There’s a liminal quality to that week between Christmas and New Year’s, one that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. I would spend quiet evenings by lamplight, writing in the new journal that would have been waiting under the tree, wondering what new shape my life should take. These days though, I go home for the holidays and have to compress a year’s worth of hugs and games and inside jokes with my family into a mere fortnight or so. Such full days don’t leave a lot of time for quiet introspection, and so I’ve created a new ritual, making the week after I return to my little studio my contemplative time instead. This brings the added advantage of softening the blow of leaving my family behind, a moment which usually makes me question why I decided that trees and winter and a place of my own were worth more than seeing my loved ones every day. Woods

I arrived back home last night, and this morning I went back to those trees to remind myself of how easily my soul expands in this landscape. I’m learning; going on that walk first thing was a marvelous idea. As soon as I saw the treeline ahead of me, I felt once again in my bones why I moved here, and why I hope to stay, and any self reproaches were immediately stifled. After I got home, in between the mundane realities of getting home from a trip, especially one filled with gifts, and the sweeter realities of settling back in with Moth and Thistle, my mind wandered among possibilities for the coming year. Being on that threshold always fills me with hope and wonder; anything at all could happen in the next twelve months, and for these few days I find it easy to trust that whatever comes, it shall be good.

Afternoon

This year, I’d like to hold on to that feeling of trust. For a very long time now, I have felt myself to be at the mercy of fate, with good things arriving because I happen to have the most incredible people in my life and bad things arriving because I can’t be lucky all of the time. I’ve actually found a great deal of relief in this feeling, because it is exhausting to have chronic illnesses in a culture that encourages one to pull oneself up by the bootstraps and fight the good fight and conquer life with positive thinking. However, I’ve realised lately that this philosophy comes with a downside; I hold back a little piece of myself, so that if things ever go wrong, my heart won’t be irreparably broken. For instance, I love it here in New York, but I am afraid to become too attached, in case my circumstances change and I need to move back to Texas. I can’t quite believe the good fortune that’s given me this place, and this life, so I’ve barely put out the tiniest of new roots, only the ones that will be easiest to transplant should the worst happen. I tell myself that this is sensible, but my heart of hearts believes it’s also a bit cowardly. I look back on most of my twenties, and see that while I was growing up, and changing in all kinds of good ways, I was also surrounding myself with layer upon layer of detachment and self-containment and caution. I am grateful to those layers for protecting me through challenging times; yet, I stare wistfully at the open-faced college girl that I was, who knew that whatever the future held it would be bright and beautiful. One of the best things I’ve done since then has been to adopt my pets; first Thistle and more recently Moth. Bringing these incredible, lovable, adorable animals into my life has probably been my most open act; after all, they do not have a life span anywhere near mine. I know that one day I will have to say goodbye to them, and that it will be terrible, and yet each day I love them fully, because to do less would be to rob us all. Mary Oliver puts it beautifully in her poem “In Blackwater Woods”:

To live in this world

you must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

I read the poem for the first time in December of 2012, and that passage has echoed within me ever since. I’ve only just now come to see that everything is mortal, not only beloved people and pets. This kind of trust and openness comes easily to me when I travel, and it leads to rich experiences, but I spend most of my life at home. I want it to be just as rich.

Thus, after this pondering, I have decided that my word for the year shall be welcoming. This does not mean that I want to transform all of my introverted qualities into an extrovert extraordinaire. I love being thoughtful and bookish and able to keep myself company. It does mean, though, that I will try to hold myself open, with my tender parts in full view, in the hopes that the joys will outnumber the heartbreaks. After all, I can always curl back up if I find that life is better that way. Or perhaps I’ll find that holding myself open doesn’t change what happens in my life one way or another. I suspect, though, that it will change me. And as this year will also bring my thirtieth birthday, that possibility feels right.

Welcome, 2016. Come on in. I’m terribly curious to find out what you will bring.

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24 thoughts on “A Year of Welcoming

  1. This is very lovely. Your picture of your tree walk just exudes peace. And ‘welcoming’ seems a perfect word. Happy 2016! May you embrace it with open arms. 🙂

    1. Thanks Kay! I do find the woods incredibly peaceful, no matter what else is going on. That is, until I realise Thistle has disappeared after a squirrel. 😉

  2. Welcome home! So much of your letter resonated with me. Trees, pets (and dealing with their loss), and living far from family. But life is so beautiful and has so much to offer that I encourage you to find that which brings you joy, and do it!

    1. Wise words Darlene! I definitely fill my life with what brings me joy and feel lucky to be able to do so. And I agree that there’s so much beauty in the world. 🙂 I just want to make sure I’m not shutting myself off from all of the possibilities outside of my own little walls.

