Seasons come and go, the rain, wind, sun and snow. Everything we’ll ever know, falls down upon the ground below.

Twenty eight years I’ve circled around the sun now, and this last lap was something reminiscent of Lucretius’ idea of life, the purpose to pass on the torch, to create new of old to grow into the sweetness.

The year began with the passing of my childhood dog and beloved angel to our family. She came to us in a time of great need and provided companionship and comradeship for myself and brothers. She got older, and things wear down over time. So, I sat outside in the cold smashing a hammer to the bones of a turkey carcass, in hopes she would drink the marrow soup and hang on to her precious breaths. She didn’t, and wasn’t hungry, and passed on the eve of the year. Exactly one year it has been. And I miss my friend, but all dogs go to heaven. (=

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Shortly after this change, the celebration of birth surrounded many of the people I love. My cousin had a baby shower for her daughter, and my other cousin’s son celebrated his second birthday. As time passes, the birth of youth becomes a renewal, an undecided dream and opportunity for possibility. The eyes of a child do not know of the pains life may bring, and as elders we have duties to protect. Seeing members of my family create new relations and humans is mesmerizing. Several of my friends also birthed young children, igniting a spark in me to continue to do my best, and strive to build a world where children can achieve their dreams. When my friends birth young women, I especially am inspired. For the navigation of success for women in the modern world can be challenging, and role models imperative! Besides all of these things, children are incredibly entertaining and it’s great that people keep making them.

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The winter months held wonderful adventures. I saw lectures on race relations in the U.S., did a great deal of winter hiking, went snow shoeing with friends who love the earth, and began running outdoors for the first time since age 12. The moon began to peer out from the clouds in a way I’d never quite appreciated, and there was this incredible desire and urge to listen to my heartbeat. I went to the gym several times a week, conducted significant projects for the university, and began to eat more vegetables. It was as though the winter seasons of my own life were unraveling at the beginning of 2013. I made sure to attend symphony concerts, and saw Lake Michigan’s waves frozen for the first time.

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I spent many hours in the library, and some librarians became such great friends we would chat about history, philosophy and I’d often receive gifts of tea! How lucky, to have friends in the library.

Within a few short months, I found myself performing new poetry about the rites of passage for women, nature, and patterns in society that I was unwilling to become accustomed to. I performed at several downtown venues, and shared my words without shaking of nervousness. How silly it is to become afraid of sharing my own sound… But move forward I did, and received some standing ovations!

I traveled to Washington DC in the spring, to observe the next generation of “environmentalists” or “sustainability movement” or “conservationist” or “tree-hugger” or “people of planet earth”  and was overwhelmed with emotion. I left the crowds of passionate protesters, and took my hula hoop to the streets, wandering a city I once lived in for miles and miles. I thought of the moon and sun, future, founding fathers, and the brave men and women that paved the way since the beginning of time to ensure that all of us had food, shelter, water, knowledge, music, friendship, laughter… I particularly thought of Abraham Lincoln.  It was then, as I sat on the National Mall that I knew my protesting days were over. It’s funny, how things change, how the collective actions of our peers  no longer have the power of a quiet book in the library. Growing up makes me chuckle a bit, passion sure led me down some interesting paths along the way. I captured some great photographs on this trip in D.C., but it was a transformative journey, for I knew I would never return to the streets. I mostly wanted to sit with all the founding fathers and their wives around a fireplace and ask them what they thought about how things were going, did they think it would all be okay, would the United States of America achieve a land of “freedom and liberty and justice for all” and what did that even mean to them. I was so completely alone, wandering the Smithsonian and all the concrete, but there was a tangible power in the silence I felt in our Nation’s capitol, especially in the National Portrait Gallery. Here, in such perfect timing, was an exhibit of American poets, sharing reminders that America is the mountains, the land, the people, the ideas. We define our nation and world creatively here, and it is a blessing.

