As the sun sets on the last day of December each year, several generations of my family build a fire outside my childhood home on a beach in Florida. We help arrange a mound of kindling in the middle, and balance small logs and branches in a pyramid formation.
Around the fire, we share comical childhood stories that have been told a million times and add new stories and memories from the past year. The sound of the crackling flames combines with the steady cadence of crashing waves. The younger cousins set off a few fireworks in the distance, as the adults pick out the winter constellations of Orion, Perseus, and the Big Dipper.
About an hour before midnight, we pass out two sheets of paper and a pen to each person and begin our yearly ritual. On one sheet, we write down all the things we want to leave behind in the old year -- habits, bad relationships, fears. On the second sheet, we dream of the year to come. What do we want to do, experience, become?
We grow quiet. Then, one at a time, we crumble our old lists, place them in the flames, and watch them turn to black wisps that fly from the fire. The new list gets folded and tucked in a safe place. Many of us reread it again and again during the year.
Traditions are comforting. They give us something to hold onto as we face the uncertainty all around us. Burning the first list is symbolic of our belief that we can grow. The second list represents hope. It is seeing a future full of possibilities, promise, and even responsibilities -- to ourselves and to each other.
This year, I will suggest to my family a slight twist in our tradition. What if we share that second list with each other? We could then provide support to each other throughout the year by talking through ideas and sharing perspectives. This is a way of being that also reminds me of our work as weavers. We connect, discuss, and work to build what we believe is possible in the world and in our local communities. It is in the dialogue and sharing of perspectives that we grow, build trust, and solve problems.
Twenty years ago, writer and researcher Margaret Wheatley urged us in Turning to One Another to “Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible. Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something. Know that creative solutions come from new connections.”
As the year comes to a close, I hope you enjoy warm moments with family and friends that allow you to dream together about the coming year and beyond.