  3. Lovely post and great pictures! Happy 2016 :)! I hope your year will be full of welcoming moments and surprises.

    The poem you chose touched me a lot. As my Husky girl is 11, the best thing that I can do is love her and enjoy her presence. Many people ask me rude questions like “when is she going to die?” to which my heart skips a beat and I feel sad for them because they don’t understand what is to love and be loved by a kind and gentle being.

    1. I can’t believe people as you questions like that Ioana! And I thought the strangers who insulted Thistle’s looks to me were obnoxious. I’m sorry that you have to deal with that, but I’m so glad you have your girl to love. *hugs*

  4. What beautiful thoughts! I always feel incredibly open to whatever comes my way the first week or so of the new year, and then the feeling kind of goes away as real life creeps in. I’d really like to hold on to that feeling and welcome with open arms whatever 2016 brings, you’re inspiring me to keep that top of mind! And that poem made me tear up!!

    1. So many of Mary Oliver’s poems make me tear up! I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels so much more open at the beginning of the year. 🙂

  5. Beautiful post! I find that the beginning of a new year still prompts feelings of contemplation and hope and possibility. I like the word that you chose for 2016.

  6. Karen Joy Fowler has a story, an adaptation of the Six Swans story, where the youngest brother, the one who still has one arm a swan wing, says that he has “a halfway heart — unhappy to stay, unhappy to go.” And that is what I worry about for myself. I have one foot out the door, always, and I get antsy when I can’t see the exit. It’s an odd way to live. I hope that your “welcoming” experiment goes beautifully for you this year, my lovely friend.

    1. I’ve read that story thanks to you & loved it, but I’d forgotten that quote. What an apt line, and I feel it describes me as well. Like you, it worries me a bit. I always attribute it to growing up moving every 3-5 years, and before the internet really got going, so I *expected* to lose touch with everyone after I moved. But maybe it’s something else. Thanks so much for sharing this comment; it makes me feel like at least I’m not the only one! I will definitely report back on the results of my experiment. 🙂

  7. I love your writing Eva and this post, especially. You have captured your hopes and fears and articulated them in a way that is so open, offering us a glimpse into yourself.

    I would say how ‘Welcoming’ that is!

    1. Thank you so much Laurie. One of the reasons I wanted to start a new blog was to experiment with a more deliberate writing style, but my health declined precipitously at the end of last year, and I just wasn’t able to do it. Now I’m on some new meds that let me type a bit, and I really want to try it out. So your comment was so so heartening!

  8. For some reason Feb 21st has been a day of reflection for me for a couple of years past. I was writing out a notes for a Life Mission a year or so ago when I realized I had done that on the same day two years in a row (Feb 21st). Right now I’m trying to figure out my next steps. I’ve been thinking of applying to grad school for awhile, because I know deep down that I want to be further North. I just always felt silly saying my main reason for wanting change is because I wanted to be North. Your story is encouraging to me, that you were willing to seek out the change to be in a region you love. May your welcoming attitude for the new year transform you in beautiful ways you never expected.

    1. Thank you Amanda!

      How interesting that Feburary 21st is your day. I also consider the spring equinox, my birthday, and the beginning of autumn to be other moments of ‘beginning.’ It’s nice sometimes to not have to wait another twelve months to try something new. 😉

      Honestly, I had the exact same craving for North and deciduous trees & now that I’m here I am so much more content. Which isn’t to say that my life suddenly became the thing that I’d daydreamed about before my move (that would be fabulous, hehe). But I feel at home here in a way I never ever felt in Texas or Colorado. I used the same criteria (winter, big deciduous trees) to decide where to go to college & never regretted it!

  9. I needed to read this today. Learning I have an illness that will require constant medicaton and will have very high highs and extremely low lows made me nervous. I want to schedule and monitor ever aspect of my life to keep everything steady. That just isn’t realistic. I have to let my hair down and live in the moment on occasion. Thank you for your beautiful words.

    1. *hugs* I’m so glad that I could help. I think living with chronic illnesses makes you desperately reach for any illusion of control, but then you end up even more upset with yourself when the controls don’t work and you get sick anyway. (I’m using you as a generic pronoun here, not talking about you specifically!) It’s a pretty terrible cycle. I try to think of myself as a child during my flare-ups, because I find it easier to be gentle that way. But I have all of the sympathy in the world for chronically ill women who are also mothers; I’ve had a few flare ups when I was my niece’s sole caregiver, and it’s a whole different level of challenge. So I’ll just send you lots of hugs & hope that your new diagnosis is the start of things getting easier!

  10. Oh, gosh, what a lovely post. I’ve decided that I am going to try not to beat myself up about my natural instincts (like introversion) this year, and it’s very freeing to be able to make resolutions that will challenge me while also not trying to fight myself.

    1. That sounds just perfect Claire! Life is much less exhausting when you’re not castigating yourself for things like being an introvert. 🙂

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