What a backyard visitor says to me about the new year

I enjoy rounding the bend from one year to the next.  On New Year’s Eve Aimee and I accompanied the girls on a brief tour of the Rose Parade route along Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard. When the famed New Year’s Day Tournament of Roses finally passes, a minimum of 1,000,000 people will line the route.

Motorhomes, with parking sites reserved a year in advance, provide optimum comfort, I suppose, but the diehards, the street campers with their portable Aero-beds and standing fire pits amuse me. We live close enough to the parade route to hear the crowd yelling “Happy New Year” as midnight passes into a new year.

I enjoy rolling over and going back to sleep.

We slowed our pace this Christmas season. I immersed in cooking and baking and didn’t let other things interfere. We made way for a small family party on the 23rd, when Santa comes down our street in his yearly fire truck parade.

We even managed to find time on Aimee’s birthday, Christmas Eve, for a four-generation visit with Mary Poppins Returns, and still had time for a nice family birthday party.

And we traveled later Christmas Day with a beautiful coastal trip up to enjoy our Oakland family for a few days.

And I was amazed that I didn’t feel stressed. I think that’s a first! Actually, I know it is.

I learned something valuable that will follow me into 2019.

The key was downshifting into slow mode. Not getting faster and trying to fill in more gaps, but s-l-o-w…

There was no magic.

I moved about my day with only one intention, and that was to enjoy it.  What a novel thought!

I don’t set new year resolutions. Not specifically, anyway, but  I do appreciate and honor fresh perspectives when I have them.

And the title to my post is key for me this year.

A day or so before Christmas we looked out the kitchen window and saw a heron–or is it an egret–or a crane…

My best guess is he’s an egret, which is really just a type of heron. He was on a fishing expedition in our back pond.

And he returned again on New Year’s Eve.

I do have dozens of photos, but I assume you’re not interested in each one, but here he is in flight.  As the past takes flight, what do I carry with me into 2019?

Longevity and Good Luck are two symbolic meanings associated with a heron, but perhaps meaning more to me at this time is inviting calm, grace, tranquility, and being present. 

I think you’ll agree with me that it’s noisy and often chaotic “out there.” Opinions and diatribes, insincerity and duplicity, even hatefulness abounds, but I don’t want to participate.

And I think Mr. Heron, or whatever his beautiful species happens to be, is reminding me that I can carry the peacefulness I have felt this season, with me going forward.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

I hope something mystical and generative is speaking to you, too. Maybe this can be a year of less chatter and deeper listening.

To each person reading this post I hope for a healthy and peace-filled 2019.

That is my most sincere wish.

Cheers! Debra




61 thoughts on “What a backyard visitor says to me about the new year

  1. Happy New Year, Debra. Cheers to your visitor, which (to me) seems like an egret. While watching the parade this morning, (besides thinking about you) I was wondering about the number of parade viewers. Are tickets required for the entire route?

    PS: Did you see my announcement of a new series: aFa Weekend Concert? Starts this Saturday (actually late Friday night for you).

    • I did see your announcement, Frank, and I’m very glad you’ll be continuing with your series. I really enjoy participating and have missed it on the rare occasion that I just can’t seem to arrive on time!

      I wasn’t as tuned into football yesterday as I was the music, but I went into the television when I heard Ohio State Marching Band playing Bohemian Rhapsody. I had to smile, thinking of you and the game. I hope you enjoyed the win! 🙂 And about the parade route, beginning noon on the 31st the sidewalks become available, and no tickets are required. It’s a zoo! The bleachers and motorhome spaces are ticketed. All fun, but not for me! Wishing you a happy and healthy new year, my friend.

      • The Weekend Concert series is NEW … songs only from one artist!

        Yesterday was the first time I can ever remember not watching even one play of the day’s bowl. (We cut the cord, so no ESPN) … and I refused to watch Kentucky.

        Thanks for thinking of me with Ohio State. I’m not Buckeye fan, but not a Buckeye hater … but their band is impressive, so I’ll have to search for their show. Thanks for the scoop on the parade.

