The ending of a year and some somewhat lazy days off (albeit not guilt-free) leave me in a state of introspection. What is it about the holidays that brings that out? And I look back at The Great Year of 2010 and think. Wow, it was, well, it WAS.
It is hard to believe when I think back, how this year transformed and transformed me in the process. The first few months brought me about as much darkness as I have ever had. Fighting for a child is like no other fight imaginable in this more privileged part of the world I happen to live in. I know there can be worse, but it was, for me, like spending months walking a tightrope across a long, deep, seemingly bottomless chasm. Fear of losing the child, fear of not losing the child but not being able to even provide food and shelter for the child as I watched what little savings and salary I had rapidly dwindle into a debt so deep that I couldn’t even imagine ever overcoming it in my life. I’m a positive person, but I’ll admit, even I am not completely impervious to life’s sometimes-realities.
But, in these times, when the winds blow and the storms reign and there is just not enough to grow upwards, I grew my roots. They twisted around all the of the lessons of my history, the things my parents taught me, the stories about my grandparents, the lessons of so many of my life’s teachers, and the core of who I am and what I truly believe in. In the end, like a great storm, when the winds die, what is left is the great cleansing. The attic cleared, the sun shines and we return stronger; it was only the weaker branches that were ripped away. I learned to grow my skin a little thicker, so that the insults and criticisms hurled don’t penetrate quite so deep. I learned a little more patience for weathering a storm, and a little more beauty in the anticipation of waiting to see what remains, and a little more tolerance because of the love and support that I had. I know that I owe so much to that.
Out of the great cleansing of the storm, I look back and see little silver strands of silk, glistening in sunlight, winding their way out amongst what was left, slowly stitching a new world together. This is a beautiful thing. Those strands grow out of the people, present and past, and myself and the strength of holding fast; the constant love of family, friendships found over understanding and support for our children, friendships rooted deep into the history with an endless well of stories filled with laughter, bonds formed over constant output atomizers and condensation particle counters and molded over brilliant people willing to share their brilliance about life as well as particles; new friendship found over glasses of cheap boxed wine in lexan camp glasses in an empty house. There are the refound bonds, forged from the memories of walking up ridges in Tennessee, late night coffee, listening to stories and poetry, sweating, ceremony, and the memories of hawks and eagles riding thermals into the great blue.
This year, I survived. And somewhere midway through, fortunes turned completely. I have a somewhat secure job, it pays well and I enjoy it and I feel truly good about the way I spend my days working for what those roots dug into. It is tough, but it is rewarding. I can take care of my son and we are more than comfortable. And I am learning about balance. I no longer spend sleepless nights worrying over our fate. And more than surviving, we live in a beautiful setting, where the long unbroken stretches of land can lay out before you and fill the heart with the quiet, settling joy of just being. Yes, my heart is in this earth.
And that is not to say that I have not been blessed throughout the year with happiness and pure joy. It has been quite full. And all through the stories, the new friends and the old ones, there is the laughter that rings with all its beauty and wraps itself around like a soft blanket. I giggle often to myself over those times, generally at inappropriate times and inappropriate places.
I cannot write about this year without acknowledging that this year I lost a great teacher, my grandmother, and a great spirit, named Spirit. Some day, I will write more about them, but right now, there is still more thinking swirling.
Of course, I have read enough of the classics to believe that beauty is found in surviving the struggles, inward and outward, of men, so this year’s story is not new. But, seeing is believing, as it is said, and living is something more powerful and it transforms those beliefs into knowing.
Yes, Ishmael, you and I could sit down and talk over a beer. This year, I am a little closer to knowing that epic journey.
I'm over here
6 months ago