I am a tny bird clinging to the spinning orb of Mother Earth. When the time for choosing (if one chooses to choose) a so-called “word” for the year, what do I pick?


Seemingly incongruous. All those “words” are profound and trite all at once.

It’s only an exercise to trick you into writing more, sketching more, an artificial jumpstart for a new year — itself a created way to attempt to break time into manageable chunks. An unending line between birth and death would be too direct.

“What speaks to you?”

“What has something to teach you?” This I heard last night from the video of a truly lovely and generous French artist.

The last time I completely relaxed, something terrible happened. I intellectually understand the two events are not connected. And yet.

It was October, 2005. I have been happy since, of course. I walk, sing, am gloriously in love, work hard and sometimes participate in causing certain small tectonic shifts in our local political landscape. I cook, grow herbs, talk with friends although I keep them at more of a distance than is fair to either them or me, and am truly myself only with my love and my dog.

But relax?

Never. I don’t even listen to music with a headset on because something might happen that needs my full attention. There. Neurosis exposed.

The full immersion of attention required by playing the piano or (especially) writing more than two paragraphs at a sitting, has eluded me.

So, does the word and concept of “relax” have something to say to me? Oh, hell yes. And maybe I have something to say back. This idea of “relax” is not an all’s well time for a nap thing. It’s a relaxing into so I can breathe. This has to come before focus, before concentration, before being able to lose myself in any creative endeavor.

Relax. My concept for 2022.

cobweb clearing

The day is so dark I’ve had to struggle not to go back to bed. A pot of dark roast coffee hasn’t helped. And now, the rain has started. Fat, slow drops that will give way to wind and a cold front that will come close to freezing all the hot December-confused plants by morning.

Instead of going back to bed, I turned on all the lights in my study: two lamps on my desk, a lamp on the free-standing bookshelves, sconces over the built-in bookshelves, and a decorative round stained glass lamp that gives off more glare than light. Now I’m pulling all the books out of the freestanding shelves to dust, assess, and reconfigure. It’s part of my antiaging routine. Ha. A way to take an iron file to my brain and check out all the loose ends I’ve left on the shelves. A novel one-third written. Unfinished essays. Stacks of books and printed articles that caught my eye once but remain unread.

I’ll probably replace all that flotsam and jetsam with my intrigue du jour, art journals. The dining table nearby is piled high with mixed media notebooks, half to 3/4 filled, all sorts of sizes. Paints, stencils, pencils, baskets of collage material, stamps, a gelatine plate for monoprinting, bottles of ink (the one called Peacock that is gray-green is my favorite), word scraps — these have metastasized to a storage room upstairs and are strewn across the floor for me to organize. Right.

Strange, all this. While not a minimalist, herbs in my pantry are — well, used to be — alphabetized. More space than stuff. That was me. What has happened?

Several of the bookshelves are empty now and dusted. It’s a perfect activity for listening to an audiobook. I am roughly in the middle of Annie Dillard’s new book of old essays, The Abundance, and only a few spoken pages into Katherine May’s Wintering, but neither fit the bill for today’s work. I just downloaded Stephen King’s novel, Billy Summers, starring a quirky killer with a conscience.


knowing and being known

Lou Lou Belle at Longleaf, January 1, 2022

Dun-colored deer stand still as statues, wraithlike in the dark morning. I see them through a break in the thick woods. I count five – three yearlings and two does. We know each other in a way. I photographed the yearlings from our laundry room window when they were still spotted fawns. They have learned that Lou has a fence in the backyard and will not chase them into the next county.

It was 74 degrees when we were out at 7:30, and windy. The air was so moisture-laden I expected it to start raining any minute. It felt pregnant with change.

The change coming is a significant cold front that will blow through sometime tomorrow, bringing freezing temperatures by early Monday morning.

Lichens cover dead tree

The woods are beautiful to me no matter what time of year or what stage of growth or decay they are experiencing. I love the sameness and the surprises. We have been aging together for more than twenty years.