    • Happy New Year, Ray! The track in our G-scale railroad is in need of some electrical work at the moment. My dad was a big help in this area, and since his passing, my husband has found that a little challenging. But he’s working on it and hope by spring to be up and running properly. He has a beautiful Amtrak multi-car train, some Southern Pacific (my husband was an SP switchman) and Union Pacific, too, I believe. As soon as it is running well again we’ll definitely share some video. It’s quite fun!

  2. I can feel my eyes drooping as I read this. 🙂 🙂 It’s been a busy, but very enjoyable festive season for me. We managed to see family and get back here for the New Year celebrations, and a wonderful walk this afternoon in the salt pans. No wonder I’m tired! Health and happiness, Debbie, and a continued calm 🙂

    • I would imagine you have a lot of “busy-ness” and even business requiring attention since your very recent move, Jo. It can’t yet feel all settled. I hope the new year brings even greater happiness and of course, you’re discovering something new every day, so it’s not difficult to imagine you’re daily caught in some kind of wonder! So good to hear from you, and let’s see what the new year offers. Cheers! 🙂

    • I thought I slowed down when we retired, and in some ways, of course, we did. I didn’t recognize how much “hurry” I was still carrying, and letting some of that go has been a joyful experience. Thank you for stopping by, and it gives me the opportunity to personally wish you and your family (and let’s include the kitties) a wonder-filled 2019.

    • It’s lovely you stopped by, Sharyn, and you have given me the opening to wish you a wonder-filled 2019. Wendell Berry often stops me in my tracks. This particular poem touches me very deeply as I am prone to worry about the future. I’m so glad I could share with you.

    • I’m hoping we can encourage each other, Colleen. I know you listen! I’ve seen evidence of that for a long time now. 🙂 I am challenged by so many “noises” that cause me to be reactive/overreactive, and I’m looking for better in myself this year. Blessings to you and your dear family, my friend.

  3. Downshifting! When we finally get this and weave it into our lifestyle, what it can yield is beautiful. I’m thrilled you have discovered and are choosing to practice this, Debra. Warmest wishes for a new year filled with peace, calm, happiness and good health. 🙏🏻

    • I truly appreciate your response and your best wishes for the new year, Eric. In many ways I stumbled upon some deeper truths for myself this season. I am hopeful that the imprint is lasting! Downshifting is a wonderful word, isn’t it? Blessings to you, Eric, and you, too continue to “awaken to awareness.” We all want to feel hopeful about a new year, don’t we!

      • Said smilingly, I wish I drove a manual transmission. That way I’d even more frequently be reminded to downshift. 😂 I am genuinely hopeful about this new year. The alternative is simply unattractive. And, to me, unacceptable. Here’s to your imprint lasting, Debra!

  4. I had a heron visit my pond today! I watched as he carefully perused the area, then decided there was nothing to his liking and took off! My fish are safe for another day. Sure hope he brings luck this year.

    • How nice it is to hear that you also had such a delightful visitor to your pond, Kate. It must also mean that you haven’t had a deep freeze yet? I am choosing to truly believe the beautiful bird is a very positive omen for what we can expect this year. Let’s keep thinking that. 🙂

  5. I watched part of the parade today and you weren’t far away. Cool!

    This was my easiest holiday too. I slowed down, ordered Chinese on Christmas Eve, and asked for help from my adult children. We all had a blast! We just got home from the mountains. I’m surrounded by Christmas decor but it can wait another day… *yawn*
    Happy New Year!

    • You have the right idea, Susie! I would assume that you, like me, recognize how you enjoyed more freedom and will want to replicate the experience not just at holiday time, but at other key family events. I was amazed that with relinquishing some unnecessary and somewhat unrealistic expectations I enjoyed more freedom overall. Wishing you continued happiness and good health, Susie!

  6. Beautiful post, Debra. Sometimes dialing back from full throttle gets us EXACTLY where we want to be. So glad that your holidays remained a joy for you!

