Calendriers, lapins et la lune

It's new year's eve for those who observe the Julian calendar - and I can't help but find it interesting that from a two-calendar childhood, I have now added yet another one to measure time by.
I got a Chinese new year's card in the mail this week: it is my year, the Year of the Rabbit. To quote this beautiful card that hails from the most magical antiques shop on Hollywood Road in 中環, Hong Kong, which bears a photo of an ivory rabbit figure with giant ears swooping over its back; it's small nose lowered as if to sniff the dark emerald blue backdrop: "The Rabbit is the sign of peace also known for kindness and compassion. Those lucky individuals born under this sign make good teachers [!], counselors, painters or musicians and also very good friends. They love hunting for antiques, arts and crafts and will tend to make sound investments in these types of things."
Much of my childhood energy was spent admiring rabbits (which I only got to see - not counting those tiny albino ones sold from cardboard boxes from beneath flyovers - much later, as a nine-year-old, in an Italian jungle garden: they were these enormous, and to me, slightly frightening creatures, in even bigger cages)... My favourite candy was White Rabbit, and I would always think of the Chinese tale about the rabbit jumping into the moon as I would let the sticky rice paper that covered it dissolve on my tongue. I think what brought that tale to mind was the white, etherealness of the candy.
According to one story, a rabbit, jackal and monkey wanted to do good deeds on the day of the full moon, believing this would bring them rewards and benefit. They encountered an old man who was begging for food, and the monkey gathered fruit to bring to him, but the jackal, being the trickster that it is, brought the man curdled milk and a scorpion. The rabbit, only knowing how to collect grass, threw itself in the fire the man had built, offering its own body, but it did not burn, as the beggar was actually the ruler of heaven. Touched by the rabbit's kindness, he drew a portrait of the rabbit on the moon, for all to see.
There were other stories, wherein the rabbit lived on the moon, pounding the elixir of life for Chang'e, an empress (who, like Eve, ate what she was told not to, and unwittingly took a double dose of the immortality pill, so floated to the moon).
My experience of time from early days was interwoven with stories and concepts. We had so many friends who followed the meaning of each new year (interpreted by those who knew how to read time), that there was always the rush of expectancy: would the year be auspicious or time to keep one's head low? If it was a bad year, one would look for those areas that would be good (if it wasn't the time to make money, perhaps it was a time to make new friends). I remember all of this as if in a dream.
But for now, it is the Julian new year - and the mention of the moon in the title is but reference to my literary wanderings as I consider the past before meeting the future. It is said that by looking to the past, one can turn to stone, or into a pillar of salt, and for many years, I did not want to look back. But there's a line between denial and being stuck in the past. Well, if it's my year, maybe I am on my way to figuring this out. And it started with the phone call to maman, who mentioned my boxes of books at her house. It is not the objects, but what they represent. And the need to tell the stories as part of the process. I used to be enamoured by the idea that our stories are like that string that people in the ancient world would follow in order to find their way out of the labyrinth.
So, if there is a thought about time, it is about becoming "released," and also about the growth of time that we are hopefully earning.

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