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Library Happenings – Waiting to see if new year is annus horribilus or mirabilis (Dec. 30, 2015 issue)

In a speech she delivered twenty-three years ago, Queen Elizabeth II characterized 1992 as an annus horribilus–a horrible year. The marriages of three of her four children were dissolving amid scandal and her residence at Windsor Castle had been heavily damaged by fire. It was about to get worse. Starting the following year, the monarch was going to have to pay income tax and capital gains taxes!
Latin may be a dying language, but it is not buried yet Annus horribilus had crept into English, and it has stayed with us. When my son recently recapped the 2015 that my grandson has endured, I realized that he has had his own annus horribilus. I think we all have them, but on the opposite side of that coin is the annus mirabilis, the year of miracles. A lot depends on our point of view.
The English poet John Dryden entitled his poem about the terrible, yet wonderful events of 1665 and 1666 “Annus Mirabilis.” Those included several battles, which the British won, and the Great Fire of London, which rampaged through the city for four days but paved the way for modernization in a district that needed it. If you have read “The Diary of Samuel Pepys,” you may recall that the Great Plague of London, which claimed the lives of tens of thousands, occurred during those same two years. The eyewitness account Pepys left vividly describes both of the London disasters.
Geraldine Brooks called her debut novel about the plague and the hysteria it caused in a rural village in 1666 by the alternate English translation “Year of Wonders.” Even during a time of war, disease and destruction, there are blessings to be discerned and opportunities to be seized. Anna, the heroine of “Year of Wonders,” does just that, discovering within herself wells of strength and capabilities she had never suspected she possessed.
Will 2016 be an annus horribilus or an annus mirabilis? Of course, that remains to be seen, but we should remember that we, like Dryden and Brooks, can flip the coin to see the other side. I’ll take heads.
Holiday Closing
The library will be closed on New Year’s Day, Friday, Jan. 1, and will close two hours early, at 4 p.m., on Thursday, Dec. 31. We will, however, be open our usual hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., on Saturday, Jan. 2. No items will be due on the day that we are closed. As usual, you may return books to our drop boxes at any time you find convenient. One is located at the library in Erwin and another at Unicoi’s Town Hall. Please do not deposit DVDs in the book returns since they may be damaged if heavy books fall on them. We thank you for your help and wish you all a safe and Happy New Year!