In the beginning

Ed Smith
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Till ringing, singing on its way

the Earth revolved from night to day,

a voice, a chime, a chant sublime

of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

It seems appropriate to begin a New Year’s column with these lines.

In most modern renditions of that Longfellow carol (“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”) from which I’ve been quoting in the last two columns, this is the last verse.

After the desperate cry of despair in an earlier verse, “hate is strong and mocks the song/of peace on earth, goodwill to men,” comes the ringing affirmation that “the wrong shall fail, the right prevail” and the song of “peace on earth, goodwill to men” will continue to be heard around the world.

Lord knows we’ve seen enough of hate and wrong from Connecticut to Syria, from Palestine to North Korea. No matter how cynical and empty those last two weeks of 2012 have left us, that “chant sublime” can somehow lift us to another level of believing that all is not lost.

And so we come to 2013.

This year has already proven its toughness in that it wasn’t even supposed to be here at all. Maybe it isn’t, and maybe you’re not reading this because we all went out in a blaze of glory on Dec. 21. That wouldn’t be a good start to 2013 at all.

No one knows, of course, what else will come to test it in its 12 month, 52 week, and 365 1/4 day life. Perhaps those figures would mean more to us if we measured them in heart beats, which in 2013 for the average Joe and/or Josephine will probably be well over eight million times — if you’re lucky and keep yourself in good health.

As the doctor said to the overweight patient, “What would fit into your daily schedule best, one hour a day exercise, or 24 hours a day?”

The U.S, Biological Survey people sent out a list of all those things that could have happened to you on Dec. 21. They cover everything from earthquakes to tidal waves to magnetic storms to volcanoes to floods to landslides and 100 more in between.

We’ve got to be hit by one of them. The law of averages demands it. Just don’t hold me responsible because I said it. I’m no Nostradamus, although that’s how he became famous as a prophet. He prophesied so much that some of it would have happened anyway.

Those U.S. Surveys are not reliable. The Washington Biological Survey society once banded some crows in an effort to trace their movements from one state to another. The bands were printed with “Wash Biol Surv,” together with their email address. Sometime later they got a letter from an irate farmer.

“Dear Sirs, I want you to know that I shot one of your crows. I washed it, boiled it and served it. The family said it still tasted awful. I do not think you should be misleading people this way.”

So what would you rather I prognosticate about, you personally or the world at large? I can tell you right now what’s going to happen to you in the short term.

You’re going to eat too much and die happy. Or you’re going to drink too much and die happy.

Or you’re going to fool around too much on the waterbed and die happy. Of course, you can eat less, drink less and indulge in sex less and live a lot longer, much less happy life. It’s up to you.. Hell of a choice, isn’t it?

Said the patient to the doctor: “If I don’t smoke, drink or fool around with women, will I live longer?”

Replied the doctor: “Not necessarily, but it will seem like it.”

I know you’ve heard that joke before, but I thought I’d include it for those who are humour deprived and may have missed it. Besides, it’s not a joke to some of us.

The worst thing for 2013 for me is that three parts of the way through it, I’m going to be another year older. I want to say I’m already old enough, and I’m blaming 2013 for making me older still.

The older you get the more memories you’re supposed to accumulate. The problem is that the older you get, the more you forget the memories you’re supposed to have. You may want to reread the last two sentences. They make perfect sense to me.

It always seems strange to me when I was a child, and even now, that somehow everything seems to change after New Year’s. Perhaps it was and is all the emphasis on a new beginning with the new year stretching out in front of you, “like a field of new snow with nary a footprint on it.”

How often do you hear that simile? Actually, it was likened to a brand-new page in your scribbler, the one you got in your stocking.

But the effect was the same. You could actually feel the meaning of the words: “older things are passed away” — the words of Tennyson in my Grade 11 literature book used to speak to me at that time — “the old order changes, yielding place to new”. I know, I was a weird kid.

Even the girls looked different, for Pete’s sake.

They looked older, more mature. It was as if the beginning of the year had slip-slided away as if in an earthquake, so that the end of the road you had just travelled didn’t exactly line up with the road you were expected to take now.

In order to take the new route, you had to change direction abruptly, and make a bit of a leap.

I don’t know if that makes any sense to you. I just hope 2013 is good to all of us.

Even more, I hope we are all good to each other.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in

Springdale.  His email address is

Organizations: Washington Biological Survey society

Geographic location: Connecticut, Syria, Palestine North Korea

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Recent comments

  • RJ
    January 02, 2013 - 15:36

    You "Ed" live in a area where the biggest news is if Main St. @ Little Bay rd. should have a traffic Living in St. John's ...gulp...A new tourism Nfld ad should most def include Green Bay as a place to visit. Last yr here has been a banner yr for crime...a small city less then 200,000 but with the highest rise of all major cities in Canada. As an author you should blow ur horn and pat ur back to promote ur area :)