It would make more sense to me to begin a new year with a solstice or an equinox. Even a full moon would have been nice this year.

And with that sentence: my first resolution of the year is to stop fantasizing that things could be different from what they are in any given moment. I find myself using a bizarre amount of energy on things that aren’t even important to me. An odd kind of diversion and procrastination – that is also a practice in dissatisfaction. I have no need to practice this. I’m already much better at it than I want to be.

It’s not likely I will change the things I can change if my focus is on irrelevant details. When I choose to begin again is irrelevant. I just need to choose. To live consciously.

Camus said it is our human condition, and what is worthwhile. Imagine Sisyphus happy knowing there is no winning. Imagine Sisyphus content.

Hell, even choosing not to choose is living consciously when you acknowledge what you’re doing. I figure, even if it is all one big illusion, it’s the illusion that makes us human.

Get on with the adventure.


On our annual January 1st beach run, E. and I watched the sunset, red sinking into the sea. It was a promise of at least a day or two of clear skies, and it has been clear. And cold. Yesterday the edges of the lake were frozen, and this morning, walking Leonard at 4 am, I loved the way each step across the grass was cushioned. The ice-covered blades giving in slowly. Letting me down easy – which seemed considerate considering the early hour.

Leonard must have eaten something he shouldn’t have yesterday. He’s resting now on the sofa with a stomach full of chicken and rice. I hear E. using the coffee grinder in the kitchen. And here I sit with my fingers on the keyboard whose M,N,L, S and V keys are completely without lettering.

This morning I am grateful my mother made me take touch-typing in high school: “data entry” they called it by then. She made me believe I had no choice in the matter.

Dinner is cooking, work looms, body parts ache, I’m a little sleep-deprived, and no doubt Leonard with scramble off the couch any minute, in a whining rush for the door.

And all is right with the world.
There’s time for poetry.

Everywhere joy in relation and nowhere grasping;

world in abundance and earth enough.

Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Joanna Macy & Anita Borrows)
from “I Lift My Eyes”

A waning gibbous moon at 9 o’clock this morning as I walk Leonard to the park and back. Crows pass overhead in noisy, staggered murders. A year ago, they would have used paused here in the neighbor’s tree – and I miss them. I miss the crows and the tree.

And since the new family moved in next door this fall it has been all too quiet. The blackbirds no longer gather in the driveway at 5 a.m. I have to admit, sometimes I felt a bit like a mash-up of Snow White and the Queen of England having them sing outside the window in the mornings to wake me.

Letting go of these fun little daydreams involves a kind of grief.

When I was six or seven, I would lie alone in the grass in my grandparent’s tiny garden with the one braced sapling, and I’d imagine I was Alice in Wonderland. Those kinds of flights of fancy, as secretive as they are, you’d think you could hang on to them as an adult. But I have those kinds of playful moments rarely now. I miss them.

To be clear – I would not be a kid again for anything. The “go outside and play” refrain from adults still rings in my ears when I find myself in awkward social situations. It felt like a declaration of exile every time they said it.

Go find something to do. You don’t belong here.

And oh my goodness, the boredom. But then… then the flights of imagination.

I don’t think it is my age that is the problem. I don’t think there is anything wrong with my imagination. I think it’s the clutter of adulthood. There is no space in which to be bored enough to let my mind go wandering. There is always something to do. Some should do. Even if that is the novel I should be reading. I can easily avoid boredom while believing I’m behaving virtuously by doing so.

I line all the shoulds in my life up like ducks along a rope across a lake and I focus on all the ducks: Meditation, running, writing, reading. Work. I can’t see the lake for the ducks.

I find order comforting. I find creating order comforting. After the chaos of the DVT it took me four months to find my way back to the familiar rituals. At night the fear of death is still very much alive in my subconscious, but during my waking hours, order keeps me calm. Rituals are like handles on the baggage I carry around.

