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One More Deep Breath Before . . .

Tomorrow, there will be proof positive. Tomorrow, there will be just a little more daylight . . . there will be an ever-so-subtle knowing in our bones that winter is half done and spring will come. Today is the last day of the Solstice pause. That means there is time for yet one more story. Here's a story that comes to mind about our friend, the one who took a walk rather than wrap gifts or go shopping on the second Solstice evening.

This was many years ago. Our friend awoke early on the last day of Solstice. The sun’s warmth was far away and the day had a laziness to it. It wasn’t the sort of laziness that comes with the summer sun or on a springtime breeze. This was the sort of laziness that comes with a warm blanket. It was a day too cold to be invigorating and too overcast to be creative, so our friend pulled a scrap of paper from the recycling bin.

It was in that moment that a new tradition was born, at least, it was new to us. Our friend made a kind of list. Not a wish list and not a shopping list. No, it was a kind of diagram. A diagram of hopes and dreams. When our friend showed us the list, it was all higgle-d-piggly and this-y and that-y, with phrases and pictures here and there.

“What’s this?” we asked.

“My intentions,” said our friend. “I can’t promise to be thinner next year or put more money in the bank. When I do make those promises, I inevitably fail. So I know that I just can’t make resolutions.”

“No,” we said. “We can’t either.” We nodded and waited for our friend to go on.

“But I do have intentions,” our friend said. “They aren’t things that can be checked off a list as done or undone. They are more . . . It’s hard to explain. My intentions have to do with the direction I want to be headed. Who I want to be. Or maybe how I want to be.” So we looked at the scrap of paper more closely. We understood that our friend's struggle wasn't about being happy. We remember the dark days when our friend confessed that life might not be worth living. We also remember what went with those doubts, the things everyone else saw as a destructive but that kept our friend alive.

“I want to be less frantic. I want to sit quietly and listen, even when I am ready to leap out of my skin with anxiety.” Next we pointed to the words “Make room."

"What for? What do you want to make room for?”

“I always promised myself that I would hike 10 miles a week,” said our friend. “But I never have and I almost gave up hiking altogether because I broke that promise to myself. Then it came to me, there are so few days that I can hike or spend with my friends or do things on the spur of the moment because I don’t have room. I have a schedule and I have a plan, just to keep myself busy. That’s a kind of intention too, but it gets in the way of other intentions. So I think maybe all I can do is make room for, well, something else. Something that’s not on the plan. If I can just make room for hiking, there will be room for so much more. I don’t really know how I’ll do it, but I intend to. I intend to make room for something that’s not on the plan.”

We looked more closely at the little things sketched here and there. We contemplated the phrases describing delightful little things. There were picnics and sunrises . . . or maybe they were sunsets. “Actually smell the coffee” was written out along with “Greet the day before planning the day.” Little things. Aspirations. We realized that this was a portrait of our friend in a contented life. Not a perfect life, but maybe a more contented one.

Ever since then, we have written out our own intentions for the seasons following Solstice. In the days between Christmas Eve, which is the first day after the Season of Solstice, and New Years Eve, which is the traditional time for making resolutions, we illustrate and describe contentment. We imagine the little things that we would pay attention to, the shifts in disposition, and we describe our intentions for the upcoming year.

We invite you, too, to take this day to consider your intentions for the next year. Who would you enjoy spending time with? What thoughts would you like to think? Have you commitments to deepen? Or maybe there are things it's time to let go of? If you do or there is something else entirely on your mind, go ahead and note it down. Set your intention and know that there is no failure possible. It is an intention, a direction, and along the way you will discover what is possible.

After today, things will pick up again. The earth will visibly shift on its axis and things will begin to happen. You will make plans and so will we. Meetings are already on the calendar and little worries will be popping up before you know it, but before that happens, let us enjoy this day and evening together, savoring the last day of the Solstice pause, confident that the days will soon be longer . . . maybe even long enough for the field mouse who passes by not shaking the grass.

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