Reboot Day

Another trip around the sun brings us to “reboot day,” or as most know it, January 1.

Many people spend time today creating resolutions for the new year. It is not a practice I do anymore, and have not for more years than I can remember. Years past I did personal annual reviews to look back and look forward, and I suppose that is a resolutionary effort, but really more project planning.

I am not judging or putting down anyone who makes an annual resolutions list, just sharing that I do not. Instead, any day of my year can have an internal personal announcement of my intention to do this or that. And sometimes I even follow through and do it, but not always. For me, a traditional January 1 resolution list lasts about as long as Thanksgiving leftovers, yet not nearly as tasty across the short number of days it takes to become but a memory.

I enjoyed January 1, when I was still working full time, more as one of those rare, weekdays off. Now retired, every weekday is a day off, so the thrill of such days at home and not at the office are enjoyed throughout the week, the month, the year simply as days I no longer commute to an office and work a full eight (or more). That reason is enough to celebrate January 1 as I do all days of the year.

If making a list of resolutions works for you or helps you form the habits to make them sustainable, then go for it and more power to you. If other traditions, such as the southern one of eating black-eyed peas on this day for good luck, works for you then go for it, too. For all of us, there is the hope that 2022’s reboot day marks the beginning of a safer year and one getting us closer to the end of the pandemic. On that, I think we can all agree.

Desert Winter

When all is said and done, winter probably gets vote for favorite season. I say probably because it is a complicated concept to be definitive about.

A frequent topic here (eight blog posts so far), I enjoy exploring what winter means to me and how I embrace its annual season of renewal, rejuvenation, and quiet recharge of life’s batteries. Winter is not quite the same without the cold, the snow, the shift into staying inside more for warmth, often with blanket cuddling the lap, mug of hot cocoa in hand, and a good book to read despite the inevitable accidental nap encouraged by those three conspirators. Most years, it is a more subtle change of gears in the mind than a shift nudged into place by seasonal weather changes. This year, for me, winter is a season in the desert.

Don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter.
It’s quiet but the roots are down there riotous.

– Rumi

Winter for me typically means read more, relax more, or simply put, a slowed down pace of life to chill more (pun unintended). Most winters I embrace, without labeling it as such, the Danish tradition of hygge, or “coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.”

It is definitely a time when I give myself permission to do less, and ease through the days more than usual to sip each moment. And I must confess, to me the winter image is one of a blazing fire inside and white blankets outside with those endearing snowflakes easing to the ground with little urgency. This year the only blazing I see are the marvelous winter sunrises a desert delivers.

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.

– John Steinbeck

This year I am still in my zone of seasonal renewal, albeit without the pleasant fire and white visuals. In the desert this winter, relaxing and renewing inside my camper van, I still have cherished memories of special winters past, ones with a fireplace blazing while outside nature’s en plein living winter artwork continues through the day. Those winters were not better than others without those two, but remain my halcyon memories. Winter is, as I choose to embrace it, is a state of mind and easily transportable to wherever one is, not just when the view outside takes on the look of a classic Norman Rockwell winter scene.

Yet winter’s renewing grace,
Its universal task,
Revives us all,
If we wear its mask.

– Gary Varner

Fabulous Feastivities

Growing up, Thanksgiving was always my family’s favorite holiday, and I think still is, despite my father and mother no longer part of the feastivities. Some of you might claim Christmas as your favorite family holiday, but for mine the highlight of the year was always the Thanksgiving feast and gathering. The days following found us enjoying leftovers and playing a variety of games or perhaps, lazily working a puzzle on the gaming table.

Raised always to be grateful and thankful throughout the year, not just one day a year, Thanksgiving was a culinary celebration. While the traditional mashed potatoes (real boiled potatoes mashed with heavy cream), gravy, cranberry sauce, yams, baked rolls, dressing, and pies of pumpkin and pecan persuasion were at the table every year, the main dish varied. Traditional butterball turkey made an appearance more than others, but sometimes we ventured into having a goose, individual cornish hens, honey baked ham (sometimes that was a second main dish), beef Wellington, or other non-traditional exotics.

