Out with the old, in with the … old?

My Editor’s Note from the 1/6/2011 Gazette:

I’ve always loved the feeling of potentiality that a new year holds. It’s a time to reflect back, to move forward, and, of course, to bolster one’s courage with a glut of delicious seasonal foods and drinks. There are as many ways of ringing in a new year as there are people in this world, but no matter where you go, it seems, New Year’s is recognized as time for repast and reflection in equal measure.

The Japanese eat foods thought to promote health, happiness and prosperity, and consent to cast off old grudges. Brazilians eat lentils – whose shape is reminiscent of a coin – to ensure good fortune. When the clock strikes midnight in Spain, people eat 12 grapes – one for each toll – to bring them good luck.

Here in the U.S., a fresh year is often heralded by the forging of new year’s resolutions. I have to admit I’m addicted to the things myself, and not because I’ve ever managed to achieve all (or even the majority) of the goals I cook up each January, but because they are a good way to take stock of who I was when the year began and who I am as it ends.

For me, each new year begins with the purging of my bulletin board. It is an act that demands the willingness to reflect and the ability to let go both at once as I sort through the thick layers of scraps and clippings. As I set out to accomplish this New Year’s task last week, I came upon a list of resolutions I’d made at the start of 2010. There beneath the mess of receipts, postcards and fortune cookie stubs hung an optimism-fueled scorecard of all my best hopes for the 12 months just finished. I decided to tally up the final count.

Some progress had been made: I was drinking more water, I’d definitely cut back on the fretting and was finishing a greater ratio of the books I started. Others, not so much: I’d failed to make headway on at least half of the 10 or so resolutions, So back to the drawing board.

New Year’s is a time for fresh starts, certainly, but it’s also a time for restarts, and detours, and sometimes even the occasional backtrack. It’s a time to ponder what worked, what didn’t, and to plot a revised course forward.

Sitting down once a year and vowing to improve oneself is all well and good, but perhaps we’d all do better to incorporate such thinking into our regular routines, as the following two local organizations prove.

The Haystack Gallery, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last Christmas Eve, has thrived on a commitment to constant reassessment. Knowing what to change – and what to keep exactly the same – has helped the business to retain customers and weather countless changes, says owner Patty Coomes. For more on how the gallery has incorporated adaptability into its growth strategy in the Digital Age, see the front page.

Change is also afoot for the Cannon Beach Community Food Systems’ Backpack Program, which is starting out 2011 with an unexpected windfall of $5,000. As time passes, growing smarter is just as important as growing bigger, insists Program Coordinator Marty Schwab Harris, and she and her team have a few big ideas for doing both successfully in the months ahead. To read more about the program’s plans for its newly fattened cofferes, see pg. 7.

As 2011 begins, The Gazette is also rolling out a few changes. We’re re-imagining the look and feel of the paper with an eye for usefulness and user friendliness. To start, we’ve combined our event listings into one easier-to-peruse calendar, Coast Happenings, which features an expanded listing of events up and down the North Coast. And in coming issues, we’ll also be introducing new design elements and running more and bigger photos.

As for me, I’ve dumped that mass of papers accumulated in 2010 into the recycle bin and have vowed to make good on a few brand new resolutions. But not quite yet.

There is something so satisfying about the sight of my now-naked bulletin board. All that empty space to fill. All that possibility.

But it’s better not to get too hung up on the premise of a clean slate, I guess. The past is rife with lessons and caveats, and keeping it close at hand is enormously helpful when you get to looking ahead.

If you have to grow older, you might as well grow a little wiser while youre at it, right?

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