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.
Yes, and yes, and… YES…* Too much loss, but that comes both as a result of having a wider circle/Tribe, and an unfortunate cost of aging… our loses mount as we drift into our Autumn years. For what it is worth, I couldn’t get into WINTERING either… I really didn’t need any more ‘help’ feeling dreadful, in the ongoing saga of Cholera. I am trying my level best to shrug off sadness when it creeps around my shoulders, and so I will start this year, going out of my way to face the sun, feel its hope and luxuriate in its warmth. My wish for you, is similar: See the Light; BE the LIGHT!
Ahh, yes. The cost of aging. That has crossed my mind more than once lately and noting the losses in my class on the 40th reunion this past year, really drove it home. I love the whole idea of wintering, but I just didn’t get it from that book. It’s okay. Deep nesting is so good for the soul. I will do as you suggest and keep leaning into the light. So glad you’re here 💚
Bonnie thank you for the shining light you are in the world, your presence in my life, for sharing your heart in all the ways you do. Your post so resonates with me and touches my heart. May we live in 2022 with more kindness, compassion, connection, honesty, respect…..GRATITUDE, GRACE and LOVE ❤️❤️
Cathy, thank you so much for the kind words. And to the rest … a great big yes. We need a huge wave of gratitude and light to wash over us this year. And I think it begins with the little things. I am so grateful for you in my orbit. Thanks for being here.
I bought the book REALLY wanting to love it. A great beginning, blurbed by EG, what could go wrong? It’s like a fancy car that took a wrong turn. I just got Late Migrations on my Kindle from the library. Thanks for that. And thank you for being here.
Perhaps this time is not so different from any other time so there is no reason to seek one. Always time to arrive and always time to leave and always time to breathe. As for Wintering, I agree with you. It wasn’t what was promised, nor what I wanted, it wasn’t a season: it was about a woman afraid to live outside of herself, to unbundle herself from fear. In other words, it was no way to live. In that way, we can learn what not to do. My personal recommendation is Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl, who seems to live in eternal spring. But I bet you’ve already loved it.
Thanks for another nice piece to start the year with. Where was that Vonnegut quote from?
It’s from God Bless You, Mr Rosewater. I haven’t read it, but I saw the quote recently and I just love it. The book sounds great. A bit iconic, even. Thanks for being here.
I loved your cards! So sorry that many of us will have to go back into hibernation this winter. I’m already looking forward to spring.
Thank you ! Yes, spring will be nice for sure, but I think I just hit the age this year where I no longer want to wish away even a moment of my time here. Bring it, winter !
Once again, your leave and take art is beautiful. You have such a gift. . . You have experienced so much loss the past two or three years. I find myself wondering how it is so much comes your way and so little to mine. And it came to me: you are an important part of so many lives, and there are so many beloveds in your big world. And you love and are loved. Big circle, big love, big losses. Small circle, small losses. . . I’m wondering how much of “Wintering” you had read when you decided to buy the book; and then, what you did NOT like about it. I’ve read 85 pages and I’m still liking it. May reflects me and my life so well, and I feel seen. I am interested to see what she says about the prospect of leaving winter behind when she gets to March.
Thank you so much, my friend. Yes the losses are unimaginable. In my life, the precious center continues to hold. It is the periphery that has begun to crumble. It’s funny you would call my life big, because it feels like it has so diminished these past couple years, but I understand what you mean. In Wintering, it seemed to fall off a cliff. I thought I knew what it was about, but it wasn’t that. There was also the issue of privilege that felt uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a bad book but I think the marketing could have been more accurate. Maybe I’LL write the book I want to read …
Lovely tender words, the kind I will read again later, much to munch on. So many losses. I loved Wintering last year but will need to read it again as I fight the cold tooth and nail, and see if it still resonates. Working on allowing… not controlling. My words for the new year. Like the breath though, it takes practice.
I love love love your art and am glad you will sell it. It needs to be in the world.
As for covid, so many friends, careful and not careful, are falling ill to the virus, however minor or not. It’s starting to feel inevitable, but I’ll keep laying low too. Let’s keep writing.
Thanks for the kind words, Nancy. Allowing, not controlling … I like that. The Covid thing is bewildering to me. How people can continue to act as though there is no pandemic when we are in a worse time now than ever before. Sigh. Stay safe, my friend. And yes … let’s keep writing!
Ahhh, how lovely you draw it up at the end with Kurt Vonnegut and the beautiful art piece. I’ve always loved him. A selfie a day, wow, impressive. And looking at your welcome things card, I read BRAS instead of BIRDS. Hihihi! Wishing you well!
Thanks, Manja ! Haha … BRAS, well maybe those too 🤣. I love that Vonnegut quote so much. A friend of mine does the selfie a day for her father who lives across the country. I’ll keep mine to myself, but maybe next year … I’ll have some thoughts about it. Thanks for reading !
Beautiful post. I am so sorry for your many recent losses. Thank you for sharing about WINTERING. I will check it out.
Thank you for reading. If you do read Wintering, I’d love for you to circle back and let me know what you thought and share your own story too!
You captured a perfect memory of what it was like to lose my parents during the winter. Dad in November of 1995 and my mother in November 2003. Both died from cancer. After teaching for 36 years I wonder if I have ever met the child who would grow into the doctor that cured those diseases. Perhaps it is my niece Annie. She is doing her internship rotations now to be a doctor. Your posts always give me things to think about. Your art skills are great! Things to leave behind and things to look forward to . . . . Priceless!
I love that perspective, Keitha. I wonder a lot about the little pre-schoolers I saw over the years too. As for loss in fall/winter, it’s uncanny really. It can definitely color the holiday season. Thanks for writing, Keitha. Happy New Year.