It’s the beginning of a new year—one that will be different for sure in our family. Dillon will be heading up to UAA in a couple of weeks and in the fall Adella will be going to high school in Montana for her junior year. The house will be emptying out a little sooner than I had expected, at least temporarily, and anticipating that change gives me a different perspective on the present. Suddenly spending quality time with my family feels kind of urgent, and yet I’m finding that teenagers don’t necessarily feel the same way. I’m trying to guard against being too sentimental.
It was challenging to stay caught up with my writing in December, so one of my biggest goals for the new year is to start acting like a serious graduate student again. I’m not so far behind that I can’t get caught up, but I have to find the time to write and then use that time wisely. I’m not sorry that I took a break though. I had a great visit with my mom and two older sisters earlier in the month when they came to see Homer’s version of The Nutcracker and the holidays, with everyone at home, have been great.
A little break from writing has been nice, but I’m ready to face the new year now. I find that I’m a bit of a New Year’s geek, always getting introspective and thinking about what I want to change about my life with the change of the calendar. I can’t decide if it’s optimism that makes me this way or if it’s chronic dissatisfaction with the status quo. Either way, I always seem to want to try harder, tweak a few of my habits and generally work on self-improvement.
Last year was great in many regards. I started an MFA program that I’m excited about. I cut my sugar consumption way down. Things are good with my family. But I can see that I unintentionally cut back on a couple of things that bring me a lot of joy.
I went a whole summer without going camping or stepping foot in our skiff—and summers in Alaska are way too short to not get out and enjoy the nature that’s all around. I live in a beautiful place, with a stunning view of the mountains and the bay, but sometimes I need to leave my five acres and get out there. That has to be a priority this year.
The other thing that I didn’t make enough time for in 2011 was music. For the past decade I’ve made playing music a huge part of my life, and it’s one of the things that fills me up. It gives me what I need to go about my less than exciting life of driving around, going to work, doing dishes, cooking dinner. And as much as I love writing, it doesn’t do the same thing for me. Music takes me out of my head. When I get together with friends to play tunes I lighten up. I drink a little. I crack jokes. When I’m alone and I work on learning new tunes it’s a lot like meditation. My mind is clear for a while of all my responsibilities.
I love writing, and it gives me fulfillment in a different way, but it’s heady stuff. When I’m concentrating on writing I tend to take myself a little too seriously. I need to find a better balance.
So my hope for 2012 is to make time for music. With it being an election year, I’m also hoping to spend less time reading the Huffington Post. To me it seems like my time will be better-spent reading poetry, playing music and having fun with my family. Of course I want to stay informed, but I don’t want to get worked up this time around.
I’m also anticipating a trip or two (who knows, maybe more?) to Missoula when Adella is down there. I have nothing but fond memories of my time in Montana when I attended the U of M and although I’ll miss her terribly, I’m happy to have a reason to go back. The mixed feelings I have about her going are eased by knowing I’ll get to visit, and by trusting that she’ll be in good hands while she’s there.
Best Wishes for the New Year to you all, and in keeping with my New Year’s wish for more music, here’s a clip of our afternoon old-time session from yesterday. I’m playing one of the two fiddles. (I’m the one trying to keep up.)