Does this ever happen to you? You are watching a wonderful romance on TV, and when the protagonist couple gets engaged or married and “The end” pops up on the screen, you want to call out, “No way!” Because, actually, this is not an ending. It is a beginning, and the beginning of something much more meaningful, complex, and complicated than any courtship episode could be. But it’s easier to just think, “Okay, so Darcy got his Elizabeth, and I don’t want to think about the troubles he’ll be running into with his terrible mother-in-law or whether he will ever be pushing a pram.” Okay, admittedly, an engagement or marriage is also what a lot of novels finish with.
On a more geographical note, confusion about beginnings and ends can happen, too. When I was living in Europe, the US West coast kind of marked the end of my western world – a logical thought, as in our atlases Asia is always depicted east of Europe. Now that I’m living at the west coast, when I’m standing at Cape Flattery, the most Northwestern point in the US (except Alaska), looking past Tatoosh Island, I am aware that though this seems to be the end of the world, across the water, way more west, lies … Asia. And I chuckle at my conception of former times.
Going for a hike here in Western Washington, sometimes has me at the same point, wondering about endings and beginnings. When my husband and I drive towards the Carbon River entrance of the Mt. Rainier National Park, the tiny logging town of Wilkeson is the last fortress of civilization that you pass. Except for the ranger station further down the road and, of course, the loop to the town of Carbonado. Beyond Wilkeson, there is a wilderness of endless forests, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, steep mountains, and glaciers. When we return, again, Wilkeson is the first sign of civilization that greets us. So, depending on which way we are going, the beginning of civilization is also its ending, and vice versa.
When I got up in the morning of December 13, I left home as a German citizen. At about 2 pm that day, I pledged allegiance to the US in the USCIS auditorium in Tukwila. When I returned home, I returned as an American citizen. Though there was an ending in my life that day, it was a beginning at the same time. And it didn’t interrupt my existence, for sure.
Pondering the concept of beginnings and endings, I start thinking that it is something that makes larger structures more conceivable for the human mind to have it marked by beginnings and/or endings. It’s like cutting a roast into little bits instead of trying to stuff the entire piece into your mouth and chew it down. It’s an auxiliary measure to grasp something more universal, whatever it is we deal with.
So, when we celebrate New Year’s this up-coming Sunday – I wonder what we really celebrate. In Germany, we have gorgeous fireworks, started off by the midnight chiming of church bells all over the nation. It’s goose-bumpingly awesome. And if you listen to or sing along with the traditional New Year’s hymn “Now let’s thank all our God”, you have another tear-jerker that marks a very special ending … or beginning? Now guess, what German-Americans miss over here on the night of December 31 …
I remember when the year 2000 rolled along, and some people were arguing whether it was really marking the beginning of a new millennium. Or whether we should rather postpone our celebrations until the year 2001. And I sometimes wonder whether the entire count is right anyhow, for who can say that our Lord was really born in the year Zero?! Or was it 1?
Is it important whether we celebrate the successful ending of a year? Or that it’s finally over and it didn’t kill us? Or whether we greet the beginning of a New Year? Maybe a bit fearfully? Or awed? Because it is filled with another load of blank calendar pages that count down the weeks and months, and we have no clue what they will hold for us until they lie behind us.
Whichever you celebrate (and whether you celebrate or not), December 31 marks another round of endings and beginnings. I’d like to thank all of you who have been reading my little Friday column for the past months and for giving me feedback so kindly. I hope you stay with my ramblings about being “Home from Home” in 2018 also. This being said – I hope 2018 begins on a better note than 2017 is ending on for all of us. And if 2017 has been a good year for you already… all the better for you! Happy New Year!