    And I love that 4 generations got to see Ms. Poppins! 😀

    • Thank you for the encouragement to continue to “dial it back” a little, Nancy! And yes, the age range for our movie date was 86 and youngest, 9. I think we need more movie dates and fewer unnecessary obligations and arbitrary deadlines. I actually experienced a bit of “found time” and I didn’t think that was possible. LOL!

      Wishing you a happy and healthy 2019, my friend! I’m very hopeful. 🙂

  7. What a delightful reflection from W Barry! It evokes a mood, as does your post. I’m glad you got to slow down this year. Cheers to more of that, for all of us. Health and peace to you and your family.

    • Thank you very much, Anonymous, and I return the blessing for health and peace. It seems more than anything else that is what we need! And I’m so glad you enjoyed the Wendell Berry poem. It truly touched me deeply and I was so pleased to share it. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Karen. It’s so lovely to hear from you as the new year gets underway! I hope that you are doing well, and that 2019 brings you good health and peace. 🙂

  8. Oh, dear friend, this hit home with me on so many levels, from the visiting egret to Wendell Berry, may we take more moments “in the presence of still water” . I, too, found myself purposefully “downshifting into slow mode” which made for a more enjoyable, relaxed holiday season.
    How fun for all of you to take in Mary Poppins. I hoped to see it with the grandchildren, but, not sure yet when they will be here (or we there). I might just go on my own, knowing I can always see it again. 🙂
    Here’s wishing you a very happy and healthy new year, Debra, and extends to all your loved ones as well.

    • I was so delighted with the egret’s visit, Penny! It really did come to me that there was a “message” in his timing to our backyard, and I’m confident the feeling will be one I can pull from in times I’m perhaps losing my serenity! The Wendell Berry poem really touched me, too. It isn’t difficult for me to find I need to rein in my wandering mind and worries! I really did find a different level of calm in the busy-ness of the season, and I would like to stay in the slow mode as long as I can. 🙂 I am delighted that you felt a more enjoyable and relaxed Christmas season, and blessings to you and your dear family for a continued peace in this new year. ox

  9. “Calm, grace, tranquility and being present” It’s sometimes difficult to aspire to these ideals when the outside world encroaches uninvited but, like Wendell Berry, the peace of wild things does help to settle me. Thank you for your insights as always Debra and I hope that 2019 brings what you would wish for yourself and your family.

    • Thank you so much, Philip I know from visiting your blog that appreciating and “listening” to nature is integral to bolstering your personal well-being. I like the phrase “the peace of wild things,” and I think the delight found in the beauty of the natural world will weave throughout this year, if I’m fortunate! I have dabbled in reading Wendell Berry’s works, but I have moved him to the top of my ever-increasing booklist! I am always so glad when you stop by, Philip, and I do hope you and your family also experience a healthy and peace-filled 2019.

    • Thank you, Karen. I think that’s what I’m also hoping for…keeping the peace and calm through the year. I can’t control it all, but perhaps I can moderate my pace and responses to stressful times. There’s a thought! 🙂 I hope you and your family have a healthy and peaceful 2019, too.

  10. Such a lovely post Debra! Thank you for sharing the poem and your thoughts. Yes, slowing down is good. Wishing you peace and happiness and many calm moments this coming year!

    • Thank you, Cathy. I am delighted to hear from you as 2019 gets underway! I hope your holidays were filled with many happy moments, and that you and your family carry good health and peace into the new year. 🙂

  11. Thanks Debra for this “down to earth” post. The Wendell Berry poem moves me deeply.,, the despair, the fear, the beauty, the grace…. “and for a time I am free”. I will take to heart the slowing down “to be”, you speak of. In fellowship, Bruce.

