Saturday, December 31, 2011

Grey Hair & Paperclipped To-Do's; or, Survival of the Coming Year.

I can’t pinpoint when it happened, somewhere mid-high school. Much like those doctor office first-visit-form’s questions about first periods – I don’t keep the start date in my memory, I’d rather forget, thank you very much. But somewhere in all of that, time sped up. I started wearing a watch and having to be places on time. Months came faster and faster, like someone flipping through a datebook, looking for a specific (yet still unfound) day, throwing ones I wasn’t quite done with just yet in the trash. And years piled themselves on, leaving physical evidence behind – a few grey hairs here and there and wrinkles beginning around my eyes. But I love them both. I’m not trying to hide them. I’ve earned them. I’ve lived. You can see the evidence in my face and in my body; grey hairs, the wisdom that comes from bad decisions; eye wrinkles, the laughs and the tear lines…some, still salty.

December 31st is a time for reflection. I learned that from my grandmother, The Birder. The thing about her is, she seldom tells you about life; instead, she shows you. All the grandchildren gathered at grandpa and grandma’s house each New Year’s Eve, and year after year I watched my grandmother quietly disappear into the basement around 10 o’clock. Standing at the top of the stairs listening, all was quiet but for a scarce flip of a page as she read the journals in which she religiously writes morning and evening (something which was my “resolution” year after year to do, and something at which I failed miserably). Each New Year’s Eve she goes back to read sections – sometimes the hard parts, sometimes the easy. The former have become more frequent, I think, as of late.  

And so now, this is the time (as I’ve learned), to reflect – on what have I done, and what I will do; on the good times and bad. Like my grandmother, I go back to re-read the written and that left un...
Although never being one for resolutions (things started at a given time with much ceremony seem far too easy to break), my midwest makings simply do what needs done. Not setting out goals and plans, I just go forward – breaking and picking up and piecing back together again -- putting to work my mule-like tendency to put my head down and pull with all my might.

I’m not spending too much time on reflection this year --there isn’t enough time -- what’s before me preoccupies. For being a light eater, there is much on my plate. Linear days are already marked and scheduled, with notes made; accumulating paperclipped to-do’s, to-reads, and quotes I want to remember. I still like my days in pen and ink…written out.

But I do think back, and last year was good, very good – with laughter, stories, and adventure; yet also deaths, tears, and changes. Life doesn’t ask permission of us for any of these things. We must just go on, for you never know what will happen in the morning, even as dark as the night may be, even when the moon is new.  

There’s much to be excited about this coming year; also much to overwhelm. I know how quickly the days will go and there is much to do – many projects, lots to research, much to write, much to learn. At one of my breaking points, Jay militarized me, go on, soldier, he said, looking sternly in my eyes- your mind tells you “no.” Right? Stop. You can’t go on, it tells you, Right? But your mind is a liar – albeit to protect, in defense – but still, a liar. A body can keep going long after the mind has said you have no more – like a chicken with its head cut off.

So I guess come this time next year, there may be some blood, some wounds, some exhaustion and dehydration – but I plan on still having my head, my wits about me, in the end.

And most likely, also a few more grey hairs and wrinkles.

But I’ll have earned them.


  1. Those battle scars of life are what give each of us our own character and make us who we really are. Without them life would be just another uneventful story.
    Here's to the passing of one great year and moving on to one that will bring even more promise....Hope you have a very Happy New Year!!

  2. As life knocks us around like a leaf in the wind, there's no looking back. Put your head down and keep on moving forward. At least that's what this year, soon to be past has been doing to me. No fishing, just looking, trying to find the ground.
    Your essay struck a chord with me,pointing a direction.

  3. You can't turn back the clock, but you can keep batteries in it.

  4. Life, take it as it comes, always moving forward. Lean into next year with the joy of not knowing... All the best...

  5. Not setting out goals and plans, I just go forward – breaking and picking up and piecing back together again -- putting to work my mule-like tendency to put my head down and pull with all my might.

    After reading this, I crumpled my half-written New Year's Eve piece into a little ball and tossed it into the dust bin - where it belongs. You said it all for me and with so much elegant pragmatism that my scratchings were just that. Scratchings.

