making connections and an open petri dish

silver-birchesIn November, a traditional month for homecoming, I gave thanks. And now in December as the year ends and calls for holiday parties, tree lighting ceremonies, and Hanukkah preparations, some may recount their year in specifics. Maybe you know what I’m talking about—the letter—tucked inside a holiday card you received. You read a script font printed on holiday paper catching you up on a year’s worth of travels, additions to family, or sadly, deaths.

The end of the year summons a sure-to-follow response, “Where did the time go?” On New Year’s Eve, at midnight’s strike we raise a glass to days gone by.

An auld lang syne shouldn’t necessarily be a recount of days gone as if tick marks off a white board but rather a connecting of dots until we see a big picture. Let me explain.

As most of my reading this past year has been in the interest of craft writing, I decided to pick up a book of fiction, The Overstory by Richard Powers, a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner. As a writer who has a keen obsession with nature, specifically trees, I was inspired by this story to see trees as characters. While the book is also about activism and humans’ disconnection with the natural world, its story lines meet science to see trees’ capabilities, how they communicate, protect themselves and each other, and after death, that they give back to each other. Dog-eared pages illustrate my level of how impressed I am with a work I just happened to have considered.

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photo credit: Mary Jo Wildman

Throughout this year on routine morning runs or afternoon walks nearby in Harms Woods, I recall dramatic, if not, distinct changes of the past seasons—in spring, white, lavender and yellow pop from an awakening gray earth bed, summer’s growth is blanketed in greens of every spectrum, and in the fall, leaves in green apple and pumpkin orange crinkle underfoot while wind slips through branches, nudging leaves to succumb to death. I see how Power’s story and my Thoreau moments of “I went to the woods” are my connecting dots to see a cyclical nature of living things.

. . . and then about a week later, I attended a mind/body wellness workshop, practicing yoga, sipping smoothies and watching a demonstration of making a confetti kale salad. (no nose-wrinkling. It was delicious!) The health coach threaded through the aisles of crossed-legged yogis with a large bowl in hand filled with what looked to be clear plastic buttons with inspiring words or a photo seen through them. I thought of all the buttons, photos and words in her bowl, she placed “making a connection” in the palm of my hand. It felt heavy and seemed to glow in light and warmth in my palm’s center. I closed my fingers and thought not only how those words were true for me, but also how its circular shape defined my year’s overview of a mind/body connection.

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I recall what Powers said in a recent interview—the importance of being present and paying attention. A fictional story about trees, nature walks, and a mind/body workshop are a few connections of my days gone by this year; being present was my big picture.

In recounting your past year, whether it be experiences of travels, making new friends, or reaching a goal in accomplishment, consider these as connections to seeing your bigger picture.

Powers also offered a bit of writing advice, referring to Fleming’s discovery of the first known antibiotic, penicillin, when mold accidentally contaminated compromised petri dishes of staphylococcus bacteria:

“Keep your petri dishes open . . . leaving yourself open to serendipity and happy accident. Be present, practice attention, and the story you are working on will feed on everything in front of you.”

 

As this is my last post for the year, I thank you all who have supported me and my writing endeavors this past year as I continue my story of awareness, connecting and finding my place to be.

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From all things reading, writing and Under the Birch Tree, have a happy, healthy holiday.

My best to you in the new year.