Monday, December 31, 2012

On Walking Wrinkles Out

I’ve never done too well with goals -- or houseplants, cream sauces, and realizing stripes shouldn’t be worn with plaid flannels.  

My father always said one should have some, though, goals set at the start of the year. He told us this, my sister and I, on the cold evenings of January the 1st -- year after year -- after pallets had been placed in the rockrimmed firepit, hot dogs roasted, and after my grandmother burnt her marshmallows for s’mores to perfection. After I’d whittled away green elm branches for roasting sticks, I was sure to be asked: what is your goal?

And I always had one…one at least…made up with best of intentions. Often it included feeble attempts at journaling or the more substantial of fattening a steer for slaughter. I was always pretty good at that.

But as the years went on, I stopped. Perhaps it just got too complicated, too overwhelming as life began involving saving relationships or ending them, jobs and grad school, eating or not. Perhaps the years piled up behind each other like the neck-rolls of a Shar Pei -- and in those wrinkles there was time…there are lives -- lives of my own choosing and living, or lack thereof. And what is that saying, anyway? Let sleeping dogs…lie?

Perhaps it was just as depressing as beginning to receive kitchen utensils for Christmas instead of books and Borders’s gift certificates.

The wrinkles though...they’re still there. (And the serving spoons and knifes keep coming). The characters, stories, and plays are fuzzy in between the folds -- like fresh-laundered jeans stored away -- but they’re all still alive, and not too awfully far away.

Yet all “perhaps” aside, I know I was frightened to fail. I know I am now, too. Putting down evidence, convicting myself. Putting down words. But they’re in my head anyway, I figure, so what the heck. What have I to lose.   

I was recently asked: Have you found what you were looking for? If now – in a cabin, in a canyon, with a man and a dog and a book. Is this it? 

Is this what I’ve always wanted?


And I did think about it for several seconds. And it’s easy to look back into those wrinkles and see how actions created reactions, which resulted in failure, strife, and moments of success and yes…happiness, too. But in the blackest of nights there was no moon and there were no shadows. Only tripping over things I should have seen coming.

But I didn’t. (And there were a few traps set). Like Jeremiah Johnson’s Caleb…move your hand back, boy.

Thankfully, I still have all of my fingers.

Because I wasn’t looking. I wasn’t setting goals. (Maybe that was the problem, now come to think of it).




I was just walking -- straight on ‘til morning -- upon the belief that one day the night would end -- like when you’re winter-camping and you’re stuck in a tent for 14 hours…reading by headlamp, listening for avalanches in the distance and realizing you forgot to put your CamelBak bladder in your sleeping bag and now your water supply is frozen. Or when you're waiting for pike to strike at dawn -- somewhat like that. Upon the belief that one day I would see something -- anything -- something that was perhaps in front of me all the while, something that would remind me of home. Walking upon the faintest belief in shadows, one foot after the other with a mind running wild. 

But this year I do have a goal. Oh, I’m still afraid to fail, and of traps, and of riddles being asked of me in the dark. But I have a goal. A sight to look through the coming twelve months. The coming 365 nights and 4,380 hours of darkness.

And I think my dad would be proud; I’m ready if he asks.

I’m going to just keep walking, upon that same belief that someday, I’ll see something.


89 comments:

  1. Here's to your goal working out! Maybe I should try once, and then seriously work on it. Hm. One of these years.

    Thanks for the read -

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    1. Casey - Here's to it! All the best to you in the new year, and thanks for reading!

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  2. I'm just not a goal person , the distraction of having something that you must work at to accomplish in the back of your mind all the time interferes with my fishing. This year my only goal is to try and fish more so it shouldn't cause me any issues!
    Here's hoping that you and yours have a safe and Happy New Year.

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    1. HighPlainsFlyFisher - Sounds like a good goal to me! And best wishes to you and your family in 2013!

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  3. Yes. An elegant end to one, and the thoughtful beginning of another. Happy New Year, Erin.

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    1. Happy New Year, Mike. May it be one filled with thoughtfulness and peace all around. Cheers.

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  4. I guess I still have long term goals, but the year-to-year ones I gave up on. I'm easily distracted, then I realized my distractions were better than my yearly goals. Now year-to-year, I just stay open to anything that comes along. You just never know.

    Happy New Year Ms. Erin.

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    1. Ken G - I am very easily distracted, too. Just walking and keeping one's eyes open is often the best bet. Cheers for a happy new year for you and yours.

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  5. What can one say about writing like that? Beautiful.
    Hope the coming Year treats you well and that, as you keep walking, you will see beauty in the things around you. As long as we can make one more step, there is hope.

    Happy New Year
    Dan

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    1. Dan - Thank you! And I wish all the best for you in the coming year....with beauty and thought in abundance.

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  6. Hi again!

    Long time no see!!! It's kind of funny. I was chatting with my 17 year old daughter about this and that and she brought her photo album to me where I saw the picture of me, my wife and my then 5 hours old baby and this resulted in a mental review of the past 17 years after her birth. I can't really describe the inner warmth that I could perceive inside of me during that time. My contemplation led me to check out my "tiny flies" blog and there I saw your post. I copied it and pasted it into libreoffice writer and read it. Then I saw your reflection over life and the time that had passed. Very similar to what I was talking with my daughter about. I said to her that we had a project for this winter, scanning the pictures in her photo album to save them digitally and have them handy for whatever need. She said that we had to do that with pictures of my mother, she passed away in cancer more than 2 decades ago so my daughter and my wife never got to meet her, to witch I responded that those 17 years had passed so quickly. I started to tell her things from her early childhood that she couldn't remember. We stopped talking both of us. She is now reading beside me in the sofa, she loves books, and I'm typing this on my netbook. It was after we stopped talking that I stumbled over your post. Yes, life plays tricks on us at times. Now I realized the importance to take time to look back and remember every once in a while and just not let the time pass by without noting what happens. Thanks for sharing this post with all of us!

    Kind Regards,
    Mats Olsson

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    1. Mats - That sounds like a special time of reflection indeed. And I'm honored to have been a small part of it. Thank you for sharing your story...I wish all the best for you and your daughter in the new year. May it hold many good times for future times of looking back...

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  7. (I tried posting twice earlier on my iPad so if you find those spinning in some mysterious cache somewhere just delete them).

    Ahem. I don't usually have personal goals as I find they distract from the journey. That being said I fully admit that I could use a bit more focus, and so I am going to focus on that this year. Prior to reading your entry I hadn't given it any thought, so thanks for that.

    Happy New Year, Erin!

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    1. Kirk - Silly iPads. I need the focus too...for an organized person, I am not! Cheers to the New Year, Kirk. And Happy Birthday!

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  8. I have one goal for the coming year....make it better than 2012 (good ridence 2012). Happy New Year to you Erin!

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    1. Kiwi - Here's to that! Happy New Year to you as well!

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  9. I AM proud - though that has nothing to do with having a goal for the year. :-) But I may ask. Funny thing... goals have a way of evolving - from material and conquest to eternal and 'how will I be remembered'. I have plenty to work on.
    many hugs.
    Pa

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    1. Papa - I think my goals are often too nebulous to put down...much to work on here, too. I often wonder how I will be remembered and if I will be. But I suppose a that point, it won't matter to me, eh? Much love; many hugs. -E

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  10. Sharpei neck rolls and time. Best metaphor ever. Have a great 2013, Erin.

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    1. Kenov - Ha! Thank you! A great new year wished for you and your family as well!

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  11. I must agree with Kenov, great mataphor and an evocative piece. Goals I have, but my New Year's resolution is to have no resolutions. Happy New Year and keep on writing.

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    1. Phillip - Thank you. And I agree...goals yes; resolutions no. A keen difference lies therein. All the best to you in the new year....may it be a happy one.

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  12. "Walking the wrinkles out" sounds like you've accomplished what you want, and are now ironing out the small details. If so, good for you. You've published and done well. On your way, Erin. May the new year be good for you.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. Mike (Should Fish More) - Still walking, still working stuff out. When we aren't...well, I guess that's the end, eh? Keeping on. And perhaps we all should just fish more! Cheers to the new year, may it hold many good things for you.

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  13. "But in the blackest of nights there was no moon and there were no shadows" a very heavy thought indeed...I am glad those nights are safely tucked away in the wrinkles, part of your textured layers. You know that the whole journey is what makes you who you are now, today
    ~ Mama
    p.s. Journey on!

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    1. sgb - I do know, and I am thankful. Even for the heaviness. Always onward, wearing red... - E

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  14. Its 7am new years day. I must pull on some clothes, and load my boat. Fetching Tim in an hour, and heading out onto the water. Don't forget the coffee. That's my first goal. Maybe others will follow. Maybe not. :)

    All of us here seem to be agreeing on goals.

    Best wishes for 2013.

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    1. trutta99 - Coffee!!! I like that goal. All the best to you in 2013!

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  15. I believe you see plenty. More than average.

    And don't poo poo a good kitchen utensil. Some of the most important tools I own reside in the kitchen.

    Happy New Year to you, Jay and Banjo!

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    1. M.A. Hughes - A good wooden spoon is hard to find, this is true. Thank you as always for reading, and may many good times be in store for you and your family in the new year. Cheers.

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  16. Like you'd ever stop for a moment Erin. Enjoy the journey, watch where you put your feet and cast the occasional glance backwards, it helps on those occasions when you feel lost ;o)

    Happy New Year
    xxx

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    1. Dave - I do need to look at the trees more, that is for sure. ;) And a very Happy New Year to you, too!

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  17. Best wishes to you and the family for 2013 Erin.
    If only tackle shops took part exchange on unwanted kitchen utensils! ;o)

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    1. Richard - Well! Now there's an idea! ;-) I like it. Al the best to you in the coming year, and thank you as ever for reading.

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  18. Goals.................... something else too worry about LOL

    Have a wonderful 2013, i look forward too reading about your adventures.

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    1. Tom - Gosh they do pile up, eh? I hope your new year is filled with many good adventures, too...and I hope you keep writing them down. Cheers.

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  19. Happy New Year, Erin. May your walks find you where you need to go.

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    1. Steve Z. - Thank you...I do too. And such "needs" are often a surprise at first. Here's to the new year, all the best to you and yours.

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  20. A wonderful, thoughtful piece, Erin. As you keep walking in 2013 I hope you see many blessings.

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    1. Mr. P. - Many thanks for always reading...and may many good times find you in this coming year as well!

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  21. while I am in agreement with all the thoughtful comments above, I remain a sucker for any well-placed Jeremiah reference. Nuf said~ m

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    1. Royal Wulff Mike - Ahha! A kindred soul. :) Christmas Eve I re-watched it...so very good. Happy New Year!

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  22. Happy new year Erin...all the best in 2013!

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    1. Happy New Year, John! Thanks as always for stopping by. 2013 is going to be good.

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  23. I'd like to second Mr P's comments.

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    1. Alan....many thanks. And back to you as well.

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  24. My goal is to just keep one foot in front of the other Erin, to try to keep inching forward in my journey through life. Goals are great things to strive for but it's the path that we choose to achieve those goals that makes them worthy.

    I've always liked what Thoreau said about goals:

    "What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals."

    Happy New Year Erin!

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    1. penbayman - One foot in front of the other...it's all about the journey. Hear hear to that! All the best to you in the new year!

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  25. On life's road, goals can be waysigns to help us find our way or rusted hulks on the shoulder. Either way, they inform our present (and hopefully our future). I, for one, am glad that life is not predictable,

    Have a great 2103!

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    1. tenkara ambassador - I am very glad too. All the paths give context...even when, perhaps, we miss the signs. Cheers to 2013...all the best.

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  26. "Or when you're waiting for pike to strike at dawn -- somewhat like that."

    Violent, beautiful and hard fought realizations that keep us believing.

    Happy new year, Erin.

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  27. At my age it's a little dangerous to set very lofty long term goals...I'm happy to just wake up in the morning and see that I'm on top of the bed and not under. I put off writing to you because you once again made me think about immortality. I finally thought, I'd like to be remembered...Immorally. My best to you in 2013 Erin.

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    1. Howard - hmm...well I'm glad to make you think, but not so sure about that conclusion. ;-) You're a hoot. Thanks as always for taking time to read and leave some words. All the best to you in the new year, my friend.

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  28. You will surely see.... something!

    Have a good 2013 Erin.

    RR

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    1. RR - Thank you for the confidence! All the best to you as well in the new year!

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  29. is thay your piece in TU mag?

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  30. Nice Erin,

    Life intervenes with goals, but only the timid or truely beaten let that stop them. I tried to raise my boys with that in mind, so far so good. (But forget the gray hairs.) Just recieved ny TU magazine, saw you had a piece but haven't read it. A goal to do so soon! Best for 2013!

    Gregg

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    1. Gregg - Life does have a way of interrupting plans, eh? Most times much for the better. I hope you enjoy the TU piece, and all the best to you in the new year!

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    2. Great essay Erin! In small water fly fisherman are always nice, tail waters not always so. Waiting for your book-Santa did deliver the desire.

      Gregg

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    3. Gregg - Thank you! I love small streams for precisely that reason...the lack of other fishermen! And I'm still waiting on my copy, too! ;) In fact, just got an email from the publisher...press machine broke the week of Christmas, but is back up and running and copies should be off next week sometime. Thanks for your patience!

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  31. Erin, Nice thoughts there. Goals themselves can be myopic traps, causing blindness to what is in the landscape of the walk. BTW, nice article in this quarter's Trout magazine. Dean

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    1. Dean - "myopic traps, causing blindness to what is in the landscape of the walk"...that's a great line. Thanks for the good words, I'm glad you enjoyed the read!

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  32. I prefer not to set goals, life has its own way of keeping us bent beneath the rod, I see no reason to throw another straw on the camel.. alot of my wrinkles hurt, but they are my badges.. medals.. and they constantly remind me.. lean into it- Merry Christmas -Brad

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    1. Brad - Indeed, my back already feels quite burdened! Thanks for stopping by to read and for the comment. All the best to you in the new year!

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  33. Events unfold in hindsight, but I'm not sure we ever truly see them before hand. Erin, thank you for filling a bit of my time with words and thoughts. Amazingly poetic... As usual.

    P.S. I don't do well with plants either.

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    1. backcountryfishnerd - Phew! Glad it's not just me! Do you have issues with color coordination, too?! Thank you for reading, as ever.

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    2. You have seen how I dress. I feel like earth has good color coordination, so I just go with that.

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  34. Fun read on this stressful morning. There's a fine line between "covicting yourself" and "convincing yourself" ;)

    Kirk @ RM

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    1. Kirk @ RM - You are quite right about that line! And thanks for making the time to stop by! All the best to you in the new year!

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  35. To just keep walking has to be the best goal I have ever heard. But with eyes peeled and ears pricked. (And I would add, mind open.) Happiest of New Years to you and all you love!

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    1. Hart - Here's to trusty feet then!

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  36. My only "goal" for the new year may smack of laziness, but, I assure you that it isn't....it's simply to work less and live more!

    Something I noticed while at my wife's grandmothers funeral a few years ago while glancing at headstones...they all mention, husband, wife, father, mother... But nowhere did they ever say employee of the month or hard worker etc etc.

    So what's important to me? Husband, father, brother, son...

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    1. Seth - I like your goal. And you're so very right about funerals. Focus on what's truly important...and all the best to you in the new year. Thanks as always for stopping by!

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  37. Really enjoyed your article in recent TROUT magazine...could picture your day. And yes, I'm a female member of TU and have been for years.

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    1. northco - Thank you for the good words on TROUT. I'm very glad you enjoyed the read!

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  38. This was a good read, made me ask the question of myself. Not one am I to make a new year resolution. Not sure why. Maybe I make decisions to resolve matters almost weekly, or monthly, or seasonaly. I have come to an age that I once heard about, where one determines that they are not going to hit a target that was in their view, that the ability most likely has passed, not always in control of the person, but as part of the circumstances of life. The decisions I made years back have lead to the reality that I have run out of time for some goals, and for others I see ahead down the road, that life in its unfairness of giving its holder aging, some goals are attainable if I focus on their center spot on the target. I really never thought I would ever say to myself that a goal I had was most likely unattainable. Optimisim is my middle name. Age has made me realize that time truly will run out. My words etched on my soul now are these "do it now". So my goals for the year are rarely set on January 1st, but often as I lay in the early morning darkness hearing the motor going on in my thoughts, telling me all the things I need to do, and rising with those goals for one day at a time. I am really not that old in the big picture, but have had enough issues this last few years that have sent me to a doctor more than once with not wonderful news. Some things are just not fixable and may change the way I will be in ten years. I replied to self "really?" I was so looking for twenty more years! So I have compressed goals into that air between now and then and have been doing more now, than saving for later. The last scene in the River Runs Through It where the aged story teller is putting on a fly with wrinkled fingers and eyes that are straining is going to be me someday, I realize that with a smile. But my goals to get there are to live long enough! I loved what Norman said in the story, so very true, "My candle burns at both ends; it will not last the night. But ah my foes, and oh my friends - it gives a lovely light." So for your goals for the year, take it from someone who was once 40 something (and younger), bounding from boulder to boulder, climbing mountain tops in thin air, swimming at night with mantas, stepping on aspen leaves in quiet meadows with elk all around her rising as mushrooms out of soft soil, riding horses bareback in the sunset at a dead run, learning to lay rubber in a 66 Chevy SS, wading in deep waters with a 10 pound trout on the end of a green stick, living mornings to see the most glorious sunrises, I say to you do them now, those things on your list of goals. Time, she is a stealer. And the body, well, it gives in finally to that time thief. I will still climb over rocks to get to waters, I will still be up on the St Vrain every summer weekend I can be there, I will still finangle ways to find wonderful waters this year that have not had my boots in them. But my goals have changed. Last fall I stood in waters that had very smart fish at my feet, literally, and nothing would entice them, so instead of stomping off (which they would have liked for food!) I watched them for a very long time, their white mouths opening so large I could not believe it, seeing them living their daily ordeal to survive. There were lessons in the moment, about their nature. A teaching moment you might say. I have learned that when I am living a goal and in that moment, another goal is presenting itself. You have done a lot this time I have followed your blog. Be kind to yourself. Look at all you have done! But put this in your pocket for a rainy day walk with the dog, "do it now", and you know what those are! Have a wonderful day and always have a little flashlight! Fishergirl

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    1. FisherGirl - "So my goals for the year are rarely set on January 1st, but often as I lay in the early morning darkness hearing the motor going on in my thoughts, telling me all the things I need to do, and rising with those goals for one day at a time." Hear, hear to that. Right on. Thank you for all of your thoughts and insights....they're wise and I read closely, took to heart. And I always, always, carry a little headlamp with me...just in case. Thank you again, and all the very best in the new year...one day at a time.

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  39. Just catching up with you, Erin. We have a few things in common as I have spent a few years as a librarian but am now taking a year to fish... see 52rivers.com. Have a wonderful 2013 and I hope to see you either on a stream or in your library!

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    1. Shelley - I think the two go together quite well! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read...I've just been poking about on 52 Rivers....wow! What an adventure you're on. I'll be following along!

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  40. Best of luck in the new year Erin!
    I hope those goals work out for you- if they don't, at least have fun trying.

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    1. Peter -- The journey is always an interesting one, at the very least, eh? Thanks for stopping by to read!

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  41. I am currently enjoying the fruits of one of your goals Erin. Your book is a splendid read.

    RR

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    1. RR - I am ever so glad you are. Thank you!

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