Kalo Podariko, or Happy First-Foot!
The Broadcasting Legend™ occasionally teaches me snippets of Greek, and this is a traditional greeting for New Year’s Eve. As in other countries around the world (notably Scotland, which figures in my own heritage), the first person to set foot in one’s house in a new year can bring either good or bad luck.
The custom goes that immediately after the stroke of midnight, all the lights in the house are turned off and everyone goes outside. Then a particularly lucky person, often the youngest child, steps back into the house. Right foot first, please! All other family members then follow, also entering with the right foot, and all the lights are re-lighted for the new year.
May we all be blessed by good luck in 2009!
One of the things I always do at the end of December is re-read my daily personal journal for the year just past. It’s surprising and a little daunting to realize how much one forgets, even in the course of a year. The annual retrospective reading keeps me honest with myself.
I’ve been keeping a daily journal since 1983. Yes, there’s a lot of minutiae there—but I like to record the everyday things I do, well, every day. Walks, shopping lists, lunches, pleasures, griefs, dreams, success, failures. I can read a journal entry from any day at random and it brings back the shape and taste and experience of the day itself.
It’s remarkable and revealing to connect with my younger self, and I only wish I’d begun my journal earlier. Queen Victoria began keeping her famous diaries when she was thirteen! How I would love to be able to go back and read the truth about my own teenage years—I suspect it would not be anything like how I remember it today.
Here we are in the dark of winter, and on my desk I have the 2009 Burpee seed catalog. I am paging through gorgeous scarlet tomatoes (“slicers,” as my father used to call them), crisp green lettuce and cucumbers, berries and melons bursting with juice. And then there are the flowers—pansies with teddy-bear faces, dazzling marigolds, ruffled pink begonias and old-fashioned truly blue bachelor’s-buttons. More and more of my garden is being given over to herbs, too, partly for cooking, partly for scent, and partly just for pleasure—basil and dill, oregano and Italian flat-leaf parsley, lavender and peppermint and rosemary and rue.
I love reading the seed catalog in the middle of winter and dreaming of summer gardens. What better expression of faith could there be? As with all versions of scripture, however, the seed catalog can be contradictory: this year’s cover veggie is a “seedless” tomato, which one grows by purchasing (very expensive) seeds.
I much enjoyed Silent in the Grave, the first book in Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series of historical mysteries, and if anything Silent in the Sanctuary is even better. Suitably for the Christmas season, the book is set at Christmastime in 1887. It’s a version of the tried-and-true house-party murder, with Julia, her family, various friends, hangers-on and servants snowbound in the March family seat, an ancient Abbey.
The Marches are as March-Hare-esque as ever; “enquiry agent” Nicholas Brisbane is present but Julia is surprised (of course she conceals her true feelings) to find him engaged to a beguiling but empty-headed (or is she?) widow. Much mordant repartee ensues, as does, eventually, murder. The background effervesces with jewel thievery, ghosts, gypsies, kidnappings and family scandals. The murder might possibly have happened a bit earlier, but because I love the rich and deliciously-rendered detail of late-Victorian country life I’m happy to forgive Raybourn the slowish pace of the first half of the book.