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Category: new year

fresh start

fresh start

dispatch from 02139 (in which the calendar page flips anew, and we all stare at the great white slate…)

another friday, another kitchen table. this one back in the land of cobblestone sidewalks and echoes of history. ones that pre-date the great chicago fire.

i awoke — late — to my definition of a heaven-plucked day: the sky is gauzy gray, as if soot-soaked cotton balls are plugging holes between the clouds. the little apartment is bathed in quiet. everyone’s gone away. just me and the tip-tap-tap of keyboard. a lulling sort of sound, and one that today is lulling me.

by accident of birth, i came onto the planet on the third day of a new year, and so all my life — and especially of late — i dwell in my own personal calendar of time delay. my january second comes on the fourth. today’s the day i call the Big After, when no one i love is trying to make a fuss, when i don’t hold my breath all day, hoping to extract the essence of a divinely choreographed day of grace. when i awake to laundry loads, and empty cupboard shelves. when to-do’s threaten to gallop cross my chest, pummel me in dust.

but the beauty of this time delay, this stalled beginning, is that i’ve extra hours to contemplate the fresh start. to consider hard and deep just how i might aim to live this year.

i am never short on aims. (from this point on, thanks to our flaky, flimsy internet connection, an hour of writing went down the tube….and in my mad-scrambled brain, i can barely cobble the words back together again. why does that happen when you actually felt sated by the words that had first fallen on the page? and why can’t you pluck those words back from the ether that has zapped them away? from here on in, a feeble attempt at re-cobbling. given the subject at hand, i ought to consider this a fresh start but, egad, that isn’t working….)

i am fueled by aims — a walking, talking i’ll-do-better machine.

and on this gray morning, this morning laced in shadow, my humble vows begin with these: to not dwell so often in clipped-time staccato, weekday after weekday, as i try to foist my little fellow from bed sheet to school bus, with mandatory pit stop at the breakfast trough. to not so often feel quite so shy, especially in a crowd, when all i really want to do is pull one great soul off to a corner for a heartfelt and satisfying tete-a-tete. to not whittle away so many hours, breath held hard and lost in worry that, at any given moment, geez, the plane could go down, the car might slide into a ditch, and the ones i love won’t shuffle back.

deep in the truth of all of us lies the rough draft that demands edit after edit.

and so we are blessed, those of us who keep time (and last i checked, that was most of us), who trace the day, the week, the year in spiral.

it is, at heart, a geometry of promise, hope and, most of all, ascension. it offers us the chance, over and over, to come back to that sacred moment when we stand at the crest of the hill, cast arms wide, salute the heavens, shake off dirt and dust, re-map our route, and see if this time round we might inch higher toward the summit.

i don’t know a world religion that doesn’t devote a chapter, at least, to absolution, cleansing, rinsing. it is as if we are hard-wired for holy resurrection. to rise from our brokenness. to seek forgiveness for our sins and shortcomings. to come back to the fresh start, the blank slate, to try and try again. to believe in the almighty “take two.”

and so it is this morning that i come on bended knee. i stand here praying, hoping, promising that my next go-around on this old globe might be one that draws me closer to the unfettered essence i was meant to be. the one not weighted down with doubt and double-guessing. the one that drinks in all the holy waters all around me.

it is, i hope and pray and believe, by little and by little — by little dose of courage, by little kindness, by little gentleness — that we inhale the promise: to shake off our wobbles, stand tall, and launch the climb again.

at the start of this new year, it’s what i whisper. and what sets me on my way….

how do you practice the art of starting fresh?

dear chair people, i lost an entire post here, hit publish, and POOF!, the whole thing vanished, and i don’t know where it’s gone. photo up above is from my not-so-secret garden back in 60091, where the snows fell thick and soft last week, and out my kitchen window, i beheld the wonder of the freshest start.

whispering in the new year…

prayer for new year

might as well call this the front pew of my best church: i am home (as in home home) and sitting at my kitchen table, a pot of paperwhites tumbling its potent perfume, my old blue calico coffee mug a fist’s reach away.

it is hushed here, save for the tick and tock of the old clock i wound the other night when i found it stilled. the world beyond my window panes is blanketed in that rare snowy-morning quiet, so cotton-covered you could hear the flutter of a blue jay’s wing. which i hope to do, any moment now, now that i’ve scattered peanuts in the shell, and suet balls, and corn dried on the cob.

