This blog post first appeared here on December 28, 2021.
It’s a tradition born out of circumstance. I rise early New Year’s Eve morning, just the other side of dawn when the invisible sun burns beyond the dark, cold sky and the world has yet to fully awaken. Slipping out from beneath warm covers, I pile on layer after layer of clothing, trying to insulate myself from the anticipated chill I’ll encounter deep in the woods. Fortified with a mug of hot tea, I lace up my hiking boots and set out to explore my favorite rugged terrain.
My kids used to accompany me on this annual pilgrimage, but that was back when they were young, before they became teenagers and decided morning didn’t really begin until sometime after lunch; before they became adults with children and lives of their own in different cities, in different states, complete with their own traditions.
Letting Go of Overwhelm
What began as a way to spend time with my family evolved into a singular exploration. It became a chance to spend a few hours outdoors amid the pines and crags ornamented by the chatter of ground squirrels. This solitary journey is the perfect way for me to let go of the overwhelm that comes with being an entrepreneur who lives with chronic illness and pain. It’s the perfect reminder of the many blessings in my life. It is a time to slow down, to engage in quiet reflection, and to reawaken my spirit as one year comes to an end and another one lies before me.
Letting In Gratitude
It is here in the woods where I take my spirit to heal. I come into the peace of the wild things. I come into the peace of the still water and for a time I am reflected in its grace. I sit for so long that I become part of the rock. The stream runs through me and I can no longer distinguish myself from the trees that surround me. My life reaches to the roots, and wherever my feet touch the earth I know I am touching something that has died or been reborn out of the debris.
There is an inherent poetry in nature, a symbiotic merging of sound and motion. It is there in the dried leaves that crackle beneath my boots. It is there in the clear pebbles of rain that dance across the landscape. It is there in the angle of geese that fly high in the winter sky, their call harsh but plaintive.
Letting In Reverence and Connection
It’s easy to feel a sense of reverence out here in the wilderness. Standing on lifted, folded rock that falls away to a far valley, I send my words of gratitude along with the wayward wind. It’s become a ritual these past few years to use this time to bless those who have brought intention to my life, to bless my friends who bring me back to center, and to bless my family who teach me humility by loving me through my flaws. I use this time for remembering – for remembering with a mixture of tenderness and heartache a father, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, all of whom left here too soon. I use this time for letting go – for letting go of earthly wounds and needless separation when the world continually offers me its beneficence.
At the heart of gratitude, in its most intimate sense, I find an expression of belonging. When I, when we, say ”thank you” we are really saying that we honor the connection that exists between each of us. Within this human impulse toward gratitude flow the vast cycles of universal exchange – for everything that is taken, something has to be given in return. Our gratitude is as essential a part of life as are the elements of air and water.