What’s in a year?

by Alyssa Yenzer

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult and Teen Services Manager

What’s in a year? There is really no true difference between December 31st of one year and January 1st of the next, but that change of year still feels significant. Reflection over what has happened during the length of one rotation around the sun seems like a good way to measure the progress we’ve made in life, or a reasonable length of time to turn ourselves in a new direction. I’ve never been particularly good with New Year’s resolutions, but as this year came to a close, I found myself seeking out how others had recorded a year of their lives, in the hopes of gaining insight from their experiences.

Noelle Hancock spends a year attempting to live up to Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice “Do one thing every day that scares you” in her memoir “My Year with Eleanor.” After getting laid off from her life-consuming but lucrative job as a blogger for an entertainment web site, Hancock realized that she had been using her career as an excuse to avoid anything that caused her anxiety and almost everything caused her anxiety. With some urging from her therapist, she tackled one thing that scared her every day. This led her into a year of challenges as large as swimming with sharks and as small as taking on the guy that “reserved” an entire row of seats in the movie theater. Along the way she learned lessons about what fear really means and how to manage it in her world. I don’t know that she found all of the answers for arranging her life by the end of the book, but she was asking questions that lead in a positive direction. Hancock’s memoir is entertaining as well as enlightening. She openly shares her failures and weaknesses and invites us to laugh along with her. Her one-year life assignment shows how one can find themselves stuck in a rut and choose to steer in a different direction.

Cold Antler Farm” by Jenna Woginrich is less of a self-improvement book and more of a chronicle of a way of life that is completely different from what most of us experience. Woginrich shares about her experiences on her six-acre homestead in terms of the farming year, starting with the first signs of the spring thaw and proceeding through to the quiet of winter. She has goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, and work horses, as well as an extensive garden. She portrays the good and the bad – lazy afternoons of curling up in a hammock with a good book when the chores are done, as well as the extreme cold of winter morning chores in upstate New York. My favorite chapter was about the ruckus her animals make when they realize she’s awake but hasn’t come out to feed them. I appreciated this glimpse into an existence that is so different from my own. I wasn’t inspired to move to the country, but Woginrich’s story did encourage me to ponder the food that I eat, to think about how I spend my time, and to consider my connection to my dwelling space. She does an excellent job of sharing the struggles she goes through in trying to determine what her life should be without attempting to convert the reader.

Woginrich also incorporates ancient holidays and discusses how they are tied to the rhythms of the agricultural year. She celebrates Beltane, the start of the gardening and farming season, with a neighborhood potluck and a bonfire. She tells about how Halloween developed from Samhain, a quiet day to reflect. By the end of October, the harvests would have been gathered in, allowing time to contemplate the year’s efforts and losses.

A year is really just 365 days in a row, but the progress of the seasons gives us a chance to measure our progress and to see where we need to make changes. I wish you a 2019 filled with reflection, enlightenment, and good books.