Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on,
with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
- Hal Borland
Yesterday morning I drove up the 101 to Camarillo, a pretty suburb tucked between the Santa Susana and Santa Monica Mountains at the south end of Ventura County. The weather was absolutely beautiful, clear and bright with a gusty wind that blew puffy clouds across the sky and encouraged the hawks to dip and glide playfully through the valleys. Though it was cold in the shadows, the sun was warm and the air smelled faintly of sweet grass and woodsmoke.
It was the kind of day that would make my friend Travis take a deep breath, tip his face up to the sun, and say with eyes closed "Damn, you've gotta love California in January."
It was the perfect day for his funeral.
If a man's worth is measured by the number of his mourners, then Travis was a rich man indeed. So many showed up that the funeral home had to open a second room and still there were people crowded silently together in the aisles and hallways. Several of us mused at one point that there must not have been any television happening in Los Angeles yesterday; the entire industry seemed to be in Camarillo.
Death at the end of a life fully lived is sad certainly, but death in the midst of life is a tragedy in the truest sense; there are no words of comfort for the loss of a man whose thread was so brutally and unexpectedly cut short.
As I sat with my head bowed at the end of the service, listening to the rabbi saying Kaddish, I let my mind wander through my memories of Travis. No one was better at living life, at being absolutely present to all of its joys and sorrows, than Travis - his light was so bright, and it warmed everyone who crossed his path. When I looked up from my reverie, I could almost picture him standing at the back of the room, eyes twinkling as he waited for the appropriate moment to gesture for all of us to go out, have a drink, and share some good-natured laughs at his expense.
I will miss his joie de vivre so much.
Driving home, I got to thinking about my own life and what I want from it. The New Year is traditionally the time to examine daily life and make changes, but I let my mind embrace more abstract ideas as I drove. Instead of evaluating myself in terms of list and accomplishments, I focused on what type of life I'd like to lead, how I want things to feel. The comfort of my home, the satisfaction of good work done well, the peace and joy of friendship and family, the exhilaration of adventure. These are the things towards which I will strive in 2009.
To that end this New Year I'm doing away with resolutions, carefully worded statements of inspiration, and lists of goals (yes even my latest 101 in 1001 is finished).
In 2009, my intention is simply to fill every corner of my being with pure, unadulterated LIFE.
In honor of Travis.
In honor of myself.