Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye to 2008

The changing of the year is a man-made construct. I know that. In Steve's and my life, if there is an annual sense of renewal, it comes not now, but in September, at the tag-end of summer after our Nags Head vacation. (That, in turn, is rooted in the universal experience of the school year: the end of vacation, the start of a "new year.") Still, the infrastructure around us that makes life possible--the banks, government--goes through a slow-down/start-up cycle at this time of year, and despite the fact we don't necessarily feel "renewed" when we add the annual digit, we are unavoidably carried along with the tide. So such a time is as good as any to formally say "goodbye" to something, to a time, to the past. My regular visitors know only too well what 2008 was like for me. It was dominated by hopes and fears about our house; indeed, the whole idea of this blog is to document those hopes and fears, and I'm grateful for the space in which to do it, and for your patience in reading about them. Next year promises more of the same. I've said enough about all that.

So here is a farewell song I wrote. It's from 1973, at the end of my time in Boston, where I'd lived a life of contradiction, full of great joy commingled with an equal amount of frustration. I was headed to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to begin a new life as a recruiter for the Peace Corps, and I sang this at my sendoff party.

I had arrived in Boston with the idea of taking the city by storm as a singer-songwriter. I left with new knowledge, hard-won: that I didn't have the ambition required for the stage, and that at the ripe old age of 28, I needed to start everything over, from the ground up, having prepared myself for absolutely no practical occupation in the workaday world. I arrived believing there should be a "life after Peace Corps;" I left returning to the Peace Corps' embrace. It took a period of just over a year for these realizations to sink in. During that time, day-to-day living was full of joy because of the people surrounding me, but the over-arching lessons in life were very, very hard.

I've hardly ever sung this song since that party because I never mastered the guitar part to my satisfaction. It has great vocal leaps that I also never mastered because I never practiced it enough--because of the guitar problem. But I love the sentiment in it and it stands for any goodbye time, including a goodbye to 2008. It's in three-quarter time, if that helps you imagine it.

The Music Goes On

One more walk down the road,
One more tear, one more load.
One more page to be turned,
New lives and loves, with new ways to be learned.
So let's all have one more toast to the past;
One more hand for the cast.
And then I'll be gone with the break of day;
When more has played out, we'll find the way back to each other.
The music goes on.

I'm not perfect, I know.
Now too fast, now too slow.
But love has filled all I've done,
And I know this time, I've lost much less than I've won.
I know they say, "Out of sight, out of mind."
But I hope you know that I was never that kind.
I'll take all that comes, I'm bound to explore,
I'll fly to the moon and maybe much more, and you'll still be with me.
The music goes on.

So bring out the bottles and empty the jars,
For I know right now, wherever we are, we'll still hear the laughter.
The music goes on.

See you in 2009. Have a good and safe time tonight.


Zoey and Me said...

I'm hooked on the tide you speak of and have been all my life. I can remember 2000 being a watershed year for me because I made a huge amount of money in my business and we had an even better 2001. But now? 2008 was a total mix of emotions starting with my daughter getting married in February, to balance that out I had horrible surgery in August, then we lost all our money investments when the stock market crashed. Should've known anything Bush touches turns to crappola. Then campaigning for Obama was refreshing because it gave all the kids on my block hope. Hope is what I will feel going into 09. I really don't know in my lifetime of a worst year for family and friends than 2008. So I'll hoist a few for all my blogger buddies then start focusing on the Inauguration. You have a good one too!

Ralph said...

You've said it all, my dear friend Z&M. For most of us the past 12 months will not stand out as the best time of our lives. And yes, hope is often what keeps us going. Without it, there's not much else.
So: let's raise a glass to hope!

Linda - SE PA said...

A great commentary as well as perfect words to ponder as we close out 2008.

When Classmates started up and I caught up with those I hadn't seen or heard from in "umpteen" years, I often described my life as "ordinary but with some extraordinary moments". This comes to mind as I reflect on 2008 - that there was so much discontent but we did have a few extraordinary moments. Yes, all are fleeting but there to reapture in memory and heart and I sense we all had personal extraordinary moments!

With this in mind, I celebrate to you Ralph & Steve in closing out 2008 - holding on the ordinary/extraordinary - and opening the window for 2009! as well as to all the readers who come daily for a dose of Days of Transition (so aptly named)

Ralph said...

My best to you, Linda. I've so appreciated your friendship this year. You use the word, "fleeting." It's all fleeting, the good, the bad--life itself. And it's all a mix of good and bad, there's a smile to be had in the midst of the worst of it, and the good, the bad and the "best" and "worst" are all happening simultaneously all over the globe. Savor the best, survive the worst. They all make us who we are.

Nan said...

Great song, Ralph! I would love to hear you sing that! In fact when I first started reading, I thought maybe you had included the mp3! Happy New Year - another year of transition.

Ralph said...

Sorry, Nan. I should have said I never even recorded it. Maybe someday.

Kat said...

My Dear Ralph,
I wish you the best this New Year. May all you hope, happen. May all you dream, come true.

My love to you and Steve.

Mim said...

Happy New Year Ahead Ralph.
And beautiful words and the song is just about right, minus you singing it. Maybe next time?
And yes I wait to read more of your housing joys and sorrows.
Here's to 2009.

Mark said...

Happy New Year, Ralph and Steve!

All the best for a great '09!

Anonymous said...


Your summary of 2008 was perfect! I've also lived a life of contradictions and am ready to move in a clearer direction. The song will be with me for a while. Be well.

Ralph said...

My dear anonymous friend, I'm so happy my scribblings resonate with you. This kind of feedback is the most gratifying to receive. Thanks.

Ralph said...

Mim, great to hear from you. 2008 ended rough for you--I wish you the best in the new year. Just about everybody I know is saying "good riddance" to 2008! Thanks for your friendship.

Ralph said...

Thanks, Kathy. We'll hold you to that visit! The blue room will be waiting for you.

Cuidado said...

I didn't know that '08 was bad for so many others. I'm happy to say goodbye to it. One good thing is that I became acquainted with you through Kat at the beginning of the year. Yes, some good things happened. Best to you and Steve in '09

Cuidado said...

By the way, Ralph, I thought the song you wrote was terrific. I'd love to hear you singing it too. This could be your chance....

Ralph said...

Thanks, Cuidado. I never recorded the song, unfortunately. I must be able to record mp3s on this computer but I don't know how. A project...

By the way, do you still have the email account in this name (Cuidado) at gmail? Check it--I sent you a surprise.