New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday; it is secular yet fueled with spirit and symbolism that border on the religious, its excesses, at best, a Bacchanal. It celebrates what a popular book calls, in its title, “The Power of Now”. At New Year’s, we rejoice in the very instant of transition, the minute of moving forward--some of us at full tilt.
In my writing, I draw many particular turns of phrase from the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. From the Penitential Order, Rite I of the Episcopal Church, I now wish to tease out the words, “the things we have done and those we have left undone.”
Sixteen years ago, on the eve of the millennium, I wrote an essay for the former magazine Nest: a Quarterly of Interiors. In it I also cited a passage from the BCP, a eucharistic prayer for the dead. In an Eternal Return, here I am again, no wiser but definitely saner, still trying to reconcile my mistrust of religious orthodoxy with my love for the language which proclaims it.
This phrase of the Mass is uttered in the context of confession and pardon, sin and redemption. But in anticipating New Year’s Eve, and thinking back over the past year, I can apply it in a happier sense. Done and undone refer to what we have achieved and what we have, perhaps, left unfinished but in 2016 will return to; or to what, in our dreams, we aspire to and may--this year!--grasp like the brass ring.
Done and undone also connote interiors, rooms as high art, decorated by a designer privileged to use every means possible to realize an artistic vision. Other rooms are done so apparently simply as to seem undesigned. They are, above all, lived in, yet not without artistic intent. Gradually their inhabitants assemble, with the designer’s eye if not her resources, the elements which compose a place of interest.
In the interior shown here, an apartment on East 11th Street, several arrangements create an uncommon aura. We feel this place, empty of people, is waiting for them to arrive, waiting for the moment when they drink wine in the glasses seen here in serried ranks. This room is all anticipation.
The generous, boxy armchair is sheathed in fragments of kilim rugs; the two collages above it, by the aptly-named artist Matt Smoak, are actually composed of hundreds of cigarette butts which have not lost their aroma. Books and busts, a bronze lamp and a crustacean claw: these deciduous things make up the aspirations of this interior, thoughtfully, beautifully undone.
Done and undone: speaking personally about the past year, the words refer to my writing. Ghostwriting, website texts, magazine articles, above all the launch, on December 23rd, of BOOK AND ROOM: these things were done. But 2015 was also my year of writing dangerously, working on a TMI memoir which remains unfinished. Recently I began again slowly to weave its pieces together. That undone book is my redemption and brass ring, still way over my head.
2016 should be the year in which we think consciously about what we do and undo. Done or undone, our home is the incubator of our work, our relationships and our hopes. In it, let us ring in the New Year, with excess or its opposite, celebrating the eternal hourglass, turned once more.