Las cabañuelas. A friend in Guatemala told me first about the custom. In my quick Google search for this blog, I found the practice of weather prediction to have both Spanish and Jewish roots, a combination I encounter more than I would have expected. This Guatemalan friend was my dog’s godmother, so I was used to her dispelling wisdom. Standing in front of her pila cooled by cement shadow, Norma told me the first twelve days predict the year.
I hadn’t returned to this idea for some time until a post by favorite author Margarita Engle declared she would spend her first days of the New Year reading and writing. As a result, I found myself on a spin bike on January 1st sharing the custom with the instructor. When I returned home to find a link to share with her, I could only locate descriptions of weather predictions and not life choices. Still, I decided to err on the side of life anyway. For the first twelve days of January 2020, I noted random thoughts. What is goal setting anyway, except the alteration of patterns, controlled climate change. . .
On January 1, I consumed my day purging papers from my K-12 student career. Is it throwing away, I asked, or crafting the narrative I want others to find? I cast off the tests and the scores, definitions I no longer use for success. As I threw the final bag into recycling, my dad corners me at the kitchen step.
“I had a dream about your mother. Haven’t had one in a long time.”
“I always ask her, ‘Where have you been?’”
“Did she see you?”
“No. I never see her face.”
I settled into the couch, wondering about recycled souls.
January 2 is the day my cold hovered and followed after I thought I had left its aches behind. I blamed the spin class but relearned the lesson. No matter how fast I go, when my body says wait, I need to pause. To rest. In February the month of love, love myself.
January 3 is the day I took the long way round while driving to a professional training. I considered directions that move forward. Run wide. Climb high. Dig deep. Which way was my way now? As I finished the question, a farm tractor skirted my view over my right shoulder, slightly cloaked in a morning shadow winter mornings take too long to shed.
On January 4, I bought the smart phone with the hope my young niece will call me regularly.
“You hate yourself, don’t you?” my brother scoffed.
“It’s cheaper than my current plan,” I said. “And I can’t combine anything with Dad’s.”
I returned to the salesman and continued, “It’s for talking with my niece. ONLY.”
In the month of April, will I be smarter? Closer? Tempted to become someone else for a different relationship? No. I will be the malleable link, the metal that bends and sparks and connects and continues everyone’s words.
January 5 was a Sunday evening which meant the task of cooking lunches for the week. The recipe for quiche included eggs from my dad’s chickens and our garden potatoes, onions and kale. Its flavor smoked with my sister in law’s Israeli paprika carried to this kitchen in her own hands. I ate until I was full. I ate so I tasted family. I ate and appreciated all roots.
By the time I reach the summer heat of June, January 6 told me that the weather will be undecided, a bit of all, a bit of everything. The gym. My writing. New languages. Meetings. Better relationships. Favorite music popped from the radio along each mile of my day. Relief in my ability to stay aware of creatures in my periphery. So many vacant eyes and tread skin encountered, but I was not too distracted to see the glimmer of still life in the ditch.
Past the halfway mark, January 7 said, “Be resilient against rejection, be grateful for success. Hard work brings both.”
The number 8 wrapped around August, the end of my 41st year and the realization of the end of something else. “Don’t just put the past behind you, actually let it go. Admit you don’t want a response, any response.” I didn’t want it, anything to do with a former job that I used to believe was all that defined me, a relationship that called each time I was close to letting it go. “Stop waiting,” said the Universe.
January 9 pricked me with dread of all I couldn’t control despite my best intentions. A storm in fact, the meteorologist said is brewing.
Still, January 10, nothing of note. So October would not be memorable, or I would be too busy to notice.
January 11 began in ice. But, there’s a break. In the space between snowflakes, I searched the store for a silver chain to replace another that had replaced another long ago. I was fortunate that this one slipped from my throat across the dog’s leg on the bed. I could have easily lost it like another gift from long ago. It would have been my fault, too much strain. Too many near misses with fingers. Water and sweat and cotton and wool to pick at its links. This time I select a longer one that I can care for, remove easily, combine with others. I sit on the bed and create a new collection of pendants to slip over my head and under my grandmother’s sweater. “The world has changed. . .”
Sunday, January 12. The storm didn’t arrive. The meteorologists apologized.
“For what?” my dad laughed.
I didn’t know either. I stomped my boots, entered the kitchen smelling of bacon and sent the video I made for my niece. I told her in Hebrew about walking the dog in the snow. I vacuumed the closet I organized what seemed a year ago, January 1. I napped with my dog nestled into the quilt on my bed. I bought my ticket to visit my family in Israel. I tied up loose ends.
Later that afternoon, I was rewarded with three videos of her explaining that her brother can now walk and that Israel received so much rain that streets flooded. Now and then she paused. Sometimes she halted.
“It’s okay. Doda understands even if we make mistakes,” my sister-in-law prompted.
And, that will be the difference, I pondered, sinking into the couch. While I spoke in Hebrew, my niece responded in English. Neither of us provided each other with new vocabulary, but maybe, we gave each other the permission to learn and make mistakes. My heart plunked at conversations I could have already missed for lack of first steps and last.
Could these observations determine the course of my year, even if not necessarily the individual month that corresponded to the day? It would as likely to be accurate as anything, I decided, in these times of climate change.
For more wonderful videos related to teacher training or literacy program development in rural Guatemala, please visit www.child-aid.org. I have no v...