New Year, New Canvas

As I’ve gotten older (and perhaps wiser), I’ve come to see the advent of the new year as a time to avoid rather than to make resolutions. Who needs one more thing to be self-critical of when it doesn’t happen? And it won’t, for most of us. I started calling whatever I was contemplating on January 1, intentions. That was better, it gave me an out when they didn’t happen. And usually they didn’t. I’m trying a new thing this year: a clean canvas approach. Letting go of what needs to be set free and then seeing what rises up. You can be sure I don’t know today what color paint or size brush I will use; or even what medium.

I thought there would be a post on the blog first thing on Day 1, 2023, having written it on Day 365, 2022. But, alas, I have a cold, and words did not get to the page. It’s the first time I’ve been sick since a cold took me down in December of 2019. I remember that cold because it came right before . . . well, you know. I will say, it’s startling to be sick after three years of good health. (My decongestants are five years past expiration.) I’m feeling no better this morning, so this post may not get published on January 1 at all. I guess that is the first lesson of the year in letting an intention go; and it’s only 6:30am. What I get for setting an intention when I said I wasn’t going to.

Last year, on the other hand, was full of plans, intentions, happenings. My book was published on October 18, and I’m proud of the job I did preparing the way for its birth and then supporting it post Pub Day. I created a website and established a newsletter to support caregivers in whatever way I can, not wanting 2022 and the coming years to be only about the book. In the midst of that, I turned seventy. I had plenty of goals for my Year of Seventy, and I met all but one. But the year isn’t over until June, when I add another one to my age. It was a most excellent personal year.

Now it’s a brand new slate for things to happen in. I have ideas. They are not plans. The biggest one is an autumn road trip. It’s a long way off, and it will take a good bit of preparation to pull it off. But not today.

For the eight years before I left Raleigh, early every Saturday I drove to Café Carolina with the blueberry scone I had purchased at The Fresh Market the day before. (I had a standing order, so they wouldn’t sell out before I got there.) I walked in with my journal and later laptop, and often the barista had my half-caff coffee ready for me by the time I got from the front door to the counter at the back. Sometimes I was greeted with, “It’s on me today.” There were familiar patrons at the tables every week, and we greeted each other. I sat down at my usual table and over the next two hours or so, I journaled. For the last three years, I wrote a blog post about the garden—always the garden was the soil from which a story bloomed—and hit “publish” without agonizing over excessively editing it. I think I became a better writer over those years.

But the thing is, when I walked into that space every week, I felt something. A rush of emotion. A familiarity. A “this is what I do and who I am” knowing. This is home. I haven’t felt that since I left that garden and that “home.” After trying different spots in my hometown, and finding a yoga studio thirty miles away, I settled on Panera Bread in Olympia for my writing place before yoga class. (For some reason I prefer cafés to coffee shops for this activity. Maybe trying to find that home I left behind.)

I did find the regulars (interrupted by the Pandemic and yoga changing days a few times); and Clara, the not-young counter person, knows my order now. But until last week, when there was no yoga and I went only for the café time, I have not had the rush of the familiar when I walked in the door. But last Thursday—a different day and a different agenda—there it was. It was only a moment, but Clara was at the counter, the gas fire was burning, my table was waiting for me. Whoosh. All was well with the world.

It got me wondering what I have been missing. For the past years, once my Daughter On Duty blog started calling to be a book, my café time was spent editing the book. These past months, I’ve been creating social media graphics in support of the book. And then there were the months I spent researching WWII events and excerpting and compiling my family’s letters home during the war. There hasn’t been any reflective writing for a long time. Is that it? I miss writing. Even my adventure posts have been merely travel logs without much reflection. Can I get it back? Should I? I don’t know the answer, but the canvas is blank. Anything could happen.

It’s like those coloring books my grandsons had, where the page is blank until you rub the magic pen over it and a picture shows up. However, someone has to draw the picture to be uncovered. I’m looking forward to letting ideas form without prejudice then see what emerges. Maybe the tarot spread for the new year will help spark a picture of the future. Then I will do a mind map, and write down everything I can think of that I might want to do.

First I need to get over this cold. Today I will just do what you do when you are sick: rest, fluids, movies.

Later this same day: Well, it isn’t brilliant, but it is a post on the first day of the new year. And I might feel a little better too. In the meantime, the two memes above came up in my Facebook feed that speak exactly to the theme of a blank slate. You just can’t make anything up any more! But I will take it as affirmation from beyond that I am on the right track.

