Two days before Christmas, I could feel every jagged rock under my boot as I tried to catch my breath. My nephew, Isaac, was racing ahead, his long legs moved so effortlessly up the steep incline. And, Gavin’s eyes were as bright as mine surely were years before at the sight of presents; but, for fluttering leaves, squirrels springing from limb to limb and trees, glorious trees. My brother, Chris and I were chatting about dating and marveling at the unseasonably warm weather. It was 60 degrees in December, and my sweet Lil’ Big Head was the only one in our foursome sporting a sweatshirt.
When we reached the peak, the sight of downtown Lancaster stretched out before us, we all stopped to take it in. We conquered a hill. Together. And, we were sharing a moment that none of us felt compelled to post, tweet or hashtag. I joined Isaac while he searched through rocks: glittery pastel pink clumps; deep grey, slate discs with white marble-like streaks running through them; and large, sandy pieces of gritty pebble that were as smooth as window glass on the other side. I enjoyed the rush of finding a treasure in the dirt. And, waited with anticipation, to see if my discovery ranked high enough for Isaac to ask for my help digging through dry soil with our fingers so he could take an archealogical memento in his pocket. Gavin, as always, was attached to my hip and more than happy to join in the fun by sniffing out every speck that Isaac or I pointed to with our growing-more-grimy hands.
Isaac bounced up from his crouched, mining position and charged over the mossy slopes to show Chris all of our gems; and I watched my nephew’s eyes radiate with joy and pride when his father, my brother inspected every stone like each was the most precious item he has ever touched. We took turns pointing out hearts, they were everywhere as we descended the Midwest’s version of a mountain. And Gavin, showed off his best scrunchie-face, wiggle-jiggle, tail-whack-in-the-butt dance for every other two-legged creature who chose fresh air over mall music that day.
As we all often do when another year passes, I am reflecting on the past 365 days and thinking about who I want to be and how I want to spend my time in the next twelve months. And, for me; spending a day immersed and absorbing nature with my wanna-be monkey, Gavin and two of my favorite dudes in the world; laughing so hard I was snorting and spitting at my mother’s horribly crass; but, obliviously innocent drawing of a cactus during a game of Pictionary and looking into the eyes of my beautiful group of friends who surrounded me on my birthday; some sniffling and sneezing through the toast, and some who rolled into town earlier than planned JUST to join us for dinner. But, all of them, by my side for more than 15 years. Those are my resolutions. I want to be there, REALLY be there; the way my nephew, my Finn, my Gavin and dear, grey-faced, chocolate Buddy instinctively have always know how to be.
I am blessed to know Buddy because of my family’s dearest friend, Lynn, who lived with and helped care for my stepfather in his final months. She is a gem, an inspiration and one of those people who reminds me of how important it is to listen with my ears, eyes and whole heart when someone I love is speaking. May we all reach out to the Lynns in our world more often, may we be moved to pick up a phone rather than comment online when a friend is in need; and may we all learn from our dogs, who stop to smell the flowers whenever the mood strikes them.