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An auspicious year

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I awoke Sunday morning still without a plan for New Year's Eve. I told my wife, Ellen, that my only requirements were that it not involve a crowd and that we do something intentional rather than falling asleep on the couch watching Dick Clark.

She suggested an idea from the PF (pre-Frank) period involving jotting down a list of the things about the current year that we would be glad to say goodbye to and another list with our wishes and aspirations for the new year and the things we wanted to celebrate. She proposed then placing these lists in some sort of vessel or structure and setting them afire.

Relatively starved for meaningful ritual, I jumped at the idea, and instantly my day had purpose. We pitched the idea to our friends, Skip and Karen Anderson, who have a cabin at Lake Roxboro. What would they think of dinner and fabrication of a marine craft to serve as our New Year's pyre of purging and hope? Enthusiastic about the former and somewhat exhaustedly ambivalent about the latter, they agreed.

We know the Andersons. We knew they couldn't resist a design challenge. Ellen added the further constraint of biodegradability and we knew the creative juices would be flowing by the time we arrived.

We were met with the smell of steak and tuna on the grill and a marvelous, fully rendered craft consisting of a paperboard egg carton, two candles in adjacent egg wells, two birch branch runners, a small beech branch with leaves placed vertically as a sail, and leftover colorful chard stalks formed around each candle in stunning translucent organic hurricane lampshades. One candle for the old, one for the new.

After a fabulous meal, we got to work. For reasons even he can't explain, Skip had returned from a recent trip to Canada with a beautiful small piece of paper-thin birch bark. We divided it four ways and each made our lists with the rough side for things to say goodbye to and the smooth side for things to celebrate. We carefully rolled them and sealed them with candle wax and placed them in our delicate ship.

There was a constant drizzle and a healthy wind. We didn't even know if our craft was seaworthy. Ellen grabbed a stick and Karen a broom so we could at least push it a few feet from the dock and keep it from going under it.

The candles glowed inside the chard and we all filled with pride, but 30 seconds into the voyage one of the candles went out. As one we declared that a sign that all bad things from 2006 were now extinguished. There was a round of hugs, a countdown to the New Year, and an acknowledgment that our celebration would be a short one.

About 40 minutes later and with the wind still gusting, Skip phoned a neighbor and said to watch for a tiny beacon on the lake rounding the bend by their house. Now nearly a quarter-mile away and tenaciously flickering, we cheered in astonishment as our unlikely vessel headed toward the spillway and out of sight.

2007 is going to be a great year.

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