Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Peeping into 2020

I reviewed 2018 in my essay The Mountain That Was 2018, illustrated by the great photography of Brian Crosby. We continue to connect on Twitter and I again asked him if I could use one of his images for this year. I’m grateful for our long-distance friendship! That continuity of connection with others is one facet of 2019’s goodness.

Here are my Twitter profiles for both 2018 and 2019:

I feel the start of a new book in my fingertips- perhaps a biographical/historical one. To me, writing is a need that comes and goes. Perhaps I’m like the nut trees that rest for years and then suddenly, all together, pick a year in which to dump all their reserves into a bumper crop of seeds. (More on that later. 2019 had a lot of connections to the natural world for me- if you haven’t read books like Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees or Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, I recommend checking them out.)

While my writing slowed, I did start a new blog in 2019. Leaf Letters is where I plan on writing about my work at Retzer Nature Center. My writing output was low but while I wrote only 5,500 words in 2019, there was a lot going on in the background. There is value in quiet and I was reminded in 2019 that just when you feel things petering out, it could simply be time to evolve like the caterpillar. Life has to first stop in order to go through metamorphosis to something else.

My "pinkie promise" to myself was that in 2019 I would try every day, using all my parts: body, mind, and spirit. That was a tough sell. At the time, I wanted to go the other way; I wanted to stop trying. The song, Promise, that Jimin from BTS posted on SoundCloud at the end of 2018, includes these lyrics, which compelled me to make my promise and write it down as a reminder to myself:

Now promise me, oh, oh
Several times a day, oh, oh
Even if you feel that you are alone, oh, oh
Don't throw yourself away, oh, oh
Oh, oh, oh, oh, hold on for a moment
Intertwine our pinkies
And promise me now, oh, oh, oh, oh

In the spring of 2019, I was given a surprise employment opportunity. To say I was shocked and in complete disbelief that I could bring the environmental science that I had loved in my youth together with the more recent experience I’ve gained in the classroom to be a part-time teaching naturalist is a gross understatement. It’s been beautifully surreal. I had almost cleansed my head and house of all this material, as the last 30 years has given me little to suggest I could apply it anywhere for any benefit to self or others: always the bridesmaid, never the bride. I say “almost cleansed”. There were bits of reluctant sadness to this, therefore proof that there was still longing within.

I was both figuratively and literally packing my things away at the beginning of this year. Then, a hand was extended. That thing I’ve been saying for years now, “We’re stronger together”? Yeah, that truth evidenced itself to me in huge ways in 2019. It’s real.

My intention for 2019? It was just want to witness. I wanted to simply be and do in love and hope. Together. I flagged and faltered after the start of the year, but was brought back by others. Intention fulfilled. There were times when I was (or hoped to be) that hand. I thank those friends near and far for allowing me to be there to witness their own struggles.

My 2020? I want to explore the idea that it’s ALL stronger together. I’ve edited my Twitter profile. Check it out and follow if you’d like. I’m even more convinced we’re stronger together. I want to unite more people to both one another and to our natural surroundings.

I ended 2018 with an essay from my book, Dear Warriors, called Enjoying Life Day by Day. It suggested that everything we do on a daily basis can be viewed as tiny pebbles, which add up to the mountains which are the sum of our lives and give others a basis for theirs.

For 2019 and going into 2020, I’m going back to Dear Teachers. Here's an essay illustrated by my friend and fellow author, Marlene Oswald, from her excursions to my new place of work. Please enjoy one of my few poems: Seeing.


Hold on a second.
Can you see it?

We can march through life, wrapped up in our worries.
We can rush all about, minds set only on our goals.
We can doggedly move on, determined to get it done.

Hold on a second.
Can you see it?

Through the static of everything around us, something emerges.
Amongst the hustle and bustle a presence makes itself known.
It is the tender spirit of Life gently reminding us of our hearts.

It speaks of sweetness.

Is it the warm hug of a loving student?
Is it a tender word of thanks from a friend?
Is it the grateful smile at home as you open the door?

Thinking of Life’s sweetness,

What do you see?

REFLECTION: My heart sees...

Best wishes to all of us in 2020.