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So, I came home and was asked by a variety of organizations to lead workshops on sustainable agriculture, and leadership development. How interesting that some think I’m capable of being a leader, or sharing with others what that may mean. I did my best, however, and I’m certain some lessons that were shared will help others on their journeys in life, wherever they choose to go.

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I saw many great concerts, danced a lot, and drank some (well, many) beers as I celebrated the end of my graduate studies. March and April were very busy, filled with academic pursuits, studying, and preparation for completion of my degree and my final coursework in El Salvador. I wrote papers on cognitive dissonance and intercultural development, historic preservation, civil rights, and assisted a local creative non-profit in securing grant funding. When April’s final moments came I felt accomplished and proud of how much I’d learned. Right before finals, two of my best friends got married, and April felt as though we were all growing up and building something new. Our city also flooded, so it all was kind of just a big overflow of knowledge.

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Then I went to El Salvador. I wrote a book there (well, I filled a journal). El Salvador, the people, the experience, I have no words. Only songs. I broke the language barrier there with students at the Universidad Centroamericana. My heart broke, and I saw something new, an understanding that love was powerful, but different than I’d known before. Solidarity, unity… I cannot express the sentiments of that journey adequately in this space or by typing. But I can share that I left behind cynicism, and brought back gratitude. And I will never, ever be the same.

When I came home, I prepared to finish my MPA, and travel east to be with family, begin seeking a job, and finish all things so that I would be ready to transition to the next phase of living and begin a career. I had no idea what I wanted to do, or where it would lead, but going back to where it all began would prove to be interesting.

It started off like the adventures of a time machine, seeing the old stomping grounds, laughing at some of the things I used to do… Opening old drawers and reading papers I’d written on extremely hilarious topics throughout the years..

  • age 9: “When I grow up I’m going to be a talk show host and get everyone in USA to be happy”
  • age 13: “Writing is my favorite subject in school because then nobody has to talk”
  • age 16: “Why do people judge each other for how they are dressed?”
  • age 18: “I want to play piano for people in prison”
  • age 21: “I’m going to bike across the USA and make money somehow”

The list goes on, but when a writer visits her boxes of stories, songs, poems, books, treasures, it is rewarding, painful, and magical. Seems after all the years, nothing much changes at all except for everything. (=

I spent my first week back teaching Vacation Bible School to first graders, sharing with them how God’s children are all around the world. I then got a job cashiering to save money, ran everyday, played piano and wrote songs about canoes and rainy days, and visited many trees, flowers, mushrooms and lakes. A few stories of particular significance taught me lessons from nature about living and dying that I had never before understood.

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The first tale is of three deer: a mother and her two doe. I was walking in my old fort, seeing if the landscape had been overgrown, and low and behold a young baby deer, no bigger than two feet laid in the grass! I was shocked at the size, and smiled when I saw its sibling just a few feet away. I ran back to the house, eager to discover what one should do when finding young deer in the forest. One of them looked so fragile, I wondered what it would do, if it needed something. Turns out, the mother will forage for food and if the scent changes, she may not return. Just one touch of my hand to the young deer, and their mother would abandon them. Well, luckily, the next day I went to the forest and the little ones were gone, the family unit tightly bound and unbroken by my foolish human maternal instincts. I watched those fawn grow, and we had a great friendship in the short time I spent in the lowlands of Howell. I guess they weren’t as fragile as I thought.

