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Praying with Hope for the New Year

Are goodness and blessings beyond our imagining about to burst over the horizon?

Praying with hope for the new year
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I’m a bit of a night owl, especially these days with an elastic pandemic schedule, so I stayed up a little later than usual the other night, tuned into The Godfather (mostly for Nino Rota’s sweeping score) and watched a soft snow cloaking the hills. Finally, I straggled up to bed, Gracie trailing me on the stairs, and slid under the covers. 

But not for long. Suddenly Gracie, who usually sleeps like a sandbag, sprang up from her dog bed with a low, throaty growl and headed for the stairs, paused, then let out a little whine and glanced back at me with an expression that said, “You need to get up, dude.” Gracie never whines.

So I got up and followed her downstairs where she marched to the picture window, ears perked, tail erect. I caught up and stood next to her.

“What’s wrong, Goo?” 

Then I heard it, the sound that had woken her so dramatically—the faint, plaintive yipping of coyotes up on the ridge across the way where Gracie’s gaze was now fixed. She erupted with a little woof.

“Sshh, you’ll wake Julee.”

As if to stifle herself she picked up one of her old ratty toys and held it in her mouth. 

We stood like that for a few moments, watching the snow drift down and listening to the coyotes carry on. If only heaven permitted us to apprehend what our animals are thinking. Was Gracie worried? Excited? Just curious? I ran my fingers through the furrows of her fur and assured her all was well. 

We headed back to bed. But I lay awake for a while remembering another movie I’ve seen a million times, Dr. Zhivago (also with a memorable score, by Maurice Jarre). I thought about the part where Yuri and Lara (Omar Sharif and the luminous Julie Christie) retreat to an abandoned, ice-laden estate in the dead of the stark Russian winter. At night they burn the furniture in the fireplace for heat and can’t ignore the howling of the wolves, portending the fate of their misbegotten love.

Here we are at the beginning of our winter, shrouded in uncertainty. Back in 2020 at this moment, we had virtually no way to imagine what was coming at us, the storm boiling up over the horizon. I am a bit of a disease nerd, so I’d been getting Google alerts for a couple of weeks by then about a mysterious outbreak of a SARS-like illness in Wuhan. That news coming out of China was like the howling of the wolves or the yipping coyotes—warnings in the night of danger on our doorstep. But we didn’t really know. We couldn’t see the future.  

We don’t know it now. Yet I believe, I hope and pray, that this moment is 2020 in reverse. That goodness and blessings beyond our imagining are about to burst over the horizon of a new year. That the yipping of the coyotes was just a mountain lullaby, the gentle midnight snow a reminder that we are held in loving hands and all will be well.

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