At this time of year, I always like to take an evening to reflect on the past year. I do this to try to corral where the time has gone (where has the time gone?), but also to discern patterns that have played out, and perhaps subtly changed. It’s always best, and much more fun, to do this in the company of my women friends.
This year we gathered at my home at sundown on the solstice (4 p.m. where I live!) and I made vats of hot cocoa with all the accoutrements: whipped cream, shaved chocolate, orange zest. Others brought cookies and crackers and cheese. I gave out party favors of palm-sized embossed notebooks, and this poem, by W.S. Merwin:
To The New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible
This big guy was allowed into the ladies’ circle, my latest foster dog, Mr Bear:
And of course, Abbe was there, at our feet, in all her finery:
As a way to begin reflecting together, I handed out this writing prompt, by Pam Houston, taken from the website Tracking Wonder:
“Sit quietly and ask yourself, what in the last day or week or month has made your heart leap up? Not what should, or might or always had, but what did. Make that list. Be honest, even if it surprises you. Keep the list with you this month. Add to it when it happens. Train yourself to notice. Then ask yourself today, how can I arrange my life to get more of those heart leaps in it?”
We wrote for a little while in our new notebooks, then shared what we had written. You might think of “heart leaps” as moments out of the ordinary, and yes, there were a few of those. But the deepest, most authentic heart leaps came in the ordinary moments that are looked on anew: a sip of homemade chantrelle soup; the cocoa right in front of us; a passing moment of kindness.
You might try this on your own, or with a few friends. What makes your heart leap? How can your life allow for more of these moments of quiet joy?
To aid you in this last part, here are two episodes of the Ted Radio Hour I listened to while happily doing housework in the last week: a show on finding quiet in the midst of busy-ness, and a show on the nature of happiness. And (surprise, surprise) both shows explore how staying fully present in the moment, no matter what we are doing, is the “secret” to happiness.
May you have such moments again and again, during this holiday season of light and into the new year.