Happy Holidays

The approach of the end of a another year never seems to lose its power to hold amazement that once again, another cycle has come full turn. Another year has passed, a time to tally up wins and losses has arrived, along with an opportunity to ponder the meaning of it all.

Or not ponder. Sometimes there's a lot be said for not worrying too much about the things we can't control. Among those that we clearly don't is the inevitable passage of time.

We mark time to a degree by endings and beginnings. The arrival of the holiday season, with its messages of hope and goodwill, is tailor-made for reflecting back on what transpired earlier in the year, and how that sets up where we're all going as we plunge forward into a new one.

Some of last year's earnestly made resolutions bit the dust early. Some may have actually survived on into the year long enough to make a difference. And then there's always the look back at where we were one year ago as a nation, a state and a community.

It would not surprise us if President Obama is saying good riddance to 2013. A year that began on a triumphant note of re-election got mired in sticky Washington politics, not entirely of his making. The last six months or so have been particularly striking. We had the revelations made by Edward Snowden abut the extraordinary communications monitoring by the National Security Agency. We had foreign policy crises - especially the Syrian imbroglio which he artfully dodged, if at a price. Then there were the negotiations with Iran about their nuclear ambitions. Then came the government shutdown which made the Republicans look bad, quickly followed by the botched launch of Mr. Obama's signature health care reform's website. Goodbye to all that, Mr. Obama will presumably say to himself as he rests up for a new year while on vacation in Hawaii.

Locally, 2013 has not been a bad one for Manchester and the Mountains, it seems to us. As a community, as an economic center, we are seeing something that approaches an upswing, even if the form it is taking is not always what everyone would want. Jobs are still too hard to find and many aren't the sort that offer the means for a middle-class lifestyle, as that was formerly understood. But it's hard not to feel like something is going right when you see buildings under construction and plans for more are under discussion. Worries and concerns may remain for many as the nature of consumer buying patterns undergoes an historic shift propelled by the arrival of ever-more sophisticated technology. The same technology is also changing the nature of the job market, and the opportunities available (or not) to younger workers and those feeling the pressure to ramp up skills to keep up with being able to earn a decent living.

Earlier this year, we watched with interest the ideas outlined under the Manchester 2020 initiative, which has already led to some useful enhancements to the community, but more remains to be done to fully redeem the excitement and enthusiasm generated during the past Spring. The push-and-pull of reacting to the marketplace, while goading it forward in specific directions to serve public ends, is always a fascinating, and sometimes a confusing process. We'll look to see where that whole enterprise moves and hope for more as 2014 unfolds.

We have much to be optimistic about as Manchester heads into a new year. A new library, which we think will provide another large jolt of excitement when it opens later in 2014, will be another sign of better times. Nothing is certain, but a corner does seem to have turned since the bleak stretch of the past four or five years, when most of the conversation had to do with closing storefronts.

If by this time next year, High Ridge Plaza is back in the mix while new purposes are found for the former Berkshire Bank building on Main Street, and all the forward momentum coming out of this year has sustained itself, then we'll be able to look back on 2014 as being a pretty good year too.

Happy Holidays from all of us here at The Journal.


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