Each new year I engage in the secret, irrational hope of making resolutions. My good intentions usually last until about March, although each year I hope will be the exception, when I make it all the way to December. Maybe 2013 will be it. I hope so. This year the list looks like it generally does, a collection of rusted resolves from previous years and some new ones too. They’re written on post-its that have already lost their sticky-power; I keep finding them on the floor or attached to the bottoms of my socks. Probably, there should be fewer than ten and I should keep them to myself, but I’m still in the honeymoon period, encouraged by the way sharing them might help them to survive:
- practice the Zora way = more wag & less bark
- learn to play guitar
- run a marathon
- do at least 10 minutes of core per day (before you stick your head inside the computer; how hard can it be?)
- finish a draft of a novel
- be grateful
- be humble
- be centered
Now, almost at the end of January, I have resolve still in the tank, though the guitar has been swapped out for a ukulele. I’m awful at it. I watch You-Tube videos to keep myself motivated. Maybe by spring I’ll be able to strum something that sounds like a song.
I’m trying not to spend too much time looking ahead, but it’s dark and cold and gray. Blessedly, the days are getting longer. It’s time to start mapping out the garden, order seeds, and calculate what my soil will grow. With spring in the wings, it’s a little hard to practice living centered in the now, especially when a whole lot of the now, honestly, is pretty painful. Having to explain to my kids why friends lose their jobs, or get cancer, or decide to divorce, what the hell the deal is with Twitter, or why bullies have such power, or why there are all those empty desks in Connecticut, leaves me feeling inadequate to the task. We must learn to rub along with people of all kinds, I say to them. Some relationships are for business, others are toxic and teach you about boundaries and knowing yourself. Some relationships are for friendship, some are for love, some fall away. It’s all part of the deal, I tell them. Our job is to acknowledge that we can’t control other people or their responses to the world, we can only be in charge of ourselves. But they’re kids; they think I’m not hearing them well enough. They want life to be decipherable, literal, with rules they can anticipate and apply.
I try, always, to end these hard conversations with what we are grateful for –the winter wren; books and chocolate; our chickens, who press themselves in a heap against the glass of the slider doors, asking to come inside and be with us when it’s cold; the woods; the tangle of people we hold dear in our lives, for whom we have fierce love. But some days, when the world feels bleak, and when my advice is cold comfort for kids working to make sense of the world, digging for gratitude is damn hard.
Before the new year a poem by Max Coots arrived in the mail from a friend. Max is someone I’d never heard of, but his words — grounded, grateful, funny– made me want to invite him over for dinner or a glass of wine. I asked Uncle Google about him and discovered he died in 2009 after a long, rich life as a Renaissance Man. A Unitarian Universalist minister, a sculptor of gargoyles (this, alone, is enough to make me half fall in love with him), a poet, and a gardener, Reverend Max was the kind of guy who spent his life working to embody my resolutions. Maybe not the ukulele or the ten minutes of core, but it seems to me he was the kind of spirit I aim to be.
Anyway, here’s to Max, to the journey resolutions bring, to sowing seeds — real and metaphoric–with kids, to a garden of friends, and to gratitude:
A HARVEST OF PEOPLE
Let us give thanks for a bounty of people:
For generous friends, with smiles as bright as their blossoms.
For feisty friends as tart as apples;
For continuous friends who, like scallions and cucumbers, keep reminding us that we’ve had them.
For crotchety friends, as sour as rhubarb and as indestructible;
For handsome friends, who are as gorgeous as eggplants and as elegant as a row of corn; and the others as plain as potatoes and as good for you.
For friends as unpretentious as cabbages, as subtle as summer squash, as persistent as parsley, as endless as zucchini, and who, like parsnips, can be counted on to see you through the winter.
For old friends, nodding like sunflowers in the evening-time.
For young friends, who wind around like tendrils and hold us.
We give thanks for friends now gone, like gardens past that have been
harvested, but who fed us in their times that we might live.