Today is the last day of 2016, and it has been a strange year all around, both personally and generally. I am not going to reprise it here: you already know what happened and more or less how you feel about it. I, like you, have fears and forebodings about the coming days, but the future is always a darkened lamp. So we will wait and wonder, and in the meantime proceed along our allotted paths--lurching and staggering at one moment, dawdling at another, clumping through a rainstorm, then running till our lungs burst.
Today I sit on a gray couch in a gray-lit room on the last day of December. A sheen of sunrise glints on the dormered roofs of the houses across the street. Slow walkers and their dogs wend their way downhill to the bay. The cat, after a night of enthusiastic bothering, is curled up on the yellow chair like a sweet postcard pet. I don't know if this is exactly where I want to be, but it's where I am. The truth is that I am no longer lonely, no longer counting the hours till bedtime, no longer forgetting to bother to eat, no longer stuffing blank time with crossword puzzles and meaningless housework. So things are better than they were, even if I continue to feel intermittently detached from place and purpose.
January looms, and I will be busy. I am editing yet another book about the cultural Cold War (there are so many!). I will be working with a couple of writers on their manuscripts. I'll be driving back north for band practices and for visits with friends. On the day of the inauguration, I'll be sharing poetry-teaching skills with Smith College students--which I take as a sign of hope. I have spent my adult life trying to construct a balance between art and duty, both personally and communally. I succeed occasionally . . . but perhaps most often when I spend time with teachers. If anyone can thwart Trump's long-term legacy, it will be these young people who light a trail for the even younger ones.
The underground railroad follows many routes. It halts for the passengers who wait in secret shabby stations. The cars fill, and the train keeps moving through the night. I love the faces, silhouetted in the windows. I love the steady thrum of the engine. Keep faith in the words, in the colors, in the echoes, in the twists of the body. Hold them close. Set them flying.