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A few weeks later, I was working out in the garage on the weight bench, hula hooping, dancing and listening to the Beatles. My mom and brother’s dog, Sonic, wouldn’t stop barking so I went to let him out. Well he is a ferociously active animal (thus the name Sonic) and immediately tricked me and ran off into the woods. It brought a grin to my face, to see him frolicking the meadow. He looked like a cross between a hyena and horse,  a bit ridiculous but so happy to be free and wild. I returned to my music and fitness, and shortly thereafter a bark like I’d never heard began. I set down my weights and ran to the meadow to see what had happened. The dog was attacking a woodchuck! I didn’t know what to do, if I should intervene, who would win, why animals had to fight while I was listening to the music of peace and love. I grabbed my hula hoop and attempted to stop the two of them, but quickly learned that the strongest animal of the forest must win and we must let them duke it out alone. Well, the dog won. The woodchuck’s throat had a hole in it. It was completely disgusting and I felt an incredible ache of sadness for the woodchuck. Mister Woodchuck (or Misses, I can’t be sure) weighed about 20 pounds, clearly the woods were serving him well. I grabbed two shovels, and spent a few minutes moving him from the ground to the shovel and then carried the carcass to the edge of the forest. I looked up woodchuck recipes, not wanting to waste anything, and learned that young woodchuck are the best to eat. So, I didn’t eat him. But the next day, when I returned, the carcass was gone. Back to the woods he went! Nature wastes nothing! How poetic, the death of the woodchuck was.

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The final lesson of the land came when a tree fell. A horrible storm, just missing my brother’s car and the neighbor’s house. I felt sad, though not nearly as sad as the first tree I lost as a child. Every time I lose a tree there is a sadness. We had to take the branches and leaves back to the woods, so my feminine nearly 5 foot stature took to the branches as though I were a lumberjack and carried oak limbs to the forest. What was so exciting about this, was not only did I get to say goodbye to each piece of the tree with my own hands, but I also saw that the sweet scent of the decaying tree and its leaves were prime real estate for toads, worms, and a plethora of insects. In death, is life. Many other great animals and I made connections in this time out of the city, including caterpillars, foxes, puppies, horses… It was beautiful.

Summer was marvelous and went by quickly, as the cycle seems to always be. I did lots of swimming, hiking, camping, biking, boating, dancing, hula hooping and built some fires. I reconnected with childhood friends, and made a few new ones. It was a simple summer, and it ended happily with some new hot sauce recipes.

Summer turns to fall and as fall drew to a close, I began to move forward in my life from student to professional. After attending a career fair, and running my first 5k, I found a vocation to contribute my brain to the future of public education. I was scared, excited and filled with anxiety as I began my transition back to the city of Grand Rapids and onward into my life. It began wonderfully, everyone welcoming and kind, our office with windows, and interesting art on the walls. I find the transition from student to professional held some resistance, similar to that of girl to woman, or child to adult, but it slowly un-blossomed. Actually, it happened at an excruciatingly slow pace. I believe the final unraveling is in the dawn that will follow the final sentence of this entry, the day of the new year.

When I traveled back to the city, it was natural to dip my toes back into the sea of what once was, the days of college, the chaotic adventures, travels and conversations with strangers exploring all that was unknown. But it felt different. It was as though I were a sailor, once lost at sea, who had found land, peace, a refreshing harmony with who I was, am and will be. And this idea of anchoring is in me and I see how so many people are unanchored it is so strange. I started attending church services, made decisions to commit to a religion, and found this great yearning to fall in love with myself, poetry, a man, have a home, land, family… Even me, the rebel I love to be, must admit the joys of family are bountiful and cannot be overcome with the love for adventure. Home, home is where the heart is. And the heart is inside the body, so home is everywhere. But the heart must be shared.

So, as I bid adieu to 2013, the year I earned a driver’s license, a Master’s degree, a salaried position, and re-discovered my love for Jesus, I smile.

What a blessed year, tremendous growth, gratitude, love, laughter… I made mistakes, I turned some wrong corners, and I’m not worried at all! I look forward to 2014, finding an apartment to call my own, buying a piano, publishing a book of poetry, and above all, learning to listen. Listen to my heart, to quiet my mind, to embrace the alpha and omega that our divine creator has in store. I don’t have resolutions except to worry less and pray more, and to obey and trust myself and those around me. And to not be afraid. Oh, to not be afraid for heaven is here, on earth. This, was my year of re-birth.