The snow falls steadily. The dog races out the backdoor, we realize a moment too late, to chase the coyote into the woods. The birds funnel out all directions from the feeder. The fire hums along in the pellet stove while Daniel sits at the counter, playing a computer game and his siblings sleep down the hall.
It’s the last morning of 2012, a year that doesn’t translate for me easily into a phrase or two. It was hotter than hell. The drought did and continues to do extensive damage. A dear friend, and subject of one of my books, died in January. The presidential race was a panoramic whirl of soundbites, attacks, humor, despair and many daily visits to fivethirtyeight. I traveled by foot, plane, cruise ship and car, sometimes on my own, sometimes with friends, and often with family to the northern shore of Minnesota to stare at Lake Superior, across the Gulf of Mexico to watch the ocean gleaming in late afternoon, through long trails in the fern-feathered woods of Vermont in between meeting students and faculty at Goddard College, and down roads revisited after 30 years to give readings. Books that came out this year reunited me with old friends, and brought me new ones — my youth group advisor I hadn’t seen since the late 70s, students past and present, the daughter of one of the people I wrote about, a spirited commander at Walter Reed, a friend from high school and college, an old roommate from my University of Missouri days, and a woman who mentored me in the early 80s in grassroots organizing. The road repeatedly led me home.
Our family and home got a little older, settling into what unfolded. Daniel moved to Knoxville for Americorps, Natalie crossed over into her senior year at McNally Smith where she studies singing while balancing many jobs and gigs with her band, and Forest and I began pumping iron at the local gym with our respective trainers while he settled into his final year of high school. Ken burned prairie, commuted another year to Topeka to work with people living with severe developmental disabilities, and wrote a lot of columns and updates about the seasons and cycles. A rambunctious and loving big brown dog came to our front door in February like he always lived here, and soon he did. The kitty slipped outside a few times only to roll around on the sidewalk until we gathered her back in. Our very old labmation persisted, and even yesterday, amazed us by walking with Daniel and Shay all over the hill. We saw a lot of movies, ate the wonderful lentil soup at Aladdin’s often, and washed dishes, windows, laundry and floors, only to track in mud and heat up leftovers again. We filled the bird feeder in the morning only to find it empty by night fall. I painted the bathrooms and cleaned the basement. Our gardens withered.
Now one ending eases into another beginning. When I was younger, my wishlist was long and varied. Now it comes down to the simple wish for health and safety for all I know and love, all I don’t know and love also. Health and safety are really about life: being here, being able to take in the gifts given to our eyes at each moment, like right now as the snow clings, one flake to another, on the deck ledge up close and the cedars across the grass the dog passes on his way back to us.
Wishing everyone deepest blessings and brightest joys for 2013.