January 7: At my coffee shop, a woman placed a small package on the table next to me. Wrapped in brown paper and lots of tape, it listed a bit to the side, lumpy and funny and beckoning. When her friend sat down, she pushed the package toward her. “Don’t open it yet; I want to tell you about it.”
What followed was a story about the Masai Mara of Kenya, where she bought the gift. My mind drifted to my own visit there 31 years ago. I missed the big reveal — but I enjoyed recalling what I brought back: coffee, art and lots of memories.
P.s. The gift turned out to be honey!
January 8: Back on Christmas Eve, I had thumbed ruefully through our Christmas books, aching for my favorite — the one I usually borrow from the church library, but couldn’t these past two years. I sighed aloud to the boys, and then happily read “Carl’s Christmas” instead.
Today, a package arrived at the house for my son Nate. He swung by to collect it and then handed it to me. “My last Christmas present for you.” Baffled, I opened up the box. Inside lay “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey,” by Susan Wojciechowski, with illustrations by P.J. Lynch. It’s a story of gentle kindnesses, and it’s my favorite. I’ll tuck it away with our other Christmas books, but not before I read the book again to myself and savor the gentle kindness that brought it here.
January 9: Ernie Von Dog arrived on the doorstep of my friend Jennifer when a stranger, seeing Jennifer’s son Doug playing in the front yard, shooed the puppy out of her car and drove off. Jennifer and her family adopted the pup. Doug and Ernie were inseparable until, as a young adult, Doug had to leave Ernie behind with his mom and dad. Ernie lived a long happy life and was eventually buried on Doug’s farm. Before filling the grave, Doug tossed in the ponytail he’d worn years before, when he and Ernie frolicked together.
January 10: Tonight, Jeremiah and I finished watching “Get Back,” the documentary about the Beatles writing and recording songs for their final two albums. We knew the film culminated in the Beatles’ famous rooftop concert, and we watched enthusiastically as the Beatles performed — and crowds (and Bobbies) gathered. When the film was over (please don’t leave us!), Jeremiah said, “I bet half the people watching this documentary now want to go out and start a band.” Maybe. And the rest of us reached for our old Beatles albums and retraced that Long and Winding Road.
January 11: I’m reading a charming audio book called “The Giver of Stars” by JoJo Moyes. Set amid the coal mines of Depression-era Kentucky, it builds a story around real-life women who delivered library books by horse or mule to families scattered across the hollers. One character, named Alice, is a young English woman imbued by the narrator with a charming accent — the same accent as the voice of my new headphones (another Christmas present). “You headset is connected,” my headphones purr — and then my electronic Alice invites me to get lost in a book too.
January 12: I opened the gate to our backyard to retrieve a shovel for extra snow removal. Passing through our garden, I startled a family of deer resting in our neighbor’s yard just a short distance away. They jumped to their feet and gazed at me. I retrieved the shovel, whacked at an annoying boulder, and then returned to the backyard. The deer still stood there. Our eyes met as I shut the gate. Behind me I heard the rustling of shrubs. I hope they settled in for the rest of their afternoon nap.
January 13: During our breath work at yoga today, our teacher talked about finding the right amount of ease and effort and seeking to balance them. I lingered over her phrase “the right amount,” because it honors those times when balance requires a lot of effort and just a little ease. And it also honors the opposite, when repose is the weightiest thing.
She ended our class with a poem by Samantha Reynolds from her blog Bentlily, which makes this point beautifully. She reminds us that “Balance is found/not in a day,/but in a life.” Here are the last few lines of her poem “The Myth of Finding Balance”:
My dream is that we can all
be like the sea,
nobody rushing us
when we’re calm
and nobody telling us
to slow down
when we are inspired
to rise up and pound
another frothy chapter
on the shore.
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