Kage Baker had no especial personal attachment to the calendrical New Year. As she pointed out, it was completely arbitrary anyway: the month was stolen from the Roman god Janus; the various American celebrations were an accrual of various social customs over the last 1,000 years, mostly in Europe. Some of them were invented by bartenders and camera crews.
In addition, the change from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar in 1582 cost us a couple of weeks when Pope Gregory sprang that one on Europe. It supposedly made it easier to calculate the solstices and equinoxes, but now – 5oo-0dd years later – almost no one remembers what the solstices and equinoxes even are, let alone what to do about them.
Also, one must never underrate the power of Hallmark Cards. Nor, as Kage used to warn hoarsely, glancing over her shoulder, “the all-powerful funny hat and glitter lobby”. That always cracked me up. I’m not sure why it seemed so funny, but, we ran fevers a lot in January …
We had holiday meals and rituals, of course. Our household ran on the power of ritual activity, among other odd alternative energies. But Kage personally celebrated several New Years over the course of a calendar 12 months, ranging from Samhain to her own birthday to the opening date of the Hollywood Bowl. Anything that had personal resonance and could be enhanced with toasts, candles and a feast. If you actually sit down and think about it, the year becomes studded with marvellous markers and turning points. Most years, Kage was celebrating several years at once.
Just for fun – and so you too, Dear Readers, can cherry pick among calendars to find the holidays you like the best – a brief comparative table is included at the end of this blog. They’re a fun way to start, and you can always add things from other calendars as you prefer – Middle Earth, for example, things from dwarfs or elves or hobbits. Shakespeare is a gold mine. Various literary calendars exist, as well, and can be plundered to great effect.
So happy New Year to you all, Dear Readers. I do hope you had a good one. I myself enjoyed the holiday, staying up on the Eve to watch the Ball drop in Times Square. Then I spent a classically quiet New Year’s Day with my family, eating ham and Christmas candy while watching the Rose Parade and the Twilight Zone marathon.
Today, I went to see my cardiologist, as part of striving mightily for a year in which I can accomplish more – like, walking more than 20 feet. Or breathing consistently. I can’t do either of those things right now, and it’s astonishing how little one can do while panting. I had an idea that it might be an unavoidable side effect of congestive heart failure, and I was extremely depressed by that. I can’t even exercise anymore; a walk around the block would take all the daylight hours there are this time of year.
But a new test – a detailed ultrasound – revealed a new and amazing thing: I don’t have congestive heart failure. For the last 13 years, I have been told that I do – I have had heart attacks attributed to the condition, and have tried several medicines designed to make my heart beat more quickly, more slowly or stronger. But that’s not the baseline problem. My heart is 66 years old, slightly damaged, and very tired. But what I have is valve disease!
One of the valves on the lung side of my heart is not permitting blood into or out of my lungs adequately. That’s why I start panting when I exert myself to any degree – like walking to the bathroom. It’s why I can’t sleep on my back, because blood is sloshing messily around in my heart. It’s why I am constantly out of breath. Apparently, the assumption of congestive heart failure has been presumed, for the last 13 years, by the evidence of my realio-trulio heart attacks. Also, imaging tests that show blood hanging about where it should not, like tide pools left behind in a wrack of seaweed and dried foam.
Anyway: I have no idea, yet, what will cure me of this – but my cardiologist says that 1) it can be solved and he can give me more strength; and 2) it won’t even be difficult. I figure it can’t be as difficult as turning unflattering shades of lavender and gasping like a lungfish. I will feel both better and different; and that will be a glorious thing.
The only thing which I am now dreading, is that a specialty echo-cardiogram has become necessary. I have had the good old snake-a-tube-up-from-your-groin echo-grams before, and they are a dawdle. But now I also need a TEE – that means a transesophageal echo-cardiogram, and involves a tube with a camera put down one’s throat. Apparently, this gives a superlative view of the valve suspected of conking out. I’ve had one before. The problem is, the test is administered while one is still, mostly, conscious.
It’s like being water-boarded internally. I did my best to swallow the damn camera last time, and passed out while it was still being forced down my throat. I woke up with no real damage done, hardly even a sore throat. But I still have nightmares about the process, as well as the doctor who callously told me to just relax, it couldn’t be that bad. Well, you asshole: yes, it could. Yes, it was.
I’m going to explain this before hand and request that I be as totally anesthetized as is physically possible. At least give me “twilight sleep’ so I don’t remember it. If that can be done for a woman giving birth, it can damn well be given to a woman trying to keep her own life going.
Mind you, I am going to accede to the test, no matter what. It’s necessary. But if I can talk someone into giving me a break, for once, I am willing to throw all false courage aside and whine. Think kindly of me next Tuesday, Dear Readers, at about 8:30 AM. I am going to try to lay back and think of England, even if my surroundings are more like Gitmo.
And in the meantime Dear Readers – take one from Column A, and two from Column B (below) and have a good New Year.