Inevitability just keeps clacking down the tracks to which we are tied.

Not roaring or bearing down, just clacking along with lackadaisical energy. That’s what makes it feel so ominous. There’s no need for time to rush; your destiny will arrive one day whether you’ve chewed halfway through that leg or not.

And so approached 2014.

As others in my hometown machine-gunned their livers with whiskey bullets, or sank into sofas to mourn Dick Clark with loved ones, I found myself inexplicably standing in Kentucky’s mountains an hour east of here. Orion, knife hanging ready, and his cohorts dazzled in a brief star window – a tear in the gray, feathery sky above me.

It was below freezing. I leaned back against the cold wood of our cabin, sending sweet wisps of gray offering smoke up from my pipe, and strained my neck to watch the show. Just around the corner, a scalding hot tub gurgled with chlorine invitations and promises of a cold run to the shower. A good six-mile hike and a couple of sandstone scrambles sent 2013 away exhausted with a smile, just before 2014 tagged itself into the ring.

When midnight came, I welcomed it warmly. But like Orion, I kept one hand on my knife. It’s too early to tell yet if this newcomer wants to pick a fight or not.

Life is unpredictable. And beautiful.

A terrifying combination. A hungry snake with diamond scales as soft as angel feathers. Ready or not, but a new year has just slithered silently into your happy little space. But not just as a threat; this one came bearing beautiful gifts along with the usual venom.

I have no idea what this new year will entail. And that’s the best part. Even the Himalayan sages are baffled. Hemispheres, time zones, continents – they have fallen in a cascading avalanche of new scars and experiences. This month marks the eight-year anniversary of my new lifestyle.

But for now, the greatest adventures are flying around the room with me. No need to go far. Every ding from the phone gives my heart a jolt. Kisses or deathblows – who knows what change those circuits are delivering?

For years, I would close nearly every blog post with: Life is good. Romantic, but not entirely accurate. Doesn’t quite have the same fuzzy ring, but maybe it should read: Life has the potential to be good, but that depends entirely on how well you can dance with one leg when that Old Train comes rattling along. Will you keep nervously gnawing, or stand defiantly to catch that steel with your chest because these are your tracks?

Make no mistake, life is what you make of it. There is no baseline. It’s all just a jumbled wad of perceptions shoveled as pure snow into our senses and then pissed yellow by our past lessons, ideology, experiences, negativity, biases, and everything else that skews truth into the fiction that we call reality. There’s no doubt: your strawberry tastes different than my strawberry.

But that’s a good thing. Precious life is delivered into your veins objectively. Do you want to collapse as a tired junkie on the crumbling couch, or run like madmen and madwomen gleefully into the night? It may be a little rusted here and there, but this world is our playground.

It’s going to be a good year.

A yellow flower