New Year’s at the Tsubaki Shrine

It was another raucous New Year’s in Seattle. I made new friends, tried new drinks and made a complete ass of myself on the new Microsoft Kinect. After we had convalesced from hang-overs and sleep deprivation, my friends and  I decided on a change of pace. The Tsubaki Shinto Shrine in Everett was hosting its yearly New Year ceremonies for the year of the Rabbit. Sara and I hadn’t been to one of these Shrines since our trip to Japan, so we were curious to experience one without the jet-lag!

It was sunny when we set out to find the shrine, but as we drove into the small forest, where it was located, it was like a Yuki-onna(Snow Woman) had descended on the place. Cars were having trouble with the parking because of the ice. Icicles hung down from the well where we were supposed to wash our hands before entering the shrine. Luckily, the volunteers had set up a bonfire for us.

We registered for the ceremony and bought a few Omamori charms at the gift shop. The ceremonies were being held once every 45 minutes, so we waited on the second floor of the shrine and had tea. When it was time, we were led into a large room with an elaborate shrine at the front containing offerings of food and drink. There were chairs to sit on, but I decided to be a trooper and kneel at the front. A drum sounded, and the priest came out. He gave us instructions for when to bow in English and in Japanese. He waved a wand called an Onusa and chanted the prayers with a solemn sing-song tone and cadence. He called out the names of those attending and blessed them. When he was finished, he gave a short sermon about the 2011, the Year of the Rabbit. It is to be a year of great change. We shouldn’t necessarily accept things as they are, but to use our energy to create a new world from the old. We should also make these changes from a place of thankfulness, not negativity and pessimism.

Maybe I was caught up in the pageantry of the whole thing, but that priest’s sermon sort of felt right. I do want to create a new reality for myself, my friends and my family. I want to take a good hard look at what I’m doing, and if it doesn’t reflect my goals or values, I have to change it. My first order of business is to get re-acquainted…with everyone. I know my success doesn’t just come from my own work. The community decides. Customers, colleagues, friends, or people just watching your story develop are part of the same tapestry. If I want their approval, I’m going to have to listen to what moves them, what excites them, even what scares them, and try to help where I can. This year’s going to be full of crazy money making schemes and fierce conversations. Every week’s going to have a story, a product, or at least something that I can present to the world. I want this to be the year that I will make happen, but I want to have everyone else on the ride with me.

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