“Existence is a series of footnotes to a vast, obscure, unfinished masterpiece.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov
While celebration of the new year is often characterized by party hats, fireworks, champagne, dancing, and singing Auld Lang Syne with loved ones, it is also a time for reflection. Many look upon their mistakes and accomplishments, losses and gains, and other significant events of the past year, and seek ways to make the year to come even better. New Year’s resolutions come to mind, and we at Magic-Flight are no exception to this annual tradition, learning from and letting go of the past, making plans for improvement, and looking forward with hope for happier, more fruitful lives.
This idea of the new year symbolizing a new beginning is common throughout many cultures around the world. Most Western cultures follow the Gregorian calendar, the first month of which being January, derived from the Roman deity Janus, the god of change and beginnings. In transitioning from one year to the next, Janus symbolized looking back on the old and ahead to the new. While the Mayan calendar is different, their celebration of the new year is quite similar, as they ritually purge old belongings, such as pottery and mats, and buy themselves new clothes and household amenities. Much like we do, Mayans hold intimate festivities with family and friends, dancing in the new year, showing gratitude for past experiences, and sharing optimism for new ones.
Even ancient cultures shared this same view toward new beginnings. Ancient, Pre-Christian Celts would celebrate their new year on Samhain, which is still celebrated by many today. This holiday, however, falls between October 31st and November 1st, and marks the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter. During this time, cattle were brought in from summer pastures, livestock were slaughtered, and preparations were made for the long winter months ahead. Believed to have cleansing and protective powers, bonfires were lit and rituals were held to commemorate the process of moving toward a safe and prosperous future. Ancient Egyptian cultures celebrated their new year in mid-July, associated with the annual flooding of the Nile River, which assured fertility for farmlands in the year to come. Their celebration was called Wepet Renpet, meaning “opening of the year”. This was a festival for rebirth and rejuvenation, featuring religious rites, lavish feasts, music, sex, dancing, and excessive amounts of alcohol. Even thousands of years later, it seems some things never change.
In the spirit of reflecting on the past and letting go of what is lost, we at Magic-Flight are reminded of how humanity may have had a hand in such losses. While it is unhealthy to dwell on what cannot be fixed, it is still incredibly important to learn from our mistakes and make efforts toward avoiding them in the future. Thus, in this new year of new beginnings, we would like to take a moment and recognize some of the great losses nature has experienced at humanity’s hand, namely, certain species that have gone extinct. Roughly one thousand species have gone extinct in the last five hundred years, several of which have been related to human behavior, including the dodo bird, the Tasmanian tiger, the passenger pigeon, and the great auk. Each of these animals were either hunted by man for food or sport, or suffered as their habitats were destroyed by human settlements.
Even though these lost species can never be brought back, there are hundreds of other endangered species, plants and animals alike, that still have a chance at survival with humanity’s help. Thankfully, there are several organizations that strive to preserve these species. Generally, Magic-Flight is no exception. We take great care in only using sustainable materials when creating our products, and avidly avoiding the use of endangered woods. Thus is the premise of the dilemma we experienced with our new batch of Zebrawood Launch Boxes.
The story of the Zebrawood Launch Box began when a plank of beautiful exotic wood was found tucked away in our founder’s shop. It had been there for years, and naturally, the desire to create something beautiful with it was not far-fetched. Once this single batch of exquisite boxes had been produced, we were shocked and saddened to find that Zebrawood is now on the list of endangered species. What could we do? Torn between the desire to showcase this new product and our resolve to be environmentally responsible, we decided to shelve the batch until a solution could be found. Months later, diligent research led us to Eden Forest, a Vermont-based organization dedicated to preserving precious forests and wildlife, including Zebrawood trees. After careful consideration, we came to the following solution to our dilemma: a one-time-only release of this single batch of Zebrawood Launch Boxes, with a percentage of the proceeds going to Eden Forest. In addition, we ask that you to visit https://www.tpl.org/our-work/land-and-water/eden-forest to learn more about this wonderful organization.
We can’t change the past, but we can help improve the future. We grieve losses and learn from mistakes. We take what we have learned and work toward improvement of both ourselves and our environment. Moving forward into 2015, we at Magic-Flight encourage you to do the same. Deforestation is a major environmental concern, and it is very fortunate that there are organizations such as Eden Forest to help replenish nature’s treasures. By enjoying one of our limited-edition Zebrawood Launch Boxes, you too can be part of the solution.