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Today the editorial board of the New York Times published an article called, “Take a Bad Year and Make it Better.”  It’s a long piece and it includes an impressive discussion of some very good things that happened in 2016. The one I liked the best was this.

“West Virginia . . .  a state that turned its back on Democrats, where populist anger fed on racism and working-class despair. But it’s also the home of Blind Alfred Reed, a Methodist minister and old-time folk fiddler who died 60 years ago. He is buried in Mercer County, which gave Mr. Trump 75 percent of the vote. Blind Alfred wrote a remarkable song, “Always Lift Him Up.” Its many verses counsel unflinching kindness for the most unloved and unlovable among us.

If he has no friends and everything’s against him/If he’s failed at everything that he has tried/Try to lift his load and help to bear his burden/Let him know that you are walking by his side.

If he feels that all is lost and he is falling/Try to place that poor man’s feet on solid ground/Just remember he’s some mother’s precious darling/Always lift him up and never knock him down.

That’s a message for these times. Lift up those in the Fight for $15, those fighting policing abuses and discrimination, those who are marginalized and poor and weak. This may be the most heartening development in a dismal year — the evidence all around that we know how to do this, and can indeed summon the will.”

I am writing this in the late afternoon of Saturday the 31st of December 2016, the end of the year. It is still getting dark before 5:00 but the days are growing longer since the Solstice; in spite of chilly temperatures, there is a slight change in the air, especially on those crisp days when the sun is out and the sky is clear.  Another full turn of the seasons and, before we realize it, it will be high summer again here in the Tidewater of Virginia.

After all the deaths–of friends, of family, of well-known women and men in the arts, in literature, in science, in the popular culture, in its halting, magnificent way, life will continue, will continue to delight us, horrify us, wound us, heal us, will continue to hand us every morning the grace of another day.  As a friend of mine always says, “Life just shows up.”  I believe that, in the face of some very serious threats to a great many important things, life will indeed show up.

In her book, For the Time Being, Annie Dillard writes,
“For the world is as glorious as ever, and exalting, but for credibility’s sake let’s start with the bad news.”

And Pilgrim at Tinker Creek declares that,
“. . .  beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.”

I will observe New Year’s Eve as I most often do–alone, in my silent homeWindsor-Manor-5, probably sitting in my old platform rocker with its characteristic groan,





surrounded by photographs of the generations of my family,


my old cat Isaac sleeping nearby,




and I will wash my mind as clean as I can and look at the long road behind and at what I pray will be a long road ahead.  I will think about the many wonders of the year that is almost behind me. The list is long.

I will say what Anne Lamott believes are the only three prayers we need:
“Help me. Thank you. Wow.”

For nearly three years, I have started my day with a long conversation with my cousin, Jane, who lives in Texas.  Our hour on the telephone usually includes reading aloud from the Scriptures or from a book we’ve chosen, news of our large family of cousins, frequently an extended discussion of some idea from what we’ve just read–which can lead to almost anything.  Recently I have developed the habit of talking very early, usually before my call to Jane, with a friend here with whom I read the St. Francis Prayer.  It is a lovely way to begin my day. And, once again, Annie Dillard,

“How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives.”

Which brings me to the subject of this blog, “Ahh-Yoo-Yahh.”

On March 27 of this year I published a blog called “Hallelujah: An Easter Meditation,” in which I told the story of having watched K.D. Lang singing Leonard Cohen’s haunting song, “Hallelujah,” with my grandson since he was just a few months old.  We watched it, first on my laptop, later on the television, every time he came over, usually once or twice a week.

He is now nearly two and when he walks in the door of my co-op, he smiles up at me and says,

The song’s refrain is,
“It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”

It is always cold and it is always broken, but by God, there is always a hallelujah!

Leonard Cohen, one of the many deaths in this death-riddled year, also famously wrote,

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, mostly because of a long history of making them and not keeping them. But I have a New Year’s prayer. I pray that my wound may be deep enough and wide enough to let in an abundance of light, enough light that I can share it and maybe, just maybe, brighten some small corner of someone’s darkness.




With apologies to Katie Andraski for not only not publishing on Monday instead of Sunday but for publishing a day earlier than early!  Katie, just ignore it until Tuesday!






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11 Responses to "“Ahh-Yoo-Yahh”"
  1. Mitzy says:

    Once again , inspirational and helpful. Thank you very much. From the serendipity of great health, the Anne Lamont prayer has to include 4.help my friend.

  2. Kat Varn says:

    Happy New Year, Dean! Can’t wait to break bread with you in April!

  3. Mary Arno says:

    Dear Dean, you have made my New Years Day, the first year we begin as friends. May our friendship & our writing continue for a long, long time & may we always keep in touch, be it near or far. Mary

  4. Honor says:

    Now Dean, you know how hard it is for me to comment! I’m British so the angle from which I observe life is very different and for the most part it is resilient. I never have political beefs as I disbelief all politicians as they are a pack of hyenas or a parade of slugs, sad I have compared such an evolutionary masterpiece with cartoon characters who are badly drawn!

    Leonard Cohen, yes a poet of renown but we all tread that stairway eventually and his words will float with me. We come into this world alone and depart in a flicker. I enjoy my insignificance like a grain of sand, maybe smaller it’s all relative. 🙂 #LLAP

  5. Audra Jean says:

    Happy New Year, Dean!!!
    Thank you for beautiful thoughts with which to start off the new year!
    Thank God, for all those “little Aah-Yoo-Yahhs” that enrich our lives and bless our hearts more than we can possibly express!

  6. Cindi Anstrom says:

    Dean, Thanks for your thoughts and insight. Your ability to communicate with your words in a gift. Looking forward to more!!!!!!!! Cindi

  7. Ellen Lee Bunton says:

    Ironically I felt the urge to say “Bless You” when I first saw the title. And I guess that’s what I CAN say to you for sharing this with us!

  8. Lovely! I particularly like the Anne Lamott prayers (pretty much the way I pray): “Help me. Thank you. Wow.”
    And I didn’t know that Leonard Cohen coined the saying: “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
    Thanks for the fine meditation on a New Year.

  9. Laughing at that last comment. I do like these coming on Monday instead of Sunday because Sunday is where I try to be away from my computer and social media. This was a wonderful encouraging end of the year post. Me too. I hope I can let the light through to others. Our New Year’s Eve was quiet as well. We went to church and Menards and ate leftovers. We watched an interesting documentary on our new Smart TV about whether there is archeological proof for Exodus and I fell asleep before the half hour was up. I woke up about the time fireworks were going off in the neighborhood. Yesterday we played Canasta with our neighbor. She skunked us both. We’d never played before. Well, thank you for this, for the hopefulness of your writing. May your year ahead be full of all good things, and maybe a new book by you for us to read.

  10. Alison Daniels says:

    Somehow your posts always reassure me that all can be right with the world. It is good to be here to welcome in another year, to continue to think and to take pleasure, and to embrace those we care about.

  11. Lisa Wayman says:

    What a beautiful prayer for the new year. It is good to remember that our faults can let light shine through.

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