    • Thank you so much, Bruce. Your comment and encouragement means a lot, as I think of you as always being tuned in to the beauty and grace of nature, as well as cultivating personal peace. I am not surprised that this Wendell Berry poem speaks to you. I have been drawn to him lately and I think it’s extraordinary that he can touch me with his words as much as he does. Living as I do in chaotic Los Angeles County, which must be about as far from “the land” as he describes it, he still encourages me to find that connection in any way that I can. We all find ourselves in different places in life, but I sense the connectedness in us all, and it’s important to me to honor that more and more as I sense the splintering. I appreciate your thoughts always. Peace.

  12. Debra, you’ve touched on something profound here and I thank you. For me, as you’ve said so eloquently, I like the idea of focusing on the peace and calm, nature and the here and now. Finding balance in the inner life, when you have no control of the exterior. I love that you’ve had a beautiful egret or heron (or both) visiting your pond. I hope he/she left hungry though.

    We too had a peaceful, restful holiday season. Both my boys were home from college, and everyone seemed relaxed and at peace. Lifted Spirits closed for a week, so after a hectic last week there providing a Christmas party for fragile women, many of whom would be returning to the street, it was good to take a mental break. I continued to hold them in my heart though, and work at keeping that balance so I can continue to help without drowning in the sadness of it all.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts going forward into the year. Breathe lighter.

    • Alys, I don’t think I’ve previously caught on to your work with Lifted Spirits. Undoubtedly you’ve mentioned it and I don’t know how I could have overlooked that sensitive work! I think anyone committed to a fragile population of people is doing sacred work, and done well, it must be costly. I’ve had seasons in my life that were tied to social service agencies and I do recall the emotional burden that often accompanied the volunteer work. I think taking a brief break at times is really necessary. As for balance, I am more and more aware that it is totally up to me to decide when I need to pull away and take care of my own emotional content! I notice how bombarded we are–continually–with negativity and for anyone with a sensitive nature, it does seep in and demoralize. I appreciate your thoughtful comment and I’m very glad you stopped by. Let’s hope that 2019 is a bit gentler. We can hope! 🙂

      • Debra, thank you for this thoughtful comment. I’m not the least bit surprised to learn you’ve done this kind of work. Thanks for your compassionate understanding. I’m hoping to sign up for a free, five-week course through NAMI to get some training for working with the mentally ill. It unfortunately falls on the same day I volunteer so I’m trying to sort that out. And you are so right: it falls on us to find the necessary balance in our lives. I have to readdress that again and again. I’m so glad we’re connected here.

  13. Lovely visitor Debra – Snowy Egret is my identification 🙂 I don’t think we saw Santa at all this Christmas but he can be quite elusive. I did do a lot of freight deliveries on his behalf in the run up to Christmas – I always enjoy the Truck Sim Xmas Event 🙂 Your Rose Tournament sounds impressive though I think the Fire Dept Santa Parade is more my style 😉 Have a great 2019 Debra and I look forward to reading more of your musings over the coming year 🙂

    • Thank you so much, Martin, and I’m with you regarding the yearly Santa “drive by” being much more my style. The parade is huge and very notable as it’s the precursor to the Rose Bowl Football Game later that day. Much of it is completely lost on me! I’m glad you were doing your part for Santa with your many deliveries, however. You surely made many boys and girls happy! 🙂 I do hope 2019 brings good health and peace to both of our homes. 🙂

  14. A lovely way to welcome the New Year. I don’t blame you for not joining the mob of million + at which the mind boggles.

    The firetruck Santa seems a great idea. Reminds me of a Santa that is hoisted to the top of a building on Romsey’s central square, which we have seen a couple of times. Mulled wine and mince pies are distributed freely.

    • I have lived within such a short distance of this parade and all the festivity my entire life, and there is a part of me feels like I might enjoy being part of it at least once. But then I get close to the date when we’d need to make plans and all I can think of is the tremendous inconvenience of so many people and I turn away. I’ll join in a holiday gathering if mulled wine and mince pies are offered. 🙂 Thank you for stopping by, Col!

  15. What a gift Debra to have such a visitor not once but twice over the holidays too. I hope he has brought you longevity and good luck, but I know he sensed a friendly vibe from your nest. Wishing you more surprise visitors like him and blessings to you and yours!

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