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What Matters

There seems to be so much less beauty in the world during the winter months.  The leaves, once so lush and dazzling, have fallen and turned to mush on the wet ground.  All that remains where they once thrived is brown or gray, the branches seeming lost and forlorn without their adornments.  Looking day after day at the bare and harsh landscape can threaten to become a reflection of what lies within, rather than what surrounds, if we’re not careful.  But the sun, though it prefers to hide in winter, also teases its presence.

I cherish the sun on the days when it shines, promising to thaw the chill in my bones.  Walking through the woods, where the light is pale and thin, I brace myself against a gust of wind that tries to bully, determined to convince me that coldness is in charge, and I do not belong, there is nothing to see here.

And yet.  Without the lush and full foliage, I am able to see so much more clearly the things that are usually hidden away.  The roots of a fallen tree, weaving intricate patterns among thousands of towering Oaks, have become home to an entire eco-system of moss and I am reminded that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”*.  This is the season of change.  Of ending one year and putting it behind us, striving to be better, stronger, and more true to ourselves in the year to come.

The hardest thing about change, though, is letting go of what was and having faith in what will be, if we will only allow ourselves the opportunity.  Wanting tomorrow to be safe and sure, we often shy away from following in nature’s footsteps by cutting back to the bare roots of ourselves to see what will sprout.  To take that leap, we must mourn the loss of things that have ended and look forward, also, to what will begin.

Now is the time to discover what hides in plain view right in front of us when there is too much color, too much other life surrounding it, to notice in other seasons.  To find beauty when it seems there is none to be found.  I am reminded of a dreary winter evening years ago, in another place, in a different life.

Overwhelmed and feeling like Atlas, with the weight of the world on my shoulders, my daughter climbed into my lap and took my face in her chubby little toddler hands.  Trying to ask me what was the matter, she looked deeply into my eyes with more care and concern than I thought her capable of, and asked, “What matters, Mama?”.   In that moment, my perspective forever changed, and the weight I had carried for far too long floated away, as if the world of Atlas were filled with helium.

There are five simple rules of life that I now live by.

First, don’t take things personally without a damn good reason.

Second, a quote from Maya Angelou, “When people show you who they are, believe them”.  Inherently, people are who they are.  It is better to accept that and plan accordingly, than to be repeatedly blindsided by disappointment.

Third, be kind and respectful.  In turn, be someone worth respecting.

Fourth, live a life you can be proud of, right now.

And fifth, remember that you are not the author of your life’s story, but you can certainly choose to turn the pages.


*Lyrics quote courtesy of Semisonic’s “Closing Time”

I’ve got a regular gig writing for a local monthly newspaper, and since that’s pretty much the only writing I’m doing these days, I figured I should post those articles here as well.  I won’t have an article in February’s issue, but other than that you can usually find me in the Calaveras Chronicle (formerly the Mountain Chronicle) if you’d like to follow along.

What Matters was originally published in the Calaveras Chronicle’s January issue, page 15.