the morning light is bathed in the blue rinse of just past dawn. and dawn, i realize now, comes later here than back in cambridge, where the old faithful orb rising over the atlantic signals to the whole continent that the globe has spun again, and shadows soon will fall again. i slept without alarm and was surprised to wake up and see it was nearly seven bells. i slept in my old bed, between my old sheets, looking out on my nighttime tableau, the one i thought i knew by heart. but a couple mornings here, i’ve been all confused when i awoke. where am i? whose bed is this?

my little one said it best: christmas night all he wanted was a bubbly bath back in the old tub at the top of the stairs. so i went up to help him stir the froth. while he slipped into bathing gear (aka the stark nakedness of a boy), i spied a candy bar wrapper in the bathroom waste basket, and asked (since we’d just finished christmas dinner) if he’d eaten a candy bar before dinner (mothers ask these things, especially when the evidence is blatantly before their eyes).

“yeah,” he said. “i was sad.”

why were you sad? i asked, my breath sucked away by his candor, his capacity for unembellished zing straight to the core of his heart.

“because we’re home but it doesn’t feel like home.”

it’s like that when you sprout roots for a new place, but you come back to the old place. even when the place you come back to is the place you’ve been longing, aching, to be. even when the place you come back to was all dressed up for christmas by the elf who is living here while you’re away.

it takes some wobble time, till you figure out just where you are. till you catch your rhythm once again.

life, when you’re paying attention, isn’t often straight lines. rarely is. is rarely simple, pure, unfettered. it’s textured and shadowed, and full of zigs and zags. and therein lies the glory and the struggle.

that little fellow is far away right now, far away as i sit in my front row pew, keeping watch on the skittering about the backyard, now that squirrel and sparrow have sniffed out the morning’s repast. that little fellow is, for a few sweet days, up in the northwoods of wisconsin with one of his best best buddies, one he’s missed so much.

so i’m home alone with the college kid, and we’ve had long hours for conversations right here in the kitchen where so many have unfolded, going back 10 years (we moved into this old house 10 years ago, yesterday), going back to the heartaches of middle school, and straight on through to college quandaries, puzzles, and lessons learned.

because college kids are in the business of sleeping till dusk (we were scrambling breakfast eggs at 4 the other afternoon, i kid you not), i’ve the whole morning to myself. a holier launch to the new year, i can’t conjure up.

there’s been much that’s unfolded since last i was here, much that still is working its way into the depths of me, that i won’t fully understand for years most likely. you don’t try to catch mouthfuls from a firehose too many times in one sweet life, and when you are standing before the spigot all you do is swallow, swallow, swallow.

so it’s been in cambridge, 02138 and 02139.

now back in 60091, even for this too-short interlude, i’m too much in the midst of it, still asking too many unanswered questions, still finding my way too much to know just how it will all re-shape me. all i know is that it will, it has.

and, open vessel to what comes, i say: bring it on.

but here, on the cusp of this new year, this next chance to whirl around again, i am arms outstretched, head bowed, knees bent. i am walking in a veil of prayer.

i am seeking the unannounced tap on the shoulder, those moments when you realize you’ve just witnessed something holy. you’ve been brushed by the goodness of a stranger — or, better yet, the dearest sort of friend. you’ve felt a window in your mind slide open. you’ve beheld the pure and beautiful.

i am praying for protection, for white light to surround the ones i love, wherever they roam. whatever rivers they barrel down. whatever mountains they climb, or clouds they pierce through, on their way to faraway places.

i am praying, madly, for peace to settle in the turbulent hearts that populate the land. too many lands.

i am beseeching the Holy to plunge once again into the reserves of mercy, to forgive us all our sins and shortcomings, to bolster us in the places where we wobble, can’t catch our breath.

i am promising to marvel, to pay acute attention, and to be gentle — to myself, perhaps, most of all.

and my highest-launched prayer would be the one in which i remember to behold each morning as if a freshly-opened gift, and all day long i aim to stitch it with the majesty due another slice of being here. which simply put means being wholly, intently, alive.

to which i whisper, softly, amen, amen.

what do you pray for as this new year inches toward us? 

exuberance and a little knot

this is the detritus of the new year. or of the exuberant ushering in, i should say. it is piled beside my sleeping 5-year-old. he ushered in wildly.

not me. i took it in with a deep breath, a voracious prayer and something of a knot in my belly.

maybe it’s what happens when you are on the eve of your mid-century mark. maybe it’s what happens when you, sadly, come to know the ebbs and the flows of this life. there will be joy. there will be sorrow. it happens.

