I sat down yesterday at my desk to make a few cards and I hit the pause button. Something had begun quietly, in deep waves, to overwhelm me as I sat there amid my own clutter. I didn’t see it coming. I have six sympathy cards to make. Three beautiful souls lost just since Christmas Eve and I was suddenly feeling the grief (then relief) that inevitably comes to those who have been sitting vigil with those they love. It hasn’t been me in that seat, but I could feel it all. So many complicated feelings. Sometimes a card feels so inadequate to the task of acknowledging another’s loss.
I had to step away. Kelly and I went together to walk Yoda in the packed, crunchy snow down the block. It always helps to have a change of scenery and fresh air.
On New Years Eve day I found myself grasping the rail of a boat slicing through the icy waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. On a three-hour tour (like Gilligan’s Island) we headed straight for Protection Island. It never got above freezing and between the wind and water, the temperature dipped well below my comfort level. It was a beautiful day with a blue, cloudless sky and the white peaks of the Olympic mountain range. When the icy spray got to be too much, we retired back to the cabin of the boat we were on.
There, another reality crept in on me.
Masked up with my KN95 mask I realize I am not one of those people ready to resume life as it was in the “before time”. In a cabin with 30 others, I wondered about my choice to be there. The boat company did everything right. Required masks indoors, no concession sales (to encourage people not to remove masks) and the opportunity to step outside on the deck. But still …
Yesterday afternoon, curled up with Yoda on the couch, I started feeling punk. Scratchy throat, fatigue, stuffy nose. I shouldn’t have been surprised, out on a boat in frigid water with no hat (and followed by a night of little sleep because of crazy-ass fireworks for fours straight) but the brain goes immediately to “is it Covid”? I was in bed before 7 with a shot of NyQuil and mindless comedy on TV in the background. I didn’t wake up until 6 this morning. I’m fine, but I have new resolve.
Covid continues to take. Our collective fatigue is apparent and the new variant is spreading like wildfire. As an immunocompromised person I don’t have the luxury of relaxing. So I will begin 2022 much like I began 2021. Mostly isolated, and mindful of the company I keep. My “bubble” has expanded from what it was, but parties and other indoor group get-togethers will have to wait.
The new year begins as a shadow of the one just passed. The list of what I’d like to leave behind continues to grow, but this morning, before I sat back down to make those cards, I made a list of all the things I want to welcome in 2022. It will grow too, but here is what I have today.
I usually try to choose a word to guide me at the beginning of every year. I have chosen BREATH for this year. A reminder for me that if I can just remember to return to the breath, all will be well. An intentional inhale, a mindful exhale, and repeat. I need no other instruction.
This year I feel a little less eagerness to get to spring and summer and “just get through” winter. Without the burden of a job and it’s demands, I am finally feeling an easing into these seasons of my life. Winter, too. It helps in that appreciation, to remember that even in what I might call the best case scenario, I have far fewer winters left to enjoy than I once might have thought.
Earlier this year I picked up a book by Katherine May titled Wintering. I broke my own rule about books by buying it before knowing it would be one I wanted on my shelf. I loved what I believed was the idea of it. I loved the beginning. I tried to read this book two ways, (audibook and beautiful hardcover) three different times and in the end I put it down. Then I gave the book away.
We are all “wintering”. I love the idea of reading and writing about this topic more, but this just didn’t do it for me. I know others who loved it. If that’s you, please share why. I want to know why YOU loved it. It’s unlikely to alter my feelings about May’s book, but we all experience wintering differently and I’d love to hear your story.
I’m going to go easy on myself with regard to resolutions. I feel like I’ve been standing in quicksand and the more I struggle, the deeper down I go. I hope to try some new things this year but I won’t beat myself if I fail to launch any big ideas. I’ll continue to read and continue to write and continue to make art. Mostly I’ll just mindfully breathe and wake up with gratitude for each new moment to live into.
On my IG account I created a new page to snap a selfie every day for a year. I have it set to private and I’m guessing that by this time next year it will have told a story that I couldn’t tell any other way. I wear my stress and worry in my eyes, on my brow. I hope to find my relief and joy and laugh lines in there somewhere too. My face IS my autobiography …
Watch this page for a couple new features and hopefully (eventually) a link to my SmugMug site where you can purchase prints of any of the images you see here on my blog. Thanks for sharing this space with me in 2021. We will step into a fresh new year together knowing that all we really have to do is breathe.
Back to the art table for me and maybe I’ll pop December (George Winston) into the cd player as the soundtrack for my day. The house smells of roasted peppers and brewed coffee. Outside the snow still lingers. I’m going to take it all in and enjoy a little wintering of my own.
Here are a few favorite quotes as we usher out the old and welcome in the new; Happy New Year
“And in the end
we were all just humans
drunk on the idea
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“Get a life in which you are not alone.
Find people you love, and who love you.
And remember that love is not leisure,
it is work.”
And finally, my new favorite:
“Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.'”
Be kind, babies.