January: Look back, and look ahead
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo
The start of a new year can be a great time to pick up a new sport, like nordic skiing. These skiers are at Ole’s touring center in Warren.
At first, it was only once in awhile. Jamie Biggam, now Times Argus assistant sports editor, would ask me periodically to write an “Ask the Expert” column for the sports section. Then I got moved to the outdoors section where Dennis Jensen took seriously his responsibility to mentor one who needed it, and I, the fortunate recipient of his teaching, was bumped up to monthly and then to biweekly.
Now I submit my stories weekly to my editor, Bob Fredette, with whom I share a friendly and funny email association. Along the way I have gained experience, exposure and many friends.
The people I work with are, using one of my favorite words, awesome. In addition to Fredette, there’s Anna Grearson, Jeb Wallace-Brodeur, Ruth Hare, Steve Pappas and John Mitchell. And we are only a very small part of what it takes to publish a newspaper.
There’s YOU. What good would we be if you didn’t read what we write and enjoy the photos taken?
As I walk through my days, I meet more and more of you and value doing so. This is the 216th story that I have sent to press. That’s a lot of Sunday papers. Why is the Rutland Herald/Times Argus Sunday paper still something that readers look forward to each weekend? Perhaps it is the symbolism of that Sunday morning cup of coffee and a leisurely read. At a time when personal and professional lives are stressfully busy with work and commitments, sitting down with the Sunday paper represents a small handhold on tradition and lifestyle. Perhaps it is because this is a local paper that addresses local issues.
Though international and national stories are there for our information, it is the local story with which we can relate. Our neighbors, roads, towns and teams are validated. We read about people we know, we see pictures of places we see and we relate to the problems and joys of others just like us. The sports section has long been recognized as the place to find scores, interviews and stories about Vermont athletes, a place where school teams are as important as Olympic contenders. The outdoors section introduces us to the varied activities that are part of the fabric of life in Vermont. From hunting to fishing, golf to skiing, racing to recreation, health to fitness – well, you just never know what you will find on the outdoor page, but you know it will be there and it will be about the outdoors and it will be about YOU.
No, I am not saying goodbye. At this time of year when the ubiquitous New Year’s Resolution list beckons, I am doing something a little different. I am taking a page from the book of the Roman god Janus after whom January is named. Janus is the god of beginnings and endings, of transitions and of time itself. The two-faced head of Janus often crowns doors and gates with one face looking back and the other looking forward. Is this not what we are doing at this time of year: Looking back over the year that has just passed and looking forward to the year ahead?
An interesting aspect of the Janus head that I recently observed is that each face is the same. One is not looking forward with furrowed brow or looking back frantically as if to say “where has the time gone?” Both faces consider what has gone before and what lies ahead with equivalent composure. I don’t know about you, but I am a firm believer in history. Yes, there is history to be revered, individuals to be honored. There is history made up of dates and wars. There is history made vibrant by inventions and discoveries. The history that intrigues me begins with the development of cultures and communities. What benefits us immediately, however, is our own personal history.
Within the context of the spiral theory of history in which history repeats itself and what came around once will sure do so again, we can look to our own personal history to see what lessons we have learned and what we might do differently. After all, as somebody once said (it is usually attributed to Einstein) “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Within the context of fitness and training, history provides important information of one’s progress. Dedicated efforts result in diminished limitations and increased capabilities. Weakness develops into strengths, skills are acquired and goals are either scored or reached.
Best of all, there is a history of immediate feedback related to one’s dedication, one’s efforts. Become sedentary and our body and health will bottom out. Continue our efforts to exercise, fuel appropriately, live healthfully, and train for our sport or activity of choice and we see positive results over time.
We can look back on interaction with others, the evolution of like-minded individuals enjoying the benefits of community. Bodies and minds are enhanced. Enthusiasm is nourished. Energy multiplies. Confidence, born of experience, gives us a powerful tool upon which to rely. Hike the Long Trail once and you know you can easily make it to the top of Camel’s Hump. Finish a 5k foot race and you are eager to try another. Ride one century, ski one black diamond, hit one home-run or sink a 20-foot putt, and you have the confidence to approach a new or similar challenge in the future.
History allows us to dream, to formulate achievable goals, to make a bucket-list and then to stretch ourselves in pursuit of what we identify as important to us.
May you look back on 2012 and glean from your memories and observations that which will be useful to you as you transition, like Janus, into 2013. Thank you for journeying this far with me and may we all cross the threshold into the new year in good health with vitality and expectations of challenges met and meaningful experiences yet to come.
Happy New Year.