I’m always intrigued by time. We live according to cycles, like the time it takes for the earth to spin on its axis, the time that it takes the moon to rotate around the earth or for the earth to rotate around the sun. We make calendars and set our watches according to these cycles, even though none of the natural cycles is exactly a day, month, or year.
Starting a new cycle around the sun has special significance, and it is a time for us to reflect on our lives, the world around us, and to make resolutions that we hope will make us better people. If we lived on Jupiter, we’d only do this about every 12 years. There must be many planets cycling other stars in other galaxies that would take far longer than a human lifetime to complete one rotation.
But we live on earth and rotate around our sun, which takes 365.256 days according to Wikipedia. I met my wife Katherine for the first time at a New Year’s Eve party 35 years ago, so I’m glad that we don’t live on planet that would take too long to have a New Year’s celebration! A year seems like a good period of time to reflect about the past and articulate our aspirations for the future.
I’ve had a relaxing vacation, in part because it rained so much that it was hard to do anything “productive”. I listened to a lot of great music on my record player, got a lot of exercise, ate a lot of great food, spent some nice quiet time with my wife, and celebrated our 35th joint New Year’s Eve last night. I read some good stories, and have fallen in love with Flannery O’Conner, a wonderful Georgia writer. I worked in my leather shop and started on some new bike bags.
But I knew the vacation worked when I got out my pencils and drawing paper. I love to draw, but I seem to never have time to do it. It is relaxing, but the best part for me is that it makes me see everything differently. I see shapes and colors and lines and textures that I never pay attention to when I’m not drawing. It is somehow like exercise and meditation for the eyes and brain. Even though I was an Art major before switching to Chemistry as an undergrad, I’ve never been a great drawer, but it gets better with practice. I’m also not a great runner, but I can go farther and faster with practice…
When I’m drawing, I often think that it is very similar to scientific research. Richard Feynman once said that science was like being on a huge chess board and trying to figure out the rules by watching small little parts of the action. First, you think that every move is just one step forward until you realize that there are pieces other than pawns. The process of imagining a drawing, figuring out where to start on a blank page, getting proportions right, messing up, erasing, etc are all similar to steps in scientific research. What problem should we work on? How do we start? What is important and what isn’t? How can we see what we’re trying to figure out? What do we do when we make a mistake? How can we minimize mistakes or turn them into new opportunities?
So my New Year’s resolution is to keep on drawing. I know that I’ll soon run out of time, but maybe I can keep the momentum going to continue doing short sketches every few days. If not, it’s a good thing that we live on earth, because it will only be a year before I can try again…
Happy New Year!