I love a lot about this time of year, from holiday lights to the sweetness of friends and family. Not to mention the cookies. And the cake. Just saying.
Something I’ve done for decades this time of year is to reflect on the past year and envision what I’d like the next year to include. Not New Year’s Resolutions per se, but thoughts and intentions about the time to come. (See, for example, last year’s January post.) But this year I find my vision of the year to come as a big, blank void. I know I want to keep working on my novel (more on that next post). But other than that? I find myself at a loss. Predictions of what might or might not be possible feel absurd. Surely I’m not the only one at risk of being swept away by the tsunami of news about X, Y or Z, most of it scary or sad. Perhaps that is why I am unable to come up with anything beyond one of those silly posters of a kitten clutching to the top of a door, with the letters “Hang in There!” written below.
And yet, there is beauty in a void of expectations. What I am left with is an appreciation of special moments: Skip’s radiant face when it finally snowed last week and he spun and leapt in it, a whirling dervish of joy. Maggie’s silky cheek resting under my hand every night as I slowly stroke it, both of us bathed in oxytocin. Jim’s warm hand in mine as we walk toward the evening sunset, the sky a batik painting of coral and pink and turquoise.
It is moments like these that are what make us truly happy. Not accomplishments or checked off items on a To Do list. They are what we remember best when lose them, what keeps us going when we need psychological oxygen. Nancy Bell, seamstress, musician, farmer, and writer says it well:
“I realize, as I gaze down and back from my neighbor’s window, that what I remember most are these round little moments—moments where the full Sweetness of life bore down on me and I had the sense and Grace to feel or taste it fully. These moments had very little to do with anything linear, with lists, with rushing, or ambitious goals and speeding deadlines (most of which passed me by). A lot of things I thought I had to do got supplanted by surprises I could never have imagined.”
I find myself savoring special moments more and more, living more in the present and less in the future, as it is so easy to do. My age, no doubt, has something to do with that, but I think the pandemic, environmental crisis and current political stir fry is playing a big role. Jim and I have plans for the future that may or may not happen, I’m writing a book that may or may not see the light of day, and who knows how long we will have each of our precious animals, friends and family members? And who could be better at helping us to stay in the present than our dogs, our cats, or horses or ferrets? This must be in part why we love them so much, for their meditative ability to be Right Here, Right Now.
Join me then, if you will, in a celebration of those special moments that we will never forget. Here are a few of mine, some animal related, some not:
Lying on my back on a sailboat in the Caribbean, skimming across the azure blue seas while listening to Wear Your Love Like Heaven. This happened over fifty years ago, and I can still call up the feel of the breeze, the gentle roll of the boat and the sweetness of Donovan’s voice anytime I like.
Watching a young Arabian stallion literally blush after tripping himself and falling in an ignoble heap while trying to impress a group of mares in heat. I was sixteen when this happened, and I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Last night, when it was one degree above zero (Fahrenheit), and I had put Maggie back inside because I was worried about frostbite on her paws, and Skip, thrilled with the snow and the cold, tried to engage me in the same kind of play he does with Maggie, eyes shining like stars, a huge grin on his face, his body all curvy and sideways and aching to run.
The moment last spring when Maggie and I completed the shed at the Nippersink Sheepdog Trial, after she had brilliantly handled a set of flighty sheep on a difficult course, and she knew she’d done beautifully, and was so exuberantly and obviously proud and happy that I will have her joyful, ecstatic face in my mind until the day that I die.
The day that Jim first came to the farm, and my ram, Beavis, put his head down and charged toward Jim, who stood still, made a fist and punched the 300 pound animal on the nose. I still swoon thinking about it.
And of course, all moments are not so sweet. Who can forget that moment at 3 AM when you woke up to the sound of your dog about to retch on your bed. Such a unique sound, right? But ah, this means your dog is alive, and with you and in it’s own stomach-churning way, a special moment indeed.
Your turn, lest I begin to go down a strange road of bizarre and gross moments relating to lambing (i.e, what if feels like for the first time to put your arm inside a ewe to feel for a lamb), and you all turn away in disgust.
MEANWHILE, back on the farm: Yeah, it’s cold. I’ve never noticed before I took this photograph how the red fluid descends closer and closer to the dog’s butt as it gets colder. Not to mention the placement of the red bulb. Hey, you gotta appreciate joy and foolishness where you find it.
Here’s the table set last week for our New Year’s dinner party with dear friends David and Julie:
Fried chicken, sweet potato fries, chopped salad, and tomato pudding (thanks D & J!) were on the menu. This Swedish Almond Cake (from NYT magazine) topped off our meal. It’s one of my absolute favorite deserts now–you can make it the day before, it keeps forever and is just plain fun to make. (Those are dried roses on the top.)
There’s something sweet about the reflection of our Christmas tree in the window, with the snowy barn and yard in the background:
But I’m burying the lead here: It’s Maggie ninth birthday!!! Oh my my my, I can barely believe it. If you know her well you can tell she’s slowed down–saving energy on a big outrun, for example–but otherwise you’d never know it. She’s my Gal Gadot, my mood ring, my radiant face of joy and love, and my softest, cuddliest couch friend ever. I am over the moon in love with her, have been since the day she came. Here she is with her birthday present. I love how at the end she looks at me like “Why are you staring at me in that weird way?”
And so, to you dear reader: Tell us about a special moment or two, one that you’ll always remember, and one that we’ll get all warm and gooey reading about. Or spit out our tea laughing.
And to all of you, may this New Year bring it’s own special moments of joy and love and ridiculousness, all to remind us what a wild ride this thing called life really is.