A year ago today, a day short of the darkest day of the year, I left my former home and drove up the state to this one. Yesterday I sat down to reflect on this past year, and I created a list of what I've lost, maintained, and gained.
A few hours after making my list, I had dinner at a friend's house. She made a good lentil stew, I brought a salad, and we drank beer and played board games. From the sitting room of her house on the hill, we could see the lights of downtown glimmering in the rain. I had brought, for dessert, one of my favorite wintertime sweets, Gramercy Tavern's Gingerbread. Instead of baking it in a big bundt pan, I had baked in two loaf pans, so I could bring one loaf for this meal and freeze the second for another time worthy of such a dessert. I served her a piece, and each of her roommates wanted a piece, then she and a roommate wanted a second piece, and I did too. And then the loaf was gone.
It's good, this cake, almost black, spiced with loads of ginger, some cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and a little nutmeg (and I add a pinch of salt, too). The base of oatmeal stout and molasses turns the whole cake moist and rich, and I cut down the white sugar by half so it's not so sweet that all the other flavors can't shine. But it's also something much deeper and older that a simple dessert. Eating gingerbread is eating history, the convoluted and violent intersection of slave and spice trade. It's dark. It's horrible. It's delicious. It was an appropriate capstone to the year I've had.
In the long run, according to both my logical list and the wisdom of my heart, I've come out ahead. Talking to my friend about this the other night, she told me that sometimes she chooses difficulty and darkness in order for the psychological and spiritual payoff. That's not my modus operandi. I didn't choose the darkness of this year, but so much sweetness has come out of it, that now, I wouldn't change it.