But I will always remember my best eating came during the days after when I would craft my all-time favorite sandwich: turkey + mashed potatoes + dressing + cranberry sauce = bliss. To this day, I’ll grab one of those whenever I find one in the readymade section of a grocery store or on a restaurant’s menu (although never with mashed potatoes!). Of course, the store or restaurant versions pale by comparison in taste to the homemade kind, but still a treat that triggers past Thanksgiving memories.

As our family grew older and drifted apart, this November day rarely saw the whole family together but instead celebrating in our separate homes. I know a fond memory of my two adult sons during their years attending the University of Toledo were the Thanksgivings when I cooked a mega-fest and they took the short drive down to Findlay, Ohio, to enjoy the family’s traditional dinner. While they certainly enjoyed the meal time with Dad, I understood clearly their real mission that day was to take back most of the leftovers that would see them through the weekend. To that purpose, I always cooked way more than needed, and per their preference, always had a ham along with a main bird of some type (even duck one time). Ample leftover sides along with many slices of pumpkin and pecan pie also made the journey back to Toledo.

My highlight memory of this feast with them was always dessert, when they would take the can of whipping cream and bury their pie slice until it looked like a mini-igloo on the plate. We always laughed about that, from my traditional Dad joke of ”Want some pie with your whipped cream?” to the traditional first fork challenge to take away just enough whipping cream to reveal only the tip of the pie in that mountain of white.

This year, as I sit in my camper van in the warm sunshine of open land near Blythe, California, near the border of Arizona, I think of those feasting days and look forward to having more with my boys some day in the future. For now, I am thankful for the adventurous life I am leading, and for these fond memories of past family Thanksgiving days. I do have a somewhat festive mini feast of mine own planned today, courtesy of Trader Joe’s for the most part. Given that I eat healthy these days, this one decadent meal wisely does not include any traditional leftovers.

Hoping you are with yours on this day of marvelous feasting but if not, enjoy your own mini-feast while fondly remembering past times with family and friends.

Ambivert, Anyone?

Lone tree atop a badlands mesa
Lone tree atop a badlands mesa.

I’ve always felt I needed to explain, at some point in a conversation or friendship, that innately I’m an introvert. Over the years, however and thanks to corporate life demands, I’ve learned how to also be a successful extrovert. What that really means is I’ve learned the dubious art of being able to switch to an extrovert when needed, yet when that moment passes, I don’t have to turn it off: my natural introvert takes care of that autonomic response.

But today, via a like on yesterday’s Abiquiu post from Wandering Ambivert, I learned a new word: ambivert. And said learning will make the future much easier to explain…maybe. If ambivert is unknown to the other person it won’t save any time in explaining things, but then one more person will know this useful, little known word. That’s a win-win.

In looking up its etymology, original use was in 1923 when a psychologist coined the word to explain patients who exhibit both extrovert and introvert traits. Pretty much a young pup as odd words go, yet a useful word in certain situations. Specifically it means, per the OED, ”A person who exhibits a balance of extrovert and introvert tendencies or traits.” I wouldn’t call how I switch to an extrovert as being part of a balance: it’s more flexing of a trained muscle than a behavior trait in balance. But, close enough to lay claim to rights to use the word.

Between Earth and Sky

This is the place where we humans dwell. It’s where we eat, sleep, love, and create. And like all sentient beings, for the time being we don’t venture beyond either border, but eventually, inevitably, we do.

Another way to look at this is these two boundaries define our existence, our now. While both earth and sky are sometimes beautiful beyond description, they can also be angry, violent, and ugly, and all shades in between. So it is with our now, with how we each choose to spend our time.

As I begin this new phase of nomadic journeying once again, this is the zone of my focus. Each day as I rise with the sun, express gratitude for still being here (still above ground, so to speak), I will quietly remind myself to enjoy each minute as it unfolds, until the sky turns dark and it’s time once again to sleep.

People ask me what my plan is for this type of travel ahead, and the answer is, that. It’s a daily plan, and it’s a framework to stay present minded and ensure I enjoy the journey.

It’s that simple, yet still challenging.