30 Dec 2013

All this newness: happy 2014

My great-nephew Harri celebrated his first Christmas this year. He's five months of concentrated cuteness now and I'm sure he enjoyed the glitter and rustle, the cwtches and kisses. But he won't remember the event.

I've always imagined that it would be neural overload for babies and toddlers to remember all, or even some, of their new experiences, their first times. How could we possibly process so much novelty at such a rapid pace: the sounds and sights, the sensory explosions of tastes and textures that build to create a world we begin to catalogue and recognise? But I've recently discovered that we do retain all those individual fragments of information: it's just that our brains don't develop the ability to bundle all those fragments together and create memories before the age of between two and four. 

Harri still has a lot of 'first times' to come and even though he won't remember them his parents will, their hearts beating out such joy and delight they never thought possible until his arrival in the world.

We don't lose the experience of 'first times' as we get older. But it's easy perhaps to lose, or dilute, our spontaneous responses. So maybe the cusp of a new year is an opportune time to remind ourselves to express joy and delight and surprise when they manifest in our lives.

This was sunrise on the wall of my writing room earlier this year. 


The reason for this experience being a 'first time', for me not noticing it before, was more to do with time than not appreciating the golden light. Are there really two four o'clocks in one day?! Insomnia has its good sides. 

And this. The whole of the new apple orchard festooned with spider webs one morning. Has it been happening the whole of my life but I had to wait 55 years to experience it? If so, it was more than worth it.


Sometimes I have to look at photographs like this to remind me of the newness in the world. The downsides of living - ill-health, grief, anxiety - can get in the way of being open to joy. But each day is new. A whole 24 hours of never lived before-ness. Each hour even. Each minute. 

Harri might not know this. But his eyes are wide open, his face lit with a smile or creased with a frown. Hello world, he says even before the beginning of words. 

Hello 2014. Show us what you've got.