01/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

New Year/New World

Christmas and New Year are too close together. It's too much. You can pretty much sleepwalk through the rest of the year ("I can't believe it's already April. Where did the time go?"), but these end-of-year holidays, especially for a writer who sees everything as metaphor, freight even the simplest interaction. At Christmas I char the fried onions on top of the green bean casserole and instantly view their smoking remains as a symbol of the state of my career/life/inner being.

Perhaps the holidays was not the best time to start reading Cormac McCarthy's The Road , the tale of a constantly shivering and starving to death father and son wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape on the run from rampaging bands of steel-pipe-wielding cannibals.

Some days I feel that McCarthy's reality won't be all that far off the mark. The avalanche of bad news daily is profoundly unsettling. And yet other days I'm hopeful that Obama & Co. will turn this Poseidon back into the Mayflower and America will bloom again. I look around and wonder where I can lend a hand, or a shoulder, to hasten the coming renaissance.

I guess the important thing to remember is that no matter what the near future holds, that too will change. Krugman guesses the recession will start receding in about 18 months and he's been pretty reliable in the past. That is certainly some comfort. Sometimes, in the middle of a particularly persistent rain, it's hard to remember that the sun's gonna come out again. In Zen Buddhism this concept is known as "impermanence." In the words of Joni Mitchell, "Nothing lasts for long." Or according to Nina Simone, "Everything must change."

Whatever happens in 2009, it ain't gonna be boring.