my 5-year-old, bless him, doesn’t have a clue. he was so thrilled to be up with the big people, he would have yelped for whatever the reason. so there he stood, one of a chorus line, all in their shiny paper hats, clenching noise makers with both fists, standing inches away from the couch, a couple feet from the screen where the shiny ball was glittering, blinking, seducing. for a kindergartner learning to count, this backwards tumble from 10 down to 1 was sheer joy: he could do it, he could be part of the roar. so he shook, and he leapt, and he counted.

and i stood off to the side. drinking in his exuberance. delighting in his delight. but not being able to swallow the dim-watted dread that had lodged in my throat.

then in the night, when the clock read 4 something, we awoke to our room bathed in the blinking red light of something amiss. oh, no, happy new year, i thought. or my husband, he said those words. it’s all rather foggy. but we groped, both of us, toward the window, and there, at the curb, was the ambulance. the dear old lady next door goes off in an ambulance sometimes once a month, sometimes more. but never before in the dark before dawn.

so on this night of brand new beginnings, we had gone to sleep to the pop-pop of pyrotechnics down the block, woke up to the red bath of light of an ambulance idling in the night.

kind of hard to shake off the trembly sense of what the new year will bring.

i pray to God we all have the strength to take it, whatever comes. i pray mightily, deeply, exuberantly.

before the page turns

before the last page flips over and away, it seems fitting to say, in no particular order…

this was the year my bones got less wobbly thanks to a dancer named donna; my broken-necked boy got rescued, he did, thanks to guardian angels and samaritans, too.

a little girl with a brain tumor reminded me how simple it is, when she nestled next to her mama and proclaimed this lasting truth: “i can read, i can whistle, i have a loose tooth; my life is complete.”

another sweet girl with a brain tumor didn’t make it, but she got up out of her wheelchair and walked across the finish line, she did.

a quartet of builders pounded their hearts into my farmhouse kitchen, and everywhere i look, everything i touch, i see them, i feel them; one blessed builder didn’t live to see the end of this year and for him i will forever ache, and forever be thankful.
a wise editor named ross urged me to tell the whole truth in a tale that finally brought my skeleton out of the closet; an even wiser woman named linda gave me the courage, the backbone, to do so.

a wizened man from ecuador told my sweet will how he walked to this country, would let nothing keep him away; another from mexico told of crossing the desert for three days with nothing but orange peels and hard candy.

a plaza filled with passionate people would not let the world deny nor forget the suffering in darfur, and my boys, thank God, were there to soak in the passion, to add their voice to the outcry.

a college kid with pierced ear and huge heart fell in love with my rambunctious child, offering hope that someone out in the world might see the golden light in his aura.

a golden-haired girl, with a platinum heart, loved that same little kid, and filled his wednesdays with light, every week through the summer.

standing in the emergency room with one trembling 5-year-old, my dear friend and neighbor ran to our rescue, interrupting her birthday to let him leap to her arms and out of the terrifying horrible place.

month after month, our friends at the soup kitchen bathed us in gratitude, humbled us deeply with the simple act of telling us our supper was something.

two soccer coaches, our first taste of the game, cared not about winning; were gentle and sweet as two coaches could possibly, imaginably be.

friends jane, jan and judy, old hands each, took me by the hand, by the elbow, the shoulder, and got me through the great rite of my firstborn’s bar mitzvah.

my blessed magnificent rock of a friend, one from way back in the newsroom, flew here to stand in my kitchen, to be by my side, and teach my sweet will the fine art of ghetto fried rice.

a sweet woman named molly left a shabbat basket on my stoop, melting me thoroughly with her random act of deep kindness.

a man named dorel, who can no longer make words, delighted me endlessly with the gleam in his eye as we went over and over simple sounds, ah, buh and k, kat.

when the going got rough, i stood back and watched a man named pete be the consummate father, showering love on a kid he wouldn’t let get dumped.

on the other end of the line, when i needed him most, my old ER doc friend said the words i most needed to hear, and stayed on the line ’til all was clear.

a farmer named henry, week after week, quietly, wordlessly grew for the world the purest produce that i’ve ever tasted; his sister, the word smith, puts his stories in print, and reminds every one of us of the infinite wisdom buried deep in the earth.

in a million other ways, the friends who i love bathed me in goodness and light, made me laugh, dried my tears, held my hand, held me up. from the ones who brought donuts before dawn to our hospital bedside, to the ones who pushed me off the great blogger ledge, i ask and i beg God to bless them with grace and with all that is good.

it’s been one stunning year, and we’re here at the end. God bless you. God keep you. take a deep breath, take a dive once again…..

if perhaps you have someone who stood out in your year, for their kindness, their goodness, their most amazing grace, tack their tale here. no need to name names, we’ll all get the gist….