    Wonderful piece to end the old year. I can't wait to see what continues to pour forth in the new.

    Happy New Year, Erin.

  6. Yes, we have to play the cards that life has provided us with however painful it might be sometimes. When I'm away from all the commotion and casting my fly to try to entize the big one down there. spotted and with a belly of gold, my worries disappear in a snap. It enpowers me to get on with the everyday life even under harsh conditions. It gives me a better perspective of what truly matters in life and helps me becoming a better person.
    Have fun,

  7. High Plains – I was thinking about that last night…and those scars, they’re all stories. I think it was Stephen King, although I can’t remember exactly (and Google for once, isn’t helping!) who said that they key to being a writer is remembering the scars. So I suppose, I should be thankful for them. All the best to you in the New Year!

    Kirk – Thank you so much for reading, and I’m humbled it took you somewhere…familiar. All the best to you in the New Year. Keep on keepin’ on.

    Mark – I like that. I like that a lot. I think I’ll write it on an index card and tape it next to my kitchen clock. Yep…right now.

    Doug – I’m leaning! And sometimes, that adrenaline of not knowing if what you’re leaning on will hold, is what gets you through, in the end. Many thanks, and all the best to you in 2012!

    Mike – Oh, now I’m disappointed! I very much look forward to your “scratchings”….mine are simply ramblings. I’m honored by your kind words though, my friend…and here’s to the new year, and all the scratching ramblings it will surely produce!

    Jassid Man – Gierach wrote that a small fly puts the big things in life into perspective, however they turn out. I think you (and I) know exactly what he meant. So here’s to fishing, perspectives, and whatever the new year brings. Cheers!

  8. You've not only summed up the year, but life itself. It kind of makes me feel less anonymous...Happy New Year to you.

  9. Often at your birthday or important family gatherings Grandma will retrieve the diaries from 5, 10, 15 years back and read the entries from that day in time. I often notice where she pauses and leaves parts out and wonder what the silence is saying. But ever since childhood I have always known that they are off limits and I have never peeked.

    Keep walking on your journey and don't forget the red socks ;-)

  10. If you haven't got scars you haven't lived. Scars show that at least you've been trying.

  11. sgb - I've always noticed those silences as well...and wondered too. Buggering on.

    Phillip - Darn right on that. Something, really, to be proud of...that we've survived.

  12. Keep those eyes set on the days ahead. Here's to 2012, another year of adventures, lessons, growth, more gray hair, etc. As we get closer to returning to Colorado, I hope there's an opportunity up ahead to share some good food and drink with you and Jay, or at least some time on the water. -R

  13. Russell - For sure...when the move is complete and you're settled in, give a, drink, fishing. Heck, perhaps all three. :) Cheers!

  14. Life just gets faster and faster every year, i would like it too slow down just a little, just long enough to catch my breath and take stock of what has gone before, but it wont.

    Best wishes for the New Year Erin, too you and yours. Keep getting the 'scars' and keep writing about them on your blog.


  15. Resolutions, don't make them and you'll never break them.
    They're over rated any way.
    Here's hoping 2012 is the best for you.

  16. Tom - Ah, I'm sure the "scars" will keep on coming, and I cannot help but write them. All the best to you in 2012. Cheers!

    Brk Trt - Exactly! ;) And may 2012 bring many wonderful things your way!

  17. Your grandmother sounds like someone I'd like to meet one day.

    "putting to work my mule-like tendency to put my head down and pull with all my might." Being from Missouri, this one captured my attention. I love mules!

    Have a safe and good journey in 2012.

  18. Gary, Erin owned and trained two mules as a kid. Casper the white mule could beat any high dollar quarter horse in the open horse shows in Western Iowa. The horse club actually met once to discuss banning Erin and her mule from competition saying his braying frightened the horses. We fought and won. Just another glimpse into Erin's childhood;-)

  19. Gary - It's all true! Never a better ride could be bought than Casper...well, once you earned his trust! A great new year to you as well...

    sgb - I had totally forgotten about the banning thing....thanks. :)

  20. Hope you have a wonderful New Years with as few new "scars" as possible in 2012. I am sure you would be able to write wonderfully without them.

    It is true though though, those "scars" make us who we are.

  21. Dan - I wish the same for you as well...a great year! And cheers to the scars that will surely be gotten in the process.

  22. Time, gray hair and wrinkles, you can't slow down any of them. One day you look in the mirror and think, yep, that's what I'm supposed to look like about now.

    I'm not going to explain this right, but about 6 years ago I gave up my midwestern mule like tendencies to put my head down and pull. Instead I stand up straight and let things slide past me. Turn a bit sideways here, move a step over there. It all slides right by.

    And I get to keep going to where I want to be without a whole lot of stress, frustration and unnecessary effort. Simplify and focus.

    Happy New Year all.

  23. Very aptly put Erin.

    As the saying goes, time and tide wait for no one. Clocks spin and days move by, each year seemingly faster than the last, I find planning ahead is as much enjoyable as the trips are.

    Finding your blog this year and following it, have been nothing less than a revelation, I look forward to reading more in 2012.

    Best wishes for the New Year Erin to you and your family.

    Kind regards

  24. Ken G - Can't take the mule out of the girl, I'm afraid. ;) A great New Year to you and yours as well...

    Mark - This blog and the finding of others has been a great highlight of 2011...I look foward to reading (and watching) many more of your "memories," they always put me in a good place. Cheers to the new year, Mark....all the best!

    Ken C. - Scotch, eh? A very Happy New Year to you as well! All the best...

  25. My maxim on life is that no matter who you are or what you do, shit will happen. Its how you deal with the bits between the crap that makes life the wonderful experience it should be. Collect the memories, wear your age with pride and scars make great conversation pieces :-)

  26. Dave - Good words to live by, for sure. I wish many 'bits between crap' for you this coming year. :)

  27. I look the same as when we married 31 years ago, just ask my wife. Seriously, grey hairs are for some inevitable, I believe most of mine began with a few vexing, no, many, problems with my children, especially my middle boy. Everyone said,"...don't worry, he'll grow up," but I knew better. Thank goodness I did not know better, he's fine and from him and his wife I've 2 sweet grand children, which I really would almost rather start off with anyway. And, they don't notice my salt and pepper. And yes, to second guess the past is a fool's errand. What ifs get tiring. And as others have said, I really hope your new year is as fulfilled as it can be.


  28. Stirring post, full of such good reminders about what really matters. Your grandma sound like someone I would unabashedly love. Good luck to you in 2012, Erin! Find those moments of stillness.

  29. Grey hair and salty tears are just part of the deal...I'm looking forward to where you'll be taking us in the new year. pushing forward


  30. Gregg - I'm glad you knew better...and those grey hairs paid off for your son it sounds like. All the best to you and yours in 2012.

    Emily - Thank you, and I know you'd like my Grandmother. Plus, she's Minnesotan...she grew up on a dairy farm outside Waconia. ;) All the best to you in 2012, Emily...and may you find many still moments as well.

    Sanders - To pushing forward, cheers!

  31. excited or overwhelmed, it sounds like you are in the right state mind. Happy 2012 :)

  32. Erin
    It's good to hear you, and others (like my daughter's) your age talk with optimism and determination about your future. It'll serve you well.
    A couple years ago my eldest was home, and over coffee on the river I bemoaned my inability to wade as I could in my prime, and said something about my grey hair and creased face. Kate said that my face was a roadmap of the west, and showed I'd been there and done that. Sweet girl, that one.

  33. Jerry said it best about a touch of grey...."..we will survive.." We've enjoyed your attitude and writing. Best wishes in the New Year!

  34. d.nash - or a confused state of mind. ;) anyhow, a great 2012 to you too!

    Mike - My father got a red/black/grey flannel shirt for Christmas, and it was commented on that it was flattering on him because the grey "matched his hair." ;) I don't think he appreciated that.'s to a good year!

    Herringbone - That we will...that we will. Many thanks for the kind words, and all the best to you and yours in 2012! Cheers to art and writing and photography. :)