am certain that the grace, the love and the hope are still to be found in the walking.

Happy New Year, friends, and all manner of blessings be with you and yours.

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