Happy New Year, my friends! Thank you for meeting me here on the page. Your continuing presence over the years and your comments mean the world to me.

Here’s a fun thing! If you’ve read Mother Lode, you are invited to participate in the Golden Crown Awards, coincidentally coinciding with the Golden Globe Awards. Vote for your favorites in ten categories (it takes about a minute). It’s all in fun, use whatever criteria you want. Golden Crown SurveyMonkey Ballot. Winners will be posted on January 10, during the Golden Globes.

Oh, and a few photos of Christmas 2022. (I unloaded art supplies on the littlest Little: beads and polymer clay and accessories!) We made cookies, went for a walk in the cemetery and looked for the oldest stones (1800-something), and did pretend stories with Lucy the patient dog in Seattle, and they all come to my house for Boxing Day.

14 thoughts on “New Year, New Canvas

  1. Actually Gretchen, this is in fact brilliant and thought provoking, and full of reflective writing to boot! I so enjoyed reading it and thinking about how I might apply some of it to me. I love doing the kind of writing that starts from nowhere and ends up somewhere… or not. Maybe all my best writing is a meandering stream until something snags on a rock and I zero in on it – and either let it go or keep going. It doesn’t all make it to the editing stage, but that’s part of the process too.

    It’s also fairly clear from this that your habits bring you a lot of comfort – same place, same time, same barista, same food. I don’t think I’ve ever tried that regular sort of approach, though I do enjoy (or did) cafe writing. I’m wondering if by having all the details exactly the same, it allows you to totally focus on the creative aspect of your date without concern for the what/where/when details.

    I may be off base with my comments, but since I have no intentions or resolutions, this may be a great approach for me. Thanks. And, I’ll get to the ballot soon! Looking forward to it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, this is so helpful, Nancy. It rings true. Many of my garden posts ended with nothing and, hopefully, became something. Sometimes I had a few notes when I arrived at the cafe, but often I had nothing. I just started. My goal was to always post before I left there, however imperfect. (Then I usually edited the crap out of it later, but the point was not to let imperfection stop me.) Perhaps I will put local coffee shop on my mind map. I’ll have to stick to drip coffee. I am accustomed to lattes at coffee shops, and then would be $$. And they don’t have free refills like cafes do. Hey, maybe that’s why I like cafes! Thank you for this.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love editing more than anything, that was the “problem.” I will edit endlessly, never able to let go, never completely satisfied. I wanted to learn to write it and set it free—good enough. Editing is critical for work seeking publication, but I was going for quantity over quality. More polished than journaling, for sure, but still more journal-like in intent,

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mine was Drifting Grounds, a small charming place run by Erin and Christian, with an eclectic mix of regular ‘characters’ sitting at mix-matched tables amid old books and jigsaw puzzles (for those so inclined), but I came several times a week to ‘just write.’ Sitting quietly with my journal and fountain pen, I was the ‘writer’’ amid the knitters and puzzlers. Then Covid came and they couldnt survive as a carry-out since no was was allowed to enter. Almost two years passed before they regrouped and built a new place, but… the tables are few and there is no longer a community of old friends assembled. I miss ‘what was’ like an ache in my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s not just me. I’m glad. Sad and glad; glad and sad. There are a few I see no matter what day I go, so I think they go every day. There was one woman, in before times, and her husband. Every time I went they were there, scratching off lotto cards after they ate. And reading the paper. Then he stopped coming. I finally asked another regular couple* if he had died. He had. After the lock down, when I returned she was there, but for the last several weeks, she hasn’t been. I think she went every day, so I am concerned. *The other couple played Rummicub and Uno and always had a funny little diorama on a chair by the table. I wish I’d asked them to tell me about it. They’ve only seen them once since Covid, they’d come on my new day because it was their anniversary. If it weren’t such a long drive, I would go everyday to try to find them. Another guy is a minister, I think, and met the occasional parishioner there; usually he had coffee alone. I’ve seen him only a few times since. Another woman, and I think her father, is a new pair, but I also haven’t seen them for a while. Very sad. Sometimes I hate change.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly! I met so many ‘like minded retirees’ and when I would put my pen down, they would come sit and we’d talk politics and poetry and ‘life experiences’ … a small vibrant community, like lightning in a bottle. Yes, sad.

        And, I hope you get some relief from your ‘miasma,’ as my Mom would call it. She swore we all got sick with something as soon as Christmas was over. Hot tea and honey…

        Liked by 1 person

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