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The Month of Starts and Finishes
by Damian Fagan

The cold penetrates through my gloves and hat on this clear January morning. With a single digit low, the weather is perfect if you want the rare pleasure of ice skating in Moab. Though some might rather stay indoors and figure out a New Year’s resolution, I’ll let you in on a little secret: The ice may not be here tomorrow.

For January is the month of starts and finishes. Ice today, slush tomorrow. This opportunity to look back and ahead is one we share with a deity. Janus, the Roman God to whom this time of year of was sacred, is the guardian of portals and patron of beginnings and endings. It is from him that the name Januarius was transformed into the modern January.

Known as the “custodian of the universe”, Janus was represented as a two-faced head on Roman coins. Looking forward and backwards at the same time, he lorded over the first hour of the day, the first day of the year and the first month of the year. He was considered one of the great kings of the Golden Age, who brought peace and prosperity to his people. Janus deserves credit for introducing money into a barter society, organizing the cultivation of crops, and establishing law and order.

For his good deeds, ancient Romans built a temple to Janus with doors facing east and west to mark the start and end of the day. At this temple offerings were made to help with marriages, births, planting of crops – anything that marked a beginning in one’s life. The doors of this temple were left open in times of war, so that the gods could intervene and help the locals. During times of peace, the doors were kept closed.

So as I glide across the ice working on my crossovers, I try to look back at a year that might be best represented by a single word – “dynamic”. But that I mean “in a state of constant flux”, not static like a straight line. Although there were times I wished for that constant flow in work and life, it rarely appeared.

Nelson Mandela once said that, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered”. Some would argue about changes that have taken place in the Moab community, but I try to look farther afield, to the towering cliffs and silent forests that surround the town. Change is a mixed bag and sometimes I have a difficult time accepting these differences. But, like stepping into a flowing stream, it is never the same with each step.

So, with the cliffs lighting up with the morning sky peeking over the La Sals, I try to work up some resolutions that I might actually accomplish in 2006 better known as the Year of the Dog. Go birding more often. Laugh more readily, cry more easily. Visit strange and new places even if they may be just down the street. Learn something new like a foreign language or how to balance my checkbook. Learn to do backward crossovers. Try to fall less while skiing. Write more letters, use less email. Refill my bird feeders more often.

I try to stay away from the more difficult resolutions like losing some weight or getting a job. So as I carve some more turns on the ice, I give a silent nod to this Roman deity for whom the month of January was the highlight of the year, and keep my eyes out for any birds on the wing. Nothing like the present to start in on one of these New Year’s resolutions.








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