This year, Allison Glock resolves to reread her Harry Crews collection and stop feeling bad about her jowls.
Last year, my husband and I decided to forgo New Year’s Eve entirely. We ate a normal meal in normal clothes and went to bed at 10 p.m. Instead of a Bataan death march toward midnight, we chose to wake early and head to the Smoky Mountains for a hike in the Southern wild.
It was an appropriately dismal day. Gray, spitting freezing rain. I remember thinking if my resolution had been to start running before breakfast again, I would have already failed. We donned our slickers and packed up our car with snacks of cheese, salami, crackers, dried fruit and nuts, plus a bar of dark chocolate the size of a business envelope. We also picked up our two dearest neighborhood friends, Peggy and Scooter, partners in our experiment of the willful denial of the so-called holiday.
The drive to our hike was an hour. The roads were empty, the rest of the town presumably sleeping off the night before. The isolation emboldened us. We turned up the radio, sang along to The Louvin Brothers in loud, twangy voices. We cracked the windows, letting sleet pelt our faces, tiny nettle stings that pinked our skin. We asked each other “Would You Rather?” questions, striving to be as disgusting as possible. Soon, we were at the trailhead, the rain now dropping in sheets. We waited out the storm in the car, playing Apples to Apples and eating the chocolate “for energy.”
Eventually, we braved the icy woods. Here, too, we were alone. The slickness of the trail made for a slow, laborious trek. We were forced to creep, and thus, to notice things, like the layers of golden leaves draping over fallen logs like a taffeta ball gown, or the sway of sodden branches, hanging low enough to graze our heads and anoint us as we passed beneath.
Peg and I linked arms and talked softly about ourselves, the way you do when you feel safe. Scooter and my husband watched the rising stream and speculated about trout. Mostly, we were quiet, even when we stopped and ate on the riverbank, our bottoms frozen to the rocks like tongues on a winter flagpole. Our teeth chattered as we chewed. But none of us wanted to leave.
We knew we were where we should be. Amid ancient trees and moving water. Hip to hip with the people we love. Eating simple food that, thanks to the alchemy of the woods, tasted better than a four-star dinner. It was the opposite of a New Year. It was a reminder of the old, the always, the bolsters that build the bridge. Friends. Spouses. Roots of all sorts.
We walked the trail back even more slowly than we climbed up. The rain grew thick again, reminding us that the world was not ours to control, with resolutions or otherwise. I removed my glove to hold my husband’s hand. He did the same. There was nothing new about it.