Background Switcher (Hidden)

Into the New Year, with Gratitude

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Purging is a process of unearthing, of rediscovery. You can discover old pastel china from your former life, and you can discover essential truths about life and love, if you can look far enough past the drudgery to let them come arrowing in. 

I found an envelope addressed to my mother, Ida, at the first retirement community she inhabited. It was Phoebe's original birth announcement.

Dad had already died when Phoebe was born, but I was so elated to be able to present a grandchild to my mother’s arms. 

July, 1996. She only made it out here twice. Once for our wedding, and once for Phoebe's birth, and then her traveling days were over.

Phoebe’s birth announcement was a perfect time capsule. 

Inside the capsule, I found my drawing of an eastern phoebe and twinflower, Linnea borealis, the plant that gave her her middle name. There were photos of the Earthlings we once were. Phoebe was such a sprite, such an old soul,with dark blue eyes that looked right into your core. She still does that. She was so bright we called her New Penny, shiny-fresh and coppery. 

She was amazing. All new babies are, but this one...she watched everything, took it all in, and seemed to understand.


This photo says it all to me. The wonder of looking down at a squirming, kicking infant and thinking, “We MADE this!” How did that happen? Look what love has done!

But the wonder only grows. You see your kids becoming who they are meant to be. I watch Liam scrambling over wet boulders to capture sunset bounce light on wet black sand, risking wet sneakers and turning an ankle for the light, the light. I watch him finding secret hidey holes and branches to climb on, watch him soaking up the past and immersing himself in the present, watch his considerable imagination running away with him, and I understand exactly what he’s feeling, and how great is his need for the undiscovered and mysterious, and how, though he doesn’t quite grasp it yet, beauty is his primary motivator. It’s not a bad coach, beauty. Works for me, and I can see it working for him.

Roman Theater, Merida, Spain

I watch Phoebe’s clockwork clicking along, getting everything planned out in the manner of her sire, and I feel him smiling with pride at her quick decisiveness and her seemingly effortless way of logisticizing our peregrinations. We’ve just finished a trip to peninsular Spain and the Canary Islands with Phoebe entirely at the helm.

 She did all the booking and planning and marshaling of her brother and mother; even all the driving! I see Bill’s ridiculously acute logistical skills coming to bear with everything she does. There’s his intensity, his tightly-wound drive to get it all right. Of course, no matter how smooth it is, it’s not effortless; I can smell the smoke coming out of her ears. The truth is she can’t help but do it; she’s like a hunting dog trained for the point and fetch, because it’s in her genes.

It was very, very windy in Extremadura.

 But she got something from me, too, to balance that intensity. Phoebe can plan and logisticize like a demon, but she is then blissfully able to stop the whirring of her gears and let herself sink into the moment. She wants to set it all up just right, but then she can enjoy herself and be present for whatever unrolls from there.  That, I think, is a balance that I gave her, one her dad was always and forever yearning for: the ability to turn off the yammering left brain and let the right brain just be. Thank God that girl can sink into the moment, drive roots deep into any place she lands, and not yearn for something else that must be better than the here and now. She can thank her mama for that balancing influence. Genes, mixing, tumbling, and creating irreplaceable beings, beings that in many ways surpass either of their parents. The genes he gave her, the genes WE gave her. I won’t forget the we of it all. I won’t let bitterness in the door. I’ll keep sight of the gifts and forget the travail. 

Watching the combination of genes from each of us play out in these kids, I feel incredibly lucky to be here to see the show play out. I also feel a deep sadness that I’m the only one now who gets to experience this, the watching and the wondering and the sometimes searing jolt as I figure out the provenance of every little one of their traits. I wish Bill could have been here to see that. We all wish he could have been granted a full measure of years, perhaps to realize and reap the rewards of all the things he initiated, all the seeds he sowed. But no, he had to go at only 57.