But carrying baggage around is an unnecessary habit.

When we hike, E. often takes a much bigger pack than is necessary. When people comment (and they have) he shrugs his pack and says people go to the gym to lift weights they technically don’t need to lift. He says it’s the same thing, and then he’ll pull out a huge thermos of coffee that I’m grateful for.

But I don’t believe hanging onto this baggage, no matter how kettle-bell-like, will make me stronger. I think it will wear me down. I also think tending to it is an excuse, a constant and convenient distraction from boredom.

I suppose boredom is like so much else in life – it is painful to begin – we’ll do almost anything to have to face it – (including poking at familiar wounds in a perverted act of self-comforting). But we can fall into a spacious momentum, and in the end, we rarely regret beginning.

Beginning a new year – I will try to welcome the unpleasantness of boredom more often. I will try to put the loose shoulds of my life in boxes – in dedicated rooms for dedicated attention. I won’t answer emails from students ticking into my phone at 11 pm. I will be sleeping.

And I won’t answer on weekends because I will be lost in some magic forest where tiny faeries live under the shelter of mushroom caps and sing dirges for the trees that were. They will be cruel and kind and tell me stories more true than any I’ve ever heard.

Last year I ate twelve grapes and wished for twelve things for the new year. This year, I am eating twelve grapes and making room for twelve muses.

This year I learned that romjul – the time between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day – is traditionally 5 days of no holds-barred. A kind of winter Mardi Gras without the parades or brass.

I have no idea if romjul is somehow related linguistically to rumspringa, but I’ve been staying up later than usual, drinking a bit more than usual, and not keeping to any kind of routine.

I’m feeling incredibly irresponsible.

And somewhat sulky.

More adolescent than menopausal. Is that a good thing?

S. preparing the Feuerzangenbowle on a Christmas Past

In recent years we’ve been lucky enough to have been invited to two gatherings of friends that have marked the start of the season for us. Both were cancelled this year to keep us all safe.

International quarantine rules meant I had no family members here on Christmas Day. E. and I ate takeaway, and I’m a little ashamed.

I haven’t even put the New Year’s beef in the brine yet. I keep saying I’ll do it “later”. I believe I may have procrastinated my way right past a decent corned beef this year.

We’ve run along the trail sporadically over the past week. We ran on Christmas day, but now that I think about it, we didn’t even say Merry Christmas to people we passed. We were focused on not slipping on the ice. (Note to self: time to pull out the yaktrax.)

Even my meditation has been haphazard this week. I’m feeling a bit disassociated from my own life. Off track. Maybe at a juncture?

In a strange way this romjul-feeling may be the only thing about Christmastime that is familiar this year: the chaotic-slightly frightening-freedom. Waiting for the world to get back on track. Back to work. Back to routine. Back to practice. Back to it.

And questioning what it really is.

This morning I got up early, filled a thermos with coffee, and walked Leonard down to the park in the moonlight. I left the phone at the house.

It feels as though I’m approaching this new year from an odd angle. A bit like hesitating on the diving board: here I go… in a minute. Later. Tomorrow. Do I want to do this? Really?

These last few days have expanded exponentially in my mind: into a huge space filled with should-haves. I should have hung the new blinds in the kitchen. I should have cleaned out the closets. I should have written a whole damn book to justify all this emptied space.

Instead I’ve been watching gimp tutorials for days.

When Leonard has been sleeping, or when he’s been intensely sniffing after another dog’s trail, he shimmies. It’s like a reset button.

Looking toward a New Year

It’s what I’m telling myself this morning afternoon: Shake it off!

Running isn’t enough right now. Maybe I need some loud music and a bit of real shimmying? Something extraordinary to force me to switch tracks?

And then approach to my practice with renewed intention.

The key word for our time is practice.
We have all the light we need, we just need to put it into practice.
PEACE PILGRIM

Happy New Year. I’m gonna ask E. to put on some music.