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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