Is it me or did 2011 sweep by all in a flash? A whirlwind year! But today, on the eve of a new year, I can’t help but look back and linger on all my favorite days, for after all, “Nature’s first green is gold/Her hardest hue to hold” (Frost).
1. For many of us, this year was about finding passion: finding it, expressing it, living it. All four of my
children burst forth with creativity this year. From opening a yoga shop Buddhi Boutique, to sharing and reviewing music on StopBreatheBump, to interviews and short films with MMASavvy, and at last, our daughter drawing again! Nothing pleases this mother more than knowing her children are expressing their true selves and finding their way in this complex world. Don’t get me wrong, they all have “day jobs” too: feet planted while minds soar. Truly inspirational in my mind.
2. So, what is my passion? Writing is what makes all my days more meaningful, yet I often bemoan not having enough time to “do it.” But last November I embarked on the crazy and wild journey of National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo): one novel, 50,000 words, start to finish, during one month. Suddenly, there was no discussion about not having time, somehow I found it. Dishes piled, laundry too, texted less, tweeted infrequently, rarely spoke, but wrote like my breath depended on it. By week three, with only days to go, I almost gave up, hated my thin characters, found my plot trite, saw no where to place another word, but with the gentle prodding from fellow writers (Savvy Skillet and PrettyLittleBanana) I found my way to a most satisfying story and along the way discovered much about myself as a writer. Many of the barriers I had previously set for myself fell away; my careful word smithing was replaced by yielding to imagination. Writing became fun. More possible too.
3. Of all the achievements this year, hands down my favorite came from an unlikely source. I received a “Life Time Achievement Drama Award” at the school where I work during the Drama Awards Ceremony. As the Drama Director was reading the list of criteria for the award I never thought it to be me. I was truly stunned when he called me to the stage. And so touched. Not because I won, but because of the integrity of the drama program at this small rural high school. Students give their all year after year on that humble stage and never fail to make us laugh or cry or want to get up to sing and dance with them. To be a small part of their hard and enduring work is a distinction that left me profoundly honored.
Living six and a half hours from New York City limits my time there. But in 2011, I was fortunate to make the trip three separate times and each visit was worthy to appear on my favorite list.
4. My first drive to NYC last April was to see my younger brother in David Lindsay-Abaire’s play Good People. Watching him on the stage moving through all the emotions his character demanded was quite a thrill, for he is a fine and exacting actor; but being part of the cheering audience and then afterwards hearing his humble response, always makes me so proud of his hard work. Broadway actors appear show after show, to cheers or jeers, praise or criticism, and hold their heads up regardless. Performers have the ability to unravel the highs and lows of life, and afterwards, with the swish of the curtain, return us with new eyes in which to view our world; my brother is such a performer. Having at least a dozen or so relatives in the red velvet seats around me only added to the gift of that evening.
5. My second drive down was to view the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my mother. For those of you lucky enough to attend, you know this was no easy exhibit to get in to. Although we arrived quite early in the morning we waited on line for 90 minutes; with my mother all those minutes were a delight. The queue snaked through several hallways, all lined with classic sculpture and paintings, and each came with a story from when she and my father had first seen either that treasure or the place and/or artist where it originated. Once inside the exhibit it was impossible to keep track of my 84 year old spitfire for we were elbow to elbow with hundreds of other viewers. The two of us moved like snails to inspect every step of this designer’s retrospective. We both followed the audio tour absolutely riveted by McQueen’s every stitch and design. Afterwards we shared our myriad of reactions over a late luncheon. My mother’s understanding of fashion, politics, trends, and all the nuances of creative expression made the experience all that more fruitful for me.
#5 was just one day of my trip to the NY area, #6 was the second part of that same visit.
6. Besides my large family and ever growing extended family, I am part of an extensive clan, with dozens of cousins and aunts and uncles and a rich lineage that ties us all together. Look no further than the New York harbor and watch the mighty McAllister tugs and you will know us all: determined, strong, and hard working. Last July I had the thrill of attending a-once-a-decade grand reunion along with a hundred others, and yes, tugboats were involved! In fact, we all packed on to two, had an exciting ride through the breakwaters then back to moor in New York’s Port Jefferson harbor for the afternoon, to jump and swim and chat up a storm while in the salty water we all know so well. Can’t beat seeing the 80 year olds splashing about with their grandkids! Can’t beat seeing the familial and know you come from some great stock.
7. Funny how in so many of my blog posts this place pops up: Mohonk Mountain House. All I can say is Mohonk is a magical and dear resort, one that is certain to satisfy anyone. For decades my family has been lucky enough to gather every so often on those splendid vast New York acres. This past August we again did just that. With cots and doubling up into five rooms, 12 of us spent four fantastic days, running, swimming, doing yoga, pilates and tennis, even a rock-scramble, but most importantly eating! I am so fortunate to belong to a family that whenever possible makes every effort to spend time together. Highlights? Sneaking a swim before the lifeguards arrive in the clear glacier lake with three of my brothers, my sister and mother, all before breakfast, our happy voices echoing about the rocky cliffs. Later on a family pilates class run by my sister-in-law, that had me and all the rest moaning and laughing for 60 minutes…the nap on the lake raft afterwards just icing!
8. This year running makes my list. For most of my adult life I have jogged here and there, some years with a bit more regularity, some years training for a Sprint Triathlon or a 5K, but somehow this year, it just felt so freeing to run. There are a few stand-out days that must be mentioned. One is a run with my kids. Never before have I run with all of them, but last August just like that we all laced up and headed through the nature center. I loved the banter and every stride over rock and leafy step. Another run over Thanksgiving with a son and brother was muddy and slick and oh so fun. And just last week over Christmas there were eight of us running the snowy back roads in Vermont. Feels great being part of a pack, especially a fit and healthy pack, still able to move with strength and energy and laughter.
9. This list would not be complete without a nod, a big nod to my wedding! Yes, it’s true, yours truly got married this year. But in all fairness, this wedding was a redo of one that happened twenty years ago. Complicated? Yes, a bit, but I loved being a bride all over again. The dress alone is something every woman needs to don every few years just to remember that wondrous floaty feeling you get when surrounded with yards of crinoline and organza. Top it with a bit of netting over your face and you feel nothing short of drop-dead gorgeous. My best part? Seeing my spouse’s face light up with love as I walked closer to our wedding arbor.
10. Last on my list, and certainly a lasting memory is our 20th Anniversary Party! (See, complicated, a wedding and a 20 year anniversary!) Never have I loved a party so very much. All our kids, my mother and brother, our niece, and about 50 of our dear friends. Dancing music and delicious food, all rolled together to make me the happiest I could ever imagine. In this world of divorce and strife, two decades of saying yes, yes we will work through all that comes our way, together, is quite a blessing, and one that we were keenly aware of, especially while surrounded by so much family and well-wishers.
Not all days are filled with wonder and not all years are thrillers, but each of us can find a gem, a reason to smile and let joy sink into our hearts. Life is all about mining the gold when we see it nestled in the stones around us and let it shine all that much brighter. “So dawn goes down to day/ Nothing gold can stay” (Frost).