studio with easel, table, and chair

Grace Notes #16 — January, 2024

Happy New Year!

How are you faring as we begin another turn around the sun?

Surely there is much to be carrying in our hearts about the state of the world, as I talked a bit about in the last Grace Notes. But the state of the outer world is not what has my attention on this quiet snowy Sunday of Epiphany weekend. It’s the state of our inner worlds that I am thinking about.

The photo above is of our art studio on a regular working day. Not as it looks all glammed up for shows, with its makeup on and its hair all in place, but as it looks in its pajamas, on an ordinary day, waiting for Something to Happen.

 I love how it looks like this.

It’s how we all look on any given day, tumbling out of bed, maybe after a random sleepless night (I just had one!), running a comb through tousled hair and reaching for that comfy flannel shirt we’ve been wearing for the past two weeks. Waiting to see: What’s the day going to bring? And what am I bringing to the day? 

It has not been lost on me, thankfully, that very often a day that started on a thoroughly “Meh” note, when reviewed at day’s end can prove to have revealed something or other of great delight or interest, or brought a new development of some kind that I didn’t see coming. What is that quote from Rilke? “And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.”

It is so easy to get lost in a sea of worry about Out There, especially in this election year. How do we fortify ourselves to be involved in whatever ways we can and not to fade under the weight of the media wringing maximum anxiety out of every development and of our own discouragements? My daily courage vitamins seem to include jotting. Always jotting. Like here—most of what is showing up right here, right now in this paragraph, I did not know I thought until it flowed onto the page. I read it back now, and think: Hmmmph! Yes.

I recently picked up a five-year diary—which has the dates for the current year with spaces for the next five years beneath it. You use it as you see fit, but I am trying to capture some essence or event large or small that occurred to mark the day. Gratitude journals accomplish something similar—a gleaning of something of the day, to savor out of the blur.

This week I had letters or emails from three readers—out of the blue! Someone who had bought her book at our very first event at the Velvet Goose in Gardner almost two years ago and hung onto it until the time felt right just read it and sent a note that lifted me. Hearing that the story is landing in someone’s heart and providing comfort or companionship means everything. Mention of her note went into my five-year diary for that day!

A beautiful reminder to open our lens wider than the “breaking news” is this quote from life coach Nataly Kogan, used here with her permission.

And to the end of providing companionship across the dark gullies and drafty rooms of grief, I want to share two new books. The first is by my friend Kate Seidman. Kate lost her husband Mitch Cohen, a son of Gloucester, MA and a force of nature, several years ago, and has just debuted her wonderful book The Widow Roadmap, which is an illustrated memoir of “finding my way.” Kate is as soulful a human as they come, and her book is a reflection of this. It may be of help to someone you know.

The second is Bar of Rest, a meditation in poems written by my friend Sara Epstein. This is a piece of a review I wrote after reading it: Everything about this poetry collection shines with elegance. It is a work born of change; of the particular grief following the loss of a long marriage as well as the tender moving forward. The collection is full of the ordinary moments of daily life, lit by an exquisite consciousness that is occupied with integrating memories of childhood—her own and her children’s, a pandemic, and under and throughout, a great life shift. A rich collection of varied forms, tender and evocative, to be savored over time.

Sara and I will be doing a joint reading on Saturday, March 16, at the oldest independent bookstore in America, the Andover Bookstore in Andover MA. Please come to this cozy setting to hear some words from the heart!

In other events that are percolating for this spring: on March 6, I’ll be out in Hadley MA, participating in a panel talking about grief and loss sponsored by DMH and the Suicide Prevention Network. And stay tuned for more events to follow.

To the end of providing more “courage vitamins” and examples of resilience against all odds, I also wanted to bring your attention to a documentary running on Netflix. Mission: Joy opens a window onto the relationship between HH The Dalai Lama, and Desmond Tutu. It is an hour and a half of witnessing the downright giddy delight and comfort these two spiritual giants of our time take in their friendship and in life, even after surviving different, but equally harrowing, life circumstances.

And finally, I am among the many who find it hard to get through the holiday season without a medicinal dose of Love Actually, primarily because of the opening scenes at Heathrow airport and then of Bill Nighy (aka “Billy Mack”), which respectively reduce me to tears of appreciation for the endless stream of love in the world, and tears of laughter at Bill Nighty’s total commitment to nailing his version of “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…”.

So, with thanks for the lights we shine and share among ourselves in the most ordinary ways, I leave this wish and blessing for your new year.

We shall find peace. We shall hear angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. — Anton Chekhov

Some of our Christmas angels: Asa, Leo, Annika, and Nina.

As always, I love to hear from you. If you have thoughts please use the Comments section below.


4 thoughts on “Grace Notes #16 — January, 2024”

  1. Oh Maureen, your Grace Notes are FULL OF GRACE, insight, love and good humor! I am kind of at a loss for words here as I digest yet another beautiful entry…love you, love your writing and your incredible wisdom! xoxoRosie

    1. well, that brings a great big smile to me. glad to hear – it can feel like sending paper airplanes out into the ethers! so nice to include some shout outs to our friends, too, like Sara!

  2. That was great Maureen! So uplifting and bright. I love the photo you chose. I know that corner well. I’m thankful for this new year albeit the anxiety due November… gonna try to focus on what I can do to keep myself calm and positive like yoga, walks and more travel. Hope to see you again soon. Be well and safe.

    1. thank you Susan! Yes we need to use all our tricks and tools this year. We happen to be especially fortunate to also have the studio, and art-making…..see you over there again sometime!

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