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A New Year, an Old Light, a Puppy to Love

Look at that sly puppy smile! I’m pulling myself out of the puppy haze to write a reflection post about the past year—I’m already a week and change late, if I let this go any longer it’s going to be a year-in-review-and-then-some post, and no one likes that. Though I’m a huge proponent of reflection at any time—all the time—there is something nice and symbolic about a new year and all the opportunity it brings to renew, recharge, and refresh. I like a prompt New Year post. There’s nothing like holding yourself to resolutions when you make them in public!

It is a puppy haze, by the way. It shouldn’t be, maybe, but it is. Most of the minutes I have in a day, when I’m not being paid to think about something else (I have a job, you know, I have to look busy sometimes), I’m thinking about my puppy, or I’m playing with him, or I’m trying to teach him how to live, or I’m bringing him to the vet because he had an allergic reaction to one of his vaccines—all the usual puppy things. Yes, it’s true. Fat Puppy, king of all our hearts, had a terrifically bad reaction to the Lepto vaccine. His shoulder swelled into an adenoid of fluid and fear, both his and mine. Mine, because already it is unfathomable to me that he might no longer be a part of my little world, and his, because he was tired and wanted dinner and not another shot. We sat (a team, best pals) waiting for the vet, he on my lap emitting soft whines to let me know that this was not what he was envisioning for his night, and I petted and reassured him that trust me, it’s not what I wanted either, until he dropped his little velvet head into the crook of my arm and hid his face from the harsh glare of the overhead light and the terrible reality of a swelling shoulder and no dinner in sight.

All was not lost for sweet puppy, though, fear not. While they gave him two more shots to stop the reaction he ate an incredible amount of EZ cheese smeared to the side of a bowl. I had mixed feelings about this, being a little on the hippy side of puppy parenting, but it made him so happy I couldn’t deny it. Little orange strings of fake cheese clung to his whiskers while he licked his lips, trying desperately to reach the tip of his tiny, quivering snout, a renewed light in his eyes, totally oblivious to the various pokes and prods that were happening elsewhere on his body. He veritably pranced out of the vet’s office, rejuvenated by cheese that comes out of a can. Clearly, he is a dog of simple pleasures.

I digress. But you see how all-consuming puppyhood is, don’t you? Six hard months is what they say, six hard months of being devoted to one growing, needy, tail-waggin’, treat-lovin’ four-legged fiend (sorry, meant to say friend—I guess Freudian slips are real). They say six months but honestly, I think for me it will be a lifetime. For as long as Cedar lives he’ll be my friend, whose well-being I will always be a little obsessed with and about whom I will always tell stories—of his strength, his prowess in the field, his stupidity every now and then, his supreme companionship.

I think sometimes I am made up of words, a running stream of narrative, and the fabric of the world I walk through is words too. When I write—put what I think and feel onto paper—I’m pulling all those tangled strings of language into something beautiful, a woven masterpiece that tells the story of the things that are most important to me, that make up my life. Love and adventure, my family, the natural world, and now, my dog. Writing is the only way I know how to make sense of the world, that unending swirl around me. How lucky I am to see it, I often think. How grateful am I to be a part of that fabric in the way that only I can be, with this talent of tongues, how grateful I am to be privy to this way of seeing.

But how does a person express that gratitude? Even gratitude seems an inadequate word, in the face of this mountainous gift. How, when you possess something you aren’t sure you deserve or can bear—how do you grasp it, own it, and honor it? How can I better honor this light I have?

I’m so glad you asked! Here we are, full circle. For the new year, instead of resolutions in the traditional sense—no weight loss goals here—I instead wrote pages and pages in my journal around what my priorities are. A few things emerged from the torrent of thoughts and ideas, from the hurricane of pent-up creative emotion that poured itself out after a few weeks of not touching anything even remotely like a pen, or paper, or a blog post.

Side note: The holidays always end up being a time of intense drain for me. I think, in part, because so much focus is placed on doing things for other people I tend to start ignoring myself entirely—which is to say I stop doing all the things I normally do to keep myself in any kind of mental shape. That’s not a bad thing—at least for a while. But come January I’m always ready to invest in myself again. Is this selfish? Discuss.

Here are the priorities, the things I want to be devoting the majority of my time and energy to in the next year and beyond: Writing, and creative expression. My relationships with my family and my closest friends. Being outside.

As for writing, I’m hoping you’re seeing the connection to my earlier question, as to how I can best honor my light. I want to let it shine. I’ve had many a wise man, woman and child tell me to let your light shine, tell me that at the core of me is a writer—an artist of words. I’ve been letting a candle burn, but now I want to light a fire. I want a bonfire, the big kind that burns in the middle of winter at the ranch, burrows deep down into the ground while it licks the stars. I want to write and write and write, and then I want to share it. I believe that I am a writer, no matter what else I am—girl, sister, friend, daughter, girlfriend, climber, hiker, hunter, musician—at the heart of each of those things, fueling everything else, is the heart of a writer. I want to participate in the grand tradition of writers before me, of expressing the inexpressible, of capturing a tiny fragment of the human experience. Perhaps impossible, but at least I’ll spend the rest of my days trying. And then, yes, I want to share it, even if I don’t think it’s worthy of an audience. I’ll share and share and share some more, unless, of course, it’s truly something not for sharing. I have to protect that fragile animal that lives in my chest—you know the one, that panics and fears and loves fiercely. That I must protect, for me. But everything else can be for you, too.

As for my relationships with my family and my closest friends—well, no man is an island. Not even me. Not even for the hermit I know myself to really be. I’ve been reminded lately that there isn’t anything quite like having a good, old friend. Not even a dog can touch it. And so I want to focus my energy on growing in those relationships, holding those friends sacred, even if it’s late and I still need to make dinner and there’s a time difference. Even if I keep meaning to write that letter and never get around to it. Nurturing—that’s the thing here. I need to nurture my friendships—I get so much joy from them, and I often let the mundanity of life take precedent over that joy. But no more!

And as for being outside—this should be fairly self-explanatory. When I think of when, and where I am most peaceful, most at home in myself, I am always outside. Already I live a fairly outdoor-centric life but there are days, sometimes many days in a row, where the most I get is a walk at lunch. And those days are the days I am crankiest, unhappiest, restless, and uncreative. This heart needs the wind in the trees, a hard hike up a hill, a view—renewal, rejuvenation, a New Year every day. This head needs space to settle, to draw from the swirl, to breathe deeply and embrace calm.

More than anything, I hope to live purposefully and meaningfully. I never want to let a day slide by without finding something of the miraculous in it, something to worship and hold onto. That is what Musings is for—a place to share what moment anchored my day, what I loved and cherished between sun-up and sundown, and maybe somewhere in the night, too. To live in the present, to be grateful each day, that is a sign of a life well-lived. So. A New Year, an old light shining, a puppy to love—things are ever looking up, my friends.