They’re gifts, these kids, and he gave them to me, he who hid the LuRay dishes and he who left the jumbled gyre of his belongings. And nobody else but Bill, with his tremendous talent and humor and boundless vision and creative energy (and his utter disregard for anything resembling drudgery) would have left such an intractable mess, or could have given these irreplaceable human beings to me, and to the world.

Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival, 2000. Liam was celebrating his first birthday. Phoebe was 4 1/2.
See the poster art behind us? Green kingfishers, by JZ.

So Bill Thompson III gets a pass on all this—on everything!— and my enduring love and gratitude for being exactly who he was. And now,  if my luck holds out, I get to be the one who sees these good young people through the portal to their futures, who maybe someday gets to see them lay out the train tracks, sliceable wooden food and herd of wild plastic horses for their precious and irreplaceable beings. 

And won’t that be something?

All this, from cleaning out the disgusting mess of 27 years of hard, good living. If you go at it with an open heart, you can get a lot from purging, much more than the expected rewards of order and cleanliness, though they are great indeed.

 Watch Liam see his basement transformed, for the first time. Happy New Year! Throw some stuff out!


Happy New Year, Julie! May 2020 bring all good things!

My dead ex-husband died over 20 years ago. He never got to meet our three granddaughters. I try not to feel smug. The pain is long gone and the bitter has been left behind. Just left with joy in my life.

So Awesome! And thanks for the close up of the CrowBar! xo

Julie, you write about nature, about animals and plants and all things wild, like few others can do… but you write about people, and particularly family, like NO other I know!

Love this whole post. The photos speak volumes! So sweetness, such love. And I love the mischievous look in Phoebe’s eyes. Our one granddaughter, also a ginger, has the same look in her eyes!
Happy New Year. May 2020 bring you much happiness!

Such a beautiful post, so meaningful to end one year and start a new.
Thanks for sharing so much tangible love.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Julie, you give me hope. Though I’ve accumulated not nearly as much *stuff* over the years, I need to get busy and start the purge. And what better time than the New Year? I hope you and Phoebe and Liam have a wonderful 2020!

Beautiful last post for a year of so many emotions. Hope that you find peace and strength in the missives you share with such eloquence. While none of us has the exact same experience or feelings, we can all relate to the competing emotions of love, of loss, of possibilities doomed by dreams of some intangible thing. And finally, we hope, with acceptance of what is and hope for what will be. Much love and hopes for good and gentle and happy years ahead.


Google just ate my comment.
Essentially, it said I admire your purge philosophy and can so relate after 2 back to back losses.

Julie, I would recognize your artwork in any setting! Thank you for the peek into your world. Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours!

In that next to last picture, I would have been at home, taking care of Charlie and Vanna and OraLee and the gang. 💕 I'm forever grateful for those year's that helped me grow into who I am...

Hardly know you Julie but how I love your soul.
RIP BT3, and may god help the rest of us suckers lol.
Happy New Year!

Wow. Poignant as always. Perfect timing for me (and many others I suspect), as I remember 16 years ago today when my brave and joyful mom went to a place where she could admire EVERY winged creature without travel or pain. I am so grateful that even through this cleansing project you took time to share your gifts with me and channel my mother, both in your home, on the trail, and in your words here! Thank you, thank you, thank you my dear friend! Sending you love and hugs.

Unknown, I think I know you. But I wanna know for sure. You move me. Hope you get the Animals reference. :)

I still have your book here, signed by us all. Thank you for saving my sanity at home and abroad, Wes.

Thank you for a beautiful post, for sharing so much with us! what a year...
looking forward to see what 2020 holds!
Take care.

Everything I've said before about this, +50 or so. Amazing!!

Wishing you all a peaceful and unburdened New Year.

Incredibly amazing post. Way to shed the light on real life and remind us all forgiveness and Love is the way to go. Grace, love and peace my friend!

Darling, contains multitudes. Of love, forgiveness, growth, time, space, faith, depth of life. And much more. And the photo of the young family staggers.
How I love you all.

Beautiful and poignant... just like everything you do. