A Year in the Life

Being the 7th of a miscellany of short posts to mark the 12 days of Christmas.

Happy New Year! Tonight we celebrate the coming of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar. For those using the Hebrew calendar, New Year celebrations were in October; for those using the Chinese lunar calendar, New Year awaits us in January.

With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, there are years seasonal and calendrical, fiscal and liturgical, astronomical and academic(al). A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a year by any other name is not The Same, ranging in length by about 21 days (draconitic to sidereal, per Wiki). Astronomical years won’t even stay The Same as themselves, over time: they vary due to the precession of the equinoxes, tidal drag, planetary gravity effects, and changes in the Sun’s ‘effective mass’. None of which do I know much about, nor care to enquire.

Now, I do not normally track the days in the year to two decimal places (like the draconitic, Julian and lunar years), or to a level of precision inviting rounding to a mere four or five decimal places (like the mean tropical, vernal equinox, and Gregorian years). Calendrically, I live more in line with the vague year, which allows 365 days in the year, full stop.

Yet the longer I live — the more years, however defined, under the hood — the less the calendar year means to me. ¬†In March, I mark the end of the curling year with the Brier, and the start of the baseball year with spring training. I celebrate the new growing year in stages, with the phased emergence of crocuses, tulips and irises. My birthday year, running from May to May, is assuming new significance as I approach the start-up of public pension plan payouts. The lake year — with a variable start time in July or August — has become a marvelous mid-life addition to the routine. September’s start of the academic year still speaks to the student, parent of students, and instructor that I was for many years, inspiring me to new projects, even to new resolutions. And the autumn colours — coming later and more gloriously here in Ontario than in the Alberta or Saskatchewan of my first 50 years — mark the end of a year more surely than any end-of-December party.

Whether you live more in tune with the regimentation of Gregorian or lunar calendars, with the forces of equinox precession and tidal gravity, or with the cycles of your own seasons, may you find at least one day in each 365.2425 (or so) to look back, to look ahead, and to marvel. And whether that be earlier, now or later — Happy New Year!



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10 Responses to A Year in the Life

  1. I am continually surprised by the range of your knowledge of things scientific.
    How many more hidden depths have you?

    As for my calendar year view — since you asked, sort of — it took me 20+ years to stop thinking of the start of school as the beginning of the year. But I overcame it. My birth date was another annual mark that has faded. Now the year seems almost seamless, one month flowing into the next, except the run up to New Year’s Eve when I see a big psychological wall between us and next year. I want to peer over the wall and see a fresh year with no mistakes in it, as Anne of Green Gables said.

    This time of year is too unstructured for John and me. We will be glad to get back to the “little brown days” as that old CBC radio personality — Max Ferguson (with the crazy/mad side-kick Allan McFee) said his mother used to call January, February and March.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I’m afraid my hidden depths are mostly Wiki – a lovely compilation of things, albeit not entirely reliable. As for the calendar year, about to shift on us again, I sometimes feel the coming year as a weight – an obligation, I guess, to be got through. It doesn’t last very long, but I feel better as winter yields to spring, and not just for the obvious reasons, I think. “Little brown days” – I like it.

  2. MC says:

    I love the idea of different years like “the lake year”. Today, I’m going to ponder my various year markings beyond the obvious: calendar year, school year, and my business’ fiscal year which is different than the calendar year. Thanks for the new perspective

  3. Marjorie M. Gibson says:

    How about “Thank God” – made it to another year! Wonder what this one will bring and/or – Bring it On! My divisions are different – mainly marked by the inevitable changes life presents in the later years. Certainly nothing dull in this last run! MMG

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      MMG – Well, yes, sort of like the old Newfoundlander joke: When you wake up, push outwards with your elbows. If you don’t hit wood, it’s going to be a good day! May we all feel that every day we are here and above ground is a good day. Happy New Year.

  4. Susan Wright says:

    Isabel, remember the hype about the Mayan calendar ending in 2012? Apparently Dec 21, 2012 at 11:11 GMT is the auspicious moment that marks the confluence of a number of celestial events which spell doom for all of mankind. The Mayan date will be Another school of thought suggests that the Mayan calendar will simply reset itself to zero and start again like a car odometer. A wonderfully practical solution, don’t you think?
    Have a Happy New Year.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Susan – A friend of mine is a linguist with a specialty in Mayan languages, and many friends in the Mayan community. I guess those folks weren’t too impressed with the Holywoodization of their religious/cultural beliefs. And the whole ‘end of days’ interpretation of their calendrical structure was seen as silly – I think you’re right: this apparent ‘end’ just marked the end of one cycle. Around we go again!

  5. John Whitman says:

    Isabel: You obviously have too much TIME on your hands!

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