Boston became a floating city reflected in the glassy surface of the Charles River. By December the river should have been sealed over in at least a thin coating of ice. Instead, the water was still, the air a little damp. The Cherry trees growing closest to the banks coyly sported pink blossoms that looked as fragile as tissue paper. Just inside the banks of the Esplanade, cut through the bike and walking paths are a chain of canals. Short, stone bridges and concrete walkways arc over the short stretches of water. During the more temperate months, a company runs scenic gondola rides through this part of Boston’s waterway, a piece of Venice pressed in the city’s scrapbook. The water in these areas was just as still, catching the image of the sky and trees in the pools. A snapshot of nature, the metropolis presented back to itself.
Image by S. Moeschen
This is the time of year when reflection is in high demand. It’s time to haul out the books and pour over the columns trafficked with checks and minuses of all the things done and undone, all the ways you lived up to the promise of another 365 and the ways you failed or fell short. It’s taking a look in the rear view even as we’re lifting our eyes to the road ahead. It’s a pause in the calendar when we give ourselves permission to shine a light around corners and poke around at the clutter stacked high and deep in the back of the room.
Reflections are blissfully, blessedly imperfect. As I stared at the water and the buildings dripping into the river, the metallic sheen of windows and metals mixing with the water as if Bob Ross had taken his palette knife and pulled the paint down the canvas, I couldn’t decide which images I preferred: the “real” skyline, the “true” trees and walkways or the distorted pictures wavering on the water’s surface. Both contain their own truth, their own beauty, but we rarely recognize it in those terms. We usually see true and false, real and not real, perfect and imperfect.
And so it is with the pledges we make as one year kisses the next—the ones we make in the hopes they will transform us into some ideal version of ourselves. We straddle the cracks in the sidewalk between less and more—less procrastination, more money, less carbs, more courage—based on an image of ourselves that needs constant tending and tune-ups, more tweaks, more upgrades. I have journals and journals full of lists, declarations, inky-pinky swears, some accompanied by very specific, grown-up sounding “action items” and “next steps” designed to launch a super-sonic self.
Nope. Not a thing. Denied.
Looking into the pools of Boston’s famed dirty water with the alternate city and park captured in their depths, I suddenly realized that I don’t have to choose which representation to love. I can appreciate both.
What if we looked at our reflections and saw our wobbly lines, our shiny bits, our shadows, our colors washed out here, richer and deeper there as the whole, complete package instead of a flawed interpretation? What if we looked back over a year and didn’t see wins and losses, but rather a tidy revolution where all the parts mattered, all contained their own sweetness and bruises because those things are what make us human, are what outfit us to wade deeper into the practices of love and connection and understanding? What if we chucked the lists and how-to books and fell deeply in love with our weird, unique wholeness and we used the next year to nurture that?
We might find ourselves happier, more present. We might be more willing to lower the drawbridge and accept or at least let a few more irritations slide by.
We might finally stop looking and be able to see.
Image by S. Moeschen