PANAMA CITY BEACH — There were no parties for us on New Year’s Eve. No hats or noise-makers. No champagne in plastic flutes.
Instead, after a day at our jobs, we worked on settling into our new home. Unpacking boxes. Rearranging furniture. Mounting bookshelves to walls. Unpacking more boxes.
In the late afternoon, I pulled weeds from the yard and trimmed hedges (until I cut my extension cord with the trimmer, resulting in an unexpected bit of fireworks). In the evening, we took the family to a local restaurant, stopped by a bookstore, then back home to watch a movie.
Not the most exciting of itineraries, granted. We talked about heading to Pier Park for the big event, but hadn’t the energy remaining. At least we were all together.
We saw a fox loitering near the treeline when we returned home. Our headlights spooked it, and it disappeared silently into the night. Since moving in, we had seen deer and ’possums in the neighborhood; they were to be expected. But it was a nice surprise to glimpse the fox.
I thought about the stories of Native American tribes that believed foxes had healing powers — or like Prometheus, had given humans fire.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that, at midnight, we stood on the front balcony of the house and took in the spectacle of fireworks visible through the treetops to the southeast. Schooners, I suggested, though it might have originated someplace else entirely. Perhaps the fox was celebrating, setting fire to the sky.
The haze of clouds overhead glowed red, and rumbles like thunder rolled over us, frightening our dogs. Someone at a nearby house, invisible behind the treeline, launched sparkling rockets as well.
At last, the haze broke and bright stars glimmered. I hoped it was an omen of clarity and promise in the new year; that, like the fox, it foreshadowed an awakening.
Before bedding down, I took the dogs for a walk and looked for shooting stars and wild animals, but all the starbursts seen that night were man-made and already had ended, and all the wild animals had gone elsewhere.
New Year’s morning, the work again awaited us. Laundry and dishes to do. Sweeping up. Cutting a pet door. Errands to run, groceries to purchase. More boxes to unpack.
But there was a quiet in the atmosphere, as if the fireworks of the night before had burned all the energy from the world. The air felt close, like a hug, like a friendly reminder to slow down.
During a morning walk, hearing the waters of St. Andrew Bay churning just down the hill and through the woods — it seemed to be whispering, “Hush.”
It’s a new year. Take a moment to listen.