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  • Writer's pictureShana Ritter


It is the coldest morning in a very long time. The dog is restless to go for a walk but I am not. I am fiddling with the fire in the new wood stove that was our holiday gift. We finally replaced our old Franklin with it’s lovely brass knobs and inefficient burn with a high efficiency Timberwolf that can run all night on a few well placed logs. Still it takes some getting used to, it asks a different placement of wood, it has its own sense of timing.

The room is already getting warmer and I have eased into the new year with a curvature of understanding to the days ahead. Over the holidays I drifted, not quite feeling well, letting myself fall out of my own rhythm. But I find that I know the landscape I want to be walking in. I set my course and make sure I have the map I want to be using for the next months. I also make sure I have a pencil and eraser, knowing nothing is fixed.

My 4 year old grandson calls the step by step instruction booklets to his Legos “maps”, as in “here’s the map for the airplane”. I love the notion that the way to build something is by entering a geography, not just following directions but gaining a sense of direction, learning the terrain. And just like he’s learned to substitute one piece for another when he can’t find the one that is pictured, I make adjustments for a grant deadline, or an unexpected wash of rain.

I enter this new year as if I entering a new continent. I’ve studied the maps, measured the distances, scanned the weather charts and still know I will find what I don’t yet know I am looking for. I just need to pay attention, and then write down what I see,

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