What I am Taking Into February

I meant to post this a week ago, which was still later than usual but less late, however, best-laid plans and all that.

So last week, I was just home from a writing retreat (more about it later), and while preparing for it, I put together some thoughts about the gifts of January.

The new year, especially February,
has brought us more sunlight.

First: a renewed sense of accomplishment, professionally speaking. For a few months, I'm mentoring an accomplished writers who's putting together a creative nonfiction manuscript. Also, for the retreat, I provided feedback on a couple of essays. 

It's a lot of fun to exercise muscles I haven't had the chance to use for a while. These projects have sparked conversations about reflection, narration, scenes, the situation/story theory, and the benefits and dangers of allowing readers to do a lot of work. It's fulfilling and rewarding for me--and I hope is as helpful to those whose work I'm privileged to read. 

Second: I opened the Christmas stocking my sister sent. For 25 years, we've been exchanging Christmas stocking. It's reassuring to participate in a tradition that's this longstanding, and one that reminds me of my mother and our childhood years in a way that's more sweet than sad. 

Accumulating items for her stocking lets me think of Sue all year, especially when I see something for sale I think she'd like or when I'm standing someplace thinking of her. Unwrapping the completely unnecessary but always thoughtful items is the best combination of an adult celebration and childhood's unexpected surprises.

Third: I have a renewed appreciation for the quiet events of the turning of the year. I've hunted out new file folders, marked 2023, and assembled a basket that's filling folders and receipts and forms, ready for the retrospective that comes with prepping for tax season. This year, this mundane task holds a weird sense of achievement, maybe related to the pandemic—we made it through another year and a new year is beginning.

Blue jays, absent from the feeder in
colder weather, are returning!

Since stopping to take stock of last month, February has, of course, brought its own changes—serious, fatal disasters and basic weirdnesses. (I mean, spy balloons? Not something I could have predicted.)

And that’s why I take the time to do this at the end of each month. It’s part of my more-formal review of the business and busy-ness of life. The pause lasts just a moment, of course. 

But that’s OK. Little moments of gratitude add up, all year long.