Certainly, it’s one of the single most expressed sentiments we feel once the decorations that thrilled us in the weeks preceding Christmas have lost their sparkle, beginning on the day after Christmas. And, of course like so many other clichéd expressions that speak to the importance of that bird in the hand and those winter days when it’s not the temperature but the wind and those summer days when it’s not the temperature but the humidity, in both triteness and truth, the observation “the year flew by” stands shoulder to shoulder with any hackneyed expression.
And so it is where we are just a few days away from another year, the twentieth such year that begins with a prefix number that seemed George Jetson-ish in my youth, a “2.” So, of course, once we shelve our incredulity at the celerity with which the year has gone, our attention is divided in these final days, reflecting back on our victories and our defeats, upon where we’ve been and also reflecting ahead with thoughts of where we’d like to go.
As for where we’ve been personally, either through the trips we’ve taken or our rhythmic swells and troughs of joys and sorrows, well, those are as different among us as the DNA that each of us carries. And, as for where we’ve been as a nation, at least politically, we often wonder whether the human elements that should bond us is stronger than the differences that set us a part.
Perhaps what strikes me as much as anything on the political front about 2018 is the continuing random acts of violence that never seem to abate. This year there have been over 300 separate incidents of mass killings, with the definition of what constitutes such being, at least according to the Gun Violence Archive, an incident where four or more individuals are shot and killed in a non-combat occurrence in the same general time and location. Upon researching and prepping this column, admittedly, I was perplexed by the “four” designation, as if that’s some sort of line of demarcation between something expected and something horrific.
But while our apprehensions may ramp a bit in large gatherings of people, say at that Yankee-Indian Sunday afternoon game last mid-July where at Progressive Field it wasn’t the heat but the humidity that made a couple of brew-skies so satisfying, most of us refuse to be so frightened that we anchor ourselves to our home environs just to feel safe. We’ve all been told that’s when “they” win.
In what seemed to be far simpler times when I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 60s, the “they” who wished to harm us, I feel, was far easier to identify. “They” seemed to be the potential threats during our Cold War times when we in America eyed the Soviet Union suspiciously as Russians, I’m sure, looked at us as their “they.”
However, now, it seems the “they” could be anyone, from the 64-year-old Stephen Paddock of Mesquite, Nevada, who fired more than 1,000 rounds from the window of a suite on the 32nd floor of Mandalay Bay into a large crowd of concert goers off the ‘Vegas Strip a year ago in October, killing 58 and wounding over 800, to a Marine veteran named Ian Long, who used a hand gun with an extended magazine to kill a dozen people in a Thousand Oaks, California, bar just after posting on Instagram, “Fact is I had no reason to do it, and I just thought (expletive), life is boring so why not?”
However, setting aside the uncertainty of the world in which we live, for me, I’ll continue to take to the highway, both for labor and for leisure, both in my country and abroad as I have each year of my adult life and especially since my putting that final piece of chalk on that ledge below my blackboard at the end of my last school year in May 2005.
A second trip to Ireland will be here soon, in the spring. My first, in 2010, focused on the southern half of the Emerald Isle, where I was thrilled by places like Waterford, Wexford, Killarney and Limerick as well as so many little towns that comprise the Ring of Kerry and, lest I forget, those majestic Cliffs of Moher.
My initial thought of Ireland when I saw it, and this isn’t always true of the places I go, is that it looked exactly as I’d imagined it would, from the antiquitous stone walls that divide the pastures that intersect towns to the grazing sheep and on to the inside of the atmospheric pubs of the Temple Bar District in Dublin off the south bank of the River Liffey.
This time, Lady Jane’s and my focus will be on the northern part with stops in places like Belfast, Donegal and Carlingford, where King John’s Castle overlooks the harbor and, on to, of course, the some 40,000 interlocking basalt columns of Giant’s Causeway.
So, I guess should I be so presumptuous as to think you need my advice for the upcoming year, it would be this: Should your physical and mental abilities allow, slip the chains of familiarity as often as you can, and go have an adventure!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.