It is now time to prepare for the year of the horse, which begins, according to the Chinese zodiac, on Jan. 31, 2014.
Until then, we will continue to live in a snake year, a time of precise, analytical calculation, careful decisions and silent, secretive, self-serving assertiveness.
For snakes, this has been a fine year. The same goes for the rats of the Chinese zodiac, as well as the dragons. (What year is not fortunate for dragons?)
For certain other signs, it has not gone so well. Some may feel they are living under a curse, not unlike the Crawley family of "Downton Abbey," which, as was revealed in the last episode, is apparently doomed to lose their lady's maids at a moment's notice. (For those who have not yet seen it, I hope I haven't given away too much.)
This has been a year of cards held close to the chest - which is hard to imagine with a snake - of cautious diplomacy and insightful moves. One thinks of a skilled chess player. Also difficult to visualize a snake playing chess, but the snake is inscrutable, and we just have to accept that.
The horse, on the other hand, is open and free-wheeling. There is nothing calculating or enigmatic about the horse.
The snake is gifted with a sixth sense - is in fact the most psychic of the signs - from whence springs his superior insight. Why, then, does the snake seldom act instinctively? This is part of the mystery which the snake encompasses.
Now, the horse, on the other hand, comes right out with whatever comes to mind. Don't fence me in! He tells the many friends who hang out with him. All in good humor, of course. The horse is an energetic, friendly type until you try to throw an English saddle on him and tell him about dressage. Then he becomes a bucking bronco.
As Mary Crawley remarked of her sister in the last episode of "Downton Abbey," "Edith is about as mysterious a bucket." Not that I'm comparing horses to buckets.
In the interests of full disclosure, I will tell the reader right now that I am not perhaps as disinterested in this week's topic as a journalist should be. To use an expression I picked up from Dr. Phil, I have a dog in this fight.
For those who may struggle with the meaning of this saying, as I did for a long time - likewise with the incomprehensible "to throw someone under the bus," another idiomatic regional expression often used by Dr. Phil - as in, "So, you just threw him under the bus. How's that workin' for ya?" - to have a dog in the fight is to have an interest in the outcome of something, and therefore not be neutral.
(While we had both dogs and buses in Birmingham, Mich., I was not familiar with the violent uses to which they might be put.)
My dog in the fight is that my daughter and her husband were both born in the year of the horse. Their daughter, my beautiful grandchild, Emma Rose, is a dragon, but that's all right for her because the dragon is the most fortunate sign in the Chinese zodiac. She could have the rest of us for dinner if she so chose, but, luckily for us, she is benevolent, as befits a dragon. The little family is expecting another baby soon, and, depending whether he arrives in January or February, he will be either a water snake or a wooden horse.
I, being a noble fire pig - I find that the prefix "noble" renders my sign a little more palatable - am opposite the snake in the zodiac. What will happen if my grandson happens to be my opposite sign?
The horse child is determined, impatient of restraint, rules and regulations, but otherwise sunny, funny and friendly. Having been through this once before, I know for a fact that I can take a little horse to heart. But what if my grandson is born in the year of the snake?
Can a grandmother take a little year of the snake baby to heart?
You bet she can!
This fire pig granny won't be throwing any grandchild of hers under the bus.
Besides, so many snakes possess essentially superior traits.
Have a good week.