The digitally simulated church-bell chimes of the alarm clock called me into consciousness. Dawn had not yet broken on the new year; hangovers were yet to befall those who sentenced themselves to the gallows the night before; resolutions, per Mark Twain, were yet to pave hell.
Instead of lapsing into snooze mode, I groggily poked for the power button to silence the tolling (it took a couple tries), then mustered a burst of energy and set foot to the frigid hardwood floor. “A new heart for a New Year, always!” exclaims Trotty, the gloomy, old messenger who has a spiritual awakening (or does he?) in Charles Dickens’s short tale The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In. I had just finished The Chimes, one of Dickens’s so-called “Christmas books,” a couple nights prior and its message still rang in my head.
Unlike Trotty, and many human beings, the dogs need no motivational cues to embrace the year. Or day. Or second. They are always ready, always in the moment. A trait of Trotty’s that draws the ire of the goblins who tend the titular chimes is that he yearns for an idealized time that never truly existed instead of endeavoring in the present to create a brighter future.
The first day of 2016 was a lot like the last day of 2015, only colder. In the city, temperatures struggled to reach double digits. As we drove west, the car thermometer’s numbers ticked ever lower and eventually added a negative sign.
The dry, subzero air hurt to breathe as the dogs and I trekked through a few inches of powdery snow up a broad, tree-dotted hill in central Colorado’s Pike National Forest. But the sun soon cracked the horizon and warmed everything in its path. I paused and perched gargoyle-like on a sun-baked boulder as the dogs lolled in the snow below. I pictured the bell-tower goblins of The Chimes and pondered the message they impart to Trotty, to us all:
“The voice of Time,” said the Phantom, “cries to man, Advance! Time is for his advancement and improvement; for his greater worth, his greater happiness, his better life; his progress onward to that goal within its knowledge and its view, and set there, in the period when Time and He began. Ages of darkness, wickedness, and violence have come and gone—millions uncountable, have suffered, lived, and died—to point the way before him. Who seeks to turn him back, or stay him on his course, arrests a mighty engine which will strike the meddler dead; and be the fiercer and the wilder, ever, for its momentary check!”