Janus looks both fore and aft, reflecting on the events of the past year while anticipating the next.
While I am fortunate enough to be able to look backwards and forwards with pleasure and confidence this year, it has not always been the case. Crippling misery and bleak misgivings about the future have often made me wary of celebrating the change of the years. I have never really understood the need to wave off the old by having as much ‘fun’ as possible before turning over a new leaf and starting again the next day. It always seems such a monumentally impossible task which usually ends in anticlimax, with absolutely nothing changing.
Over the last few years I have grown to understand that the only useful change is the mindful change you effect for yourself. That comes with time, trial and error and cannot be pinned to a particular time or date. So this year, when faced with New Year alone, I embraced the fact that it was time for me to please myself.
So I went to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. A place famed for its chilled out, quiet New Year and just went with the flow; quiet, reflective and chilled out.
I spent December 31st at Doi Inthanon, the rooftop of Thailand, looking out at forested hills in a perpetual mist. At 2565 meters above sea level it wasn’t quite as breath taking as Punta Union Pass in Peru but it was good to be high up out of cities, dust and heat. In fact, it was all a bit of an anti climax as the highest point is marked by a tiny brass plate and surrounded by trees and rammed with people. The view actually came at the pagodas of the King and Queen, which were also not-quite-something to a pagoda weary traveller. Still, I spent the last day of 2014 doing what I enjoy most, exploring new places with new people, opening myself to whatever new experiences present themselves. I’m glad I went.
The evening arrived and I was conscious of the pending ‘event’. I almost didn’t go out. Radio 4’s adaptation of the Gaiman-Pratchett collaboration Good Omens was waiting for me on my phone and I was tired after all my recent travels. However, I wanted to see what it was all about.
I went down to the Night Markets anticipating crowds of intoxicated people celebrating in the streets. In fact, it was virtually deserted, peaceful in fact, with daily life continuing on as it always has. I wandered around the colourful stalls without fear of crushing or asphyxiation. Even when I found the heart of the celebrations along Sunday Walking Street people were promenading with calm reverence, following an unspoken one way system of movement along the stalls, voices barely raised above a friendly hubbub. No pushing or shoving, no drunken idiots having ‘the time of their lives’.
I can only put it down to the Buddhist influence all around us. Every temple was bright with candles and streams of Chinese Lanterns rose silently into the cloudy sky, decorating the night with the fiery orange dots of people’s hopes and dreams.
Of course I sent my own lantern up, scribed with my wishes for us all in 2015. A young monk helped my light it and then took a dozen photos of me and the lantern. I felt very blessed!
I could have hung out by the moat or along any of the streets in the walled city with the gentle revellers and abundant fireworks but I felt I’d done what I needed to do and the creeping exhaustion of continued travelling was present in my bones, so I took myself back to the hotel and flaked out to Good Omens.
I woke to a flurry of bangs and flashes as midnight was marked with the customary fireworks and lanterns and I watched contentedly from the window of my room, an observer rather than a participant.
I then returned to bed and fell asleep to the voice of Mark Heap as Aziraphail, safe in the knowledge that (even if the Apocalypse does happen!) 2014 had been everything I’d wanted, and made it to be.
Everyday, every year, is what you make it so, like Janus, I will look back on the lessons learnt over the years and look forward to the adventures I will have in 2015.
Happy New Year everyone.