The new decade slipped in quietly last night but no less deliciously than any other year — after my brother departed for points East, I distracted myself from the usual bit of doldrums by cooking dinner for three, using a simple but satisfying menu. I made
(just four leeks chopped finely with a half of a yellow onion and cooked until soft and slippery in a little olive oil, then a few cups of vegetable broth mixed with water and a few sprigs of rosemary and a sprinkle of salt and pepper to finish)
1/2-pound halibut (baked in garlic olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, more rosemary, and lemon slices)
Potato pancakes (upon request, and to fulfill my yearly latke quota)
Spinach salad (with clementine, red onion, radish, honey-mustard dressing)
Poached pears (organic, in a red wine/brown sugar/cinnamon/vanilla/lemon glaze), with whipped cream
A few old friends stopped by for an end-of-year chat; that and a glass of red wine followed by a dish of peppermint ice cream tided us up to midnight. We hugged and cheered and the neighbors set off fireworks and I was tucked up in bed by 1 a.m. It was perfectly perfect all ’round.
[Bear Valley trail, December 2009. ]
The penultimate day of 2009 I went for a hike to one of my favorite spots in the Point Reyes National Seashore — Arch Rock — about 9 miles through the woods out to sea. It was a cool day but not cold, and though rain threatened we fortuitously avoided the drops. It’s the kind of hike you might like to take on new year’s day (err, today
), but today was rainy and somnolent. Better we went when we did.
We brought sandwiches — brie, with cranberry sauce and fresh greens on sourdough for me; a pb&j for my dad; a turkey and cheddar for my brother — and licked the juice of tiny clementines from our fingers as we sat and watched the waves from the high rocks. The women next to us swore they saw a whale but upon closer inspection it turned out to be an elephant seal moving purposefully cross-wise up the coast (I have never seen one out there but I hear they turn up at Drake’s or nearabouts?); alas there were no whales but it didn’t much matter as we had homemade oatmeal-cranberry cookies to make up for it.
The trail was damp and muddy — perfect for hiking. I lagged behind a bit to take some photos and think about the year that had just passed. At the end it always feels like a bit of a blur: no matter all the visitors and trips and weekend jaunts and picnics and dinner parties the holidays speed by in a rush of baking, wrapping paper, cranberry cake, and last-minute package-mailing and I’m left perched at the end of it all wondering where the days went.
But I do know, really, and so many of them were truly wonderful: Saturday late morning swims at the pool in downtown Sebastopol with my dad, speeding through a mile with the sun pouring down on my back and my feet busily churning up the cool water; a champagne lunch in Armstrong Woods with my cousin and aunt visiting from Vermont, eating my mom’s good pasta salad and seeing the familiar redwoods through new eyes; an afternoon spent in Cambridge on the river with beloved friends, and later have my first pint of Guinness across the pond; the fortieth anniversary party I threw with Kurt and Emily and my uncle with lots of friends old and new; my ever-lovely book club evenings and occasional trips out of town; a late afternoon at Keyhoe Beach last summer, the sun standing straight and still over the cliffs and dolphins swimming serenely out to sea ahead of me — a gift of a day not soon forgotten.
As I walked — the hems of my pants growing ever muddier, especially when I leaped over a puddle and landed a little short — and thought and remembered, I knew myself to be so fortunate for all the things I experienced during this past year. I will not say all were joyous — of course some moments were harder than others, as it should be — but on the whole my year was what a year should be: full of gladness, occasional sadness, a few triumphs and the requisite failures, a knowing-of, and an enduring, underlying sense of peace.
In short, it was a year. I remain ever grateful.
Listen, whatever it is you try
to do with your life, nothing will ever dazzle you
like the dreams of your body,
longing to fly while the dead-weight bones
toss their dark mane and hurry
back into the fields of glittering fire
even the great whale,
throbs with song.
~ Mary Oliver
[Pacific Ocean from Arch Rock, December 2009.
On the first day of the new year everything feels possible. The atmosphere is scrubbed clean, the past tucked neatly away, the future bare and shining ahead. This morning I woke early to eat oatmeal and drink strong coffee, then laced up my running shoes to go out for five miles, rain be damned. It was glorious; the road washed clean and all hushed except for the occasional drip-drip of falling water. It felt like the world had let out its breath in a slow, sweet sigh — which, in a way, was entirely true. (And, note: everything is possible if only you can believe in it.)
So tonight I wish you the happiest of new years: a year of living in the moment, of appreciating the little things, of runs in rain and sun both, of leaps and small steps, of love true and sweet, of deep breathes and hikes in the woods and afternoons by the ocean where you can simply be. Know that you are always enough, every single day. And I think you are marvelous.
May this year be one made up of laughter, love, light, and full bellies. Bonne Année!