First Freeze of a New Year

I greet the first dawn of the New Year, standing in a familiar place, toes chilled by an unfamiliar freeze. First freeze of the new year.

Goodbye 2017first freeze beach

2017 was a challenging year, horrid for some people in my life. I’m tempted to join the “Good Riddance, 2017!” chorus but I’ll resist. The lyrics to that song don’t honor the blessings, however brief or small, that I experienced this year. So, I’ll give my challenges and shortcomings a nod, because they deserve that much if I’m going to learn from them. However, I choose to focus my memory energy on the good things.

Some of the highlights:

  • 20-foot U-Haul New Orleans to Chicago trip through Storm Helena and a child’s successful step towards her future
  • burning trees
  • Cakes beach trip
  • mom’s cognitive therapy and mom’s green thumb in my garden
  • Magical Mystery Gleaux (Mardi Gras)
  • blue birdsfirst freeze bluebird
  • A grandmother’s garden” canvasses (I love PhotoShop!)
  • boatloads of code in my brain (I can explain why to use overflow-x:auto with overflow-y:hidden)
  • pins, fieldwork, and a bright career ahead for my oldest
  • work trip to Chicago, joyful visit with daughter
  • 40th high school reunion: old friends, new friends, heartwarming events
  • birthday and drop dead slumber party
  • beginnings of a new novel (can’t finish what I don’t start!)
  • birthday surprises for family and friends (I love Photoshop!)
  • 13th Gate Escape (we died the first time)
  • #ruralhomeoffice established: more time with mom and dad and a beautiful setting for work
  • Washington Parish Fair with my folks
  • Thanksgiving with family and a wee morning talk with my favorite nephew
  • Christmas with all my children, my folks, and family friends
  • And, on the last day of the year, a brand-spanking new (first-time!) subscription to PhotoShop (no more sluggish outdated PhotoShop for me!)

Hello 2018

As any good freelancer would do on a holiday, I was on my way to work at daybreak on this first day of 2018. But I saw the first colors of the new year sky, and a minute later, I stood in bare feet in a frozen yard trying to capture the colors with a phone.

I will work today, but, first, I’m saying hello to 2018 with my words. First, I’m making a 2018 folder in my Pictures library. First, I’m writing for myself.

First me on this first day begins 2018 on the right foot (no matter the frozen toes). First me feels good and opens the door to more blessings.

I’m not one to make robust resolutions on the first day of any year, but I have become a fan of the monthly calendar resolutions. So on this first day, I look forward to the good habits that each month will bring. On this first day, my first promise is to take better care of myself and my time. On this first dawn, I resolve to seek the blessings in each day and make more time for family and friends. On this first freeze of the new year, I’ll allow the distractions of beauty, curl my toes against the frozen brick, and snatch a bit of the moment for myself.

This is how I find my first blessing of the new year. Wishing you a first and many more blessings this new year.

©Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2018.

Rituals Without Rules

In 2005, we accidentally started a tradition: we set our Christmas tree on fire.2016-tree-burn-2

My mom and son had built a Handy Man fire pit. We were shy of firewood, we did, however, have a dry tree.

I honestly don’t recall if we stuffed the tree that first year, or if we started it the next, but at some point, we included invitations and dismissals in our accidental tradition. On slips of paper, we wrote down things we wanted to invite into our lives, and things we wanted to remove.

We stuffed the tree with the invites and get-outs, then watched our tree give us its most spectacular gift: the fire dance.

2016-tree-burn-1After the first burn, we were addicted. This is the eleventh year and the tenth time (we missed one year) that we delighted in the ritual of stuffing the tree with our invitations (hellos, welcomings) and dismissals  (goodbyes, good riddances) before placing it in the pit for its final fiery moments.

Our tree burning tradition satisfies my personal affection for fire, my love for candlelight, fireplaces, and campfires.

Tree burning also plays on ancient emotions within us, inspired by rituals and events of past and present. Cleansing and killing, devil and god. Fire warms a home and cooks a meal. Fire ravages forests and buildings. Fire is the send-off ceremony of the dead. Fire is the light that leads the way. Fire inspires and terrifies in equal measure.

For my family, fire delights. Our fire-pit tree burn has become an annual inter-generational party and a post-holiday kick-off for a new year. After a couple of years, we began collecting one or two additional trees for the ritual. That’s when the questions about rules escalated.

  • Is this the welcoming tree or the dismissal tree?
  • Do I have to fold the paper?
  • Do I put the invitation on one side and the dismissal on the other?
  • Does it matter where I put it in the tree?
  • Can I write more than one?

Every year I explain: there are no rules. This idea makes some people suspicious. What kind of ritual is this, after all, if there are no rules?

I understand why they ask. They’re afraid they’re going to mess up the magic. 

Here’s the life lesson, regardless of your religion, creed, or culture:2016-tree-burn-3

The magic isn’t in the rules of ritual.

The magic is in our gratitude.

The magic is in our affirmations, in our prayers.

The magic is in us, always within us.

This year after the third tree completed its fire dance, I realized I had not attached any dismissals to the trees. I had only inserted welcomings. Did I break the rules? Absolutely not. Maybe I was influenced by new year resolution diet talk: the more good things you put in, the less room there is for bad to get in.

This year’s tree burn was fabulous. I’m grateful for the friends and family who participated, for the food and fun.

My takeaway: I stuffed my 2016 tree trunk with welcomings and welcome-backs; there was no room for my bad baggage on that trunk.

May 2016 light up your hopes and dreams and bring you the warmth of joy and bright blessings.

Copyright © 2016 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.