Year’s End, A Noticing

Another year is about to turn. The sky has been thick with mist and clouds, so beautifully moody. As I drove down the country road where we’re staying in upstate New York, I noticed a tree full of noisy blue jays, looking busy and important in their fancy blue suits.

I wanted to stop and take a picture, post it on Instagram, for my fellow noticers, but I knew there was no way to get close enough, no way to capture the moment as it was happening, so I put down my phone and marveled at the beauty, just me. No documentation, no outward approval, just an impression left on my heart.

Everything on my drive to the grocery store struck me as magnificent – notice me, notice me! – the world seemed to shout and I did. I noticed the beauty of the small red barn against the gray knit sky, and the crescent of bare trees arching in the distance. I noticed with delight the snow flakes that fell and stopped in the span of a minute, the bright happy sound of water splashing beneath my tires, the bubbling rush of the stream when I paused on my drive, pulling over and capturing the conflicted sky, this time with my camera. I couldn’t resist.

left of river right of river

There are entire days, weeks, I’m sure, when I don’t notice. When my head is down and I miss dozens, hundreds, of these small magical moments. Right now, in the mid-afternoon sky, a sea of white and gray clouds skim across the top of the mountain peaks outside my window. The sun moving along with it, as if being carried by an invisible current.

How seldom I stop, how seldom I stand still enough to notice the movement of the world around me, not the frantic movement of people, including myself, not the movement across a small lit up screen that sucks me in like a vortex, but the movement in the sky, in a tree full of birds, the softness of my son’s hair pressed against my face, tickling my cheek. My daughter’s eyes, such a vivid blue, the way the cleft in her chin appears more pronounced when she is sleeping, reminding me of her infant face.

Oh, there is so much to notice. There is so much to miss.

On the drive I thought about my mother, another new year without her. This June will be nine years since her death. Then I wondered, maybe I’m wrong? Could it be eight? I actually have to stop and do the math. I used to keep track by weeks, then months, like you do with a baby. Now I am making guesses, second-guessing. It will be nine.

My mom used to joke with me about her MS, saying that at least it would give me good material. I’m sure in the moment I told her to stop, but turns out she was right. I’m still writing about her. I’m still writing her. To find her, understand her, be close to her. As I drove, amid all the beauty of the world, all the noticing, these words came out of my mouth as if she were beside me.

I’d return it in a second to have you back, mom, you jerk.

And then I laughed because calling your dead mom a jerk is kind of funny, but also not funny because in that moment I wanted to call her more names, I wanted to curse and rail at her for being dead, in that moment I was furious with her for leaving me. But in seconds the fury melted to sadness, and then gratitude, for having her as long as I did, and still do, in my heart.

This post wasn’t supposed to go here, but sometimes you have to follow the sparks, the glimmers on the road, and see where it leads you.

I intended to write about my new word of the year, and maybe a little bit about how I slacked on last year’s word, focus. But I don’t think I need to. I’m going to look forward, not back, and this year I’m going to soar.

Happy New Year, and thank you, every one of you dear readers, those I know in real life and those I hope to meet. Knowing you’re out there – in my town, across the country or an ocean – whether you’re reading my words or offering your own, or both, lifts my spirits and keeps me aloft.

Hope to see you, and maybe read you, in 2016.

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34 thoughts on “Year’s End, A Noticing

  1. Your prose is so lovely and lilting, Dana. I understand so well the nature of the counting problem. Love to you today and in the new year.

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    • Thank you Kristen, sometimes you don’t know where you’re going until you’re there! Looking forward to more of your writing 🙂 Maybe some fiction in 2016 when one of your stories is selected to be published.

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  2. I love where the post took you and I love that you followed!! That’s one reason why you’re such a talented writer!! This spring will be nine years since I lost my dad…I, too, had to do the math. I totally get how different it is from when I was counting days. Nine years seems wrong…too long…not possible. He still feels present! YOU are one of my blessings for 2015!! I can’t wait to watch you SOAR in 2016 Dana!!

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    • Thank you Michelle, that’s right, we are on the same year track of grief. It’s hard, no matter how much time passes, yet I can’t believe it’s so close to a decade. How is that possible?! I’m incredibly glad I had the good fortune to meet you on my first trip to Highlights. Let’s have a reunion in 2016 if possible 🙂

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  3. Much joy sending your way…great post I love it when the words flow in any direction they want. You are choosing to live in the moment it seems… And your mom is right with you….your words about her keep her alive. So anyway I drove by the bay and sea gulls were out today all over I watched them as long as I could….marvelous world huh? Happy new year from Northern CA where your words touched my heart!

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    • Thank you so much for these kind words. I’m a little jealous of your proximity to the bay! I love watching sea gulls on the beach. I’m glad you enjoyed the view. Happy New Year back at you from the East coast 🙂

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      • Lol I love them too until they poop on my head lol then I’m not so happy but laughing at my luck! I want to see the east coast someday…happy blogging thanks for the comment!

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  4. I love this so much, Dana. This afternoon I did the same thing – how many years has Dad been gone, I thought to myself. I had to calculate it. This sheer exercise struck me with a profound sadness. Yes, to noticing, my friend. I hope you have several of these shimmering and glimmering moments in 2016. xo

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    • Oh, Rudri, isn’t it such a strange, sad feeling? They’re so present in other ways, but not in the way we most want. Thank you for reading and understanding. Hope you have a lovely New Year with your beautiful family! I look forward to many more of your words in 2016.

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  5. This is beautiful, Dana! The missing and noticing, the writing of someone for years, the passage of time and how it races and slows and blurs. I am so happy to have met you last year. I hope 2016 is a wonderful one for you! Xo

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  6. Lyrical and flowing, so beautiful, I love where your words led you!. “I’d return it in a second to have you back…” yes, oh yes, me too. May 2016 be filled with hundreds of small, magical moments for you!

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    • Thank you Terri, I know you understand this all too well. The bargains we try to make, even years later, kind of floors me. In a way grief is like a continued conversation, more one-sided than I’d like, but it keeps me connected.

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  7. Dana I so loved this unplanned post, you are right sometimes we just need to write and see where it leads us. This time of year I dwell on those already in the beyond too. By noticing the world around you, you live for them too. Moments like these are worth stopping for and sometimes its not a camera moment but a precious minute just for you to enjoy. Keep noticing and you will create a wonderful habit. Happy new Year Dana. Love those photos by the way.

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  8. Pingback: We can do ANYTHING (except slow time) & Other Sunday Reads - Allison Barrett Carter, Writer

  9. I am so bad about paying attention, and it makes me sad to contemplate what I might miss. I loved the way this led to your mom…doesn’t it always? And don’t worry about calling her a jerk, I’ve called mine worse, especially when her words come out of my mouth. I know she’s up there laughing at me.

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  10. What a gorgeous post Dana! It brought tears to my eyes. You are so right about the importance of noticing things. I think the modern world has far too may distractions which is one of the reasons my husband and I chose to live on a windy rural hillside. I’m semi-addicted to the internet and that, alongside all my stories and writing, means I often feel like there is a busy metropolis inside my head. I really need to be able to look out of my window and think ‘Oh what a lovely tree and isn’t that peaceful patch of cloud?’ – I think I’d lose the plot if the metropolis of my head was repeated outside my window. Nature is wonderful and so, as always, is your writing xxx

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    • Oh, thanks so much Maddy! There are so many distractions and I am pretty bad at putting them down and looking up, but every now and then I remember. I love living in a rural area, too, and maybe it helps as a counterbalance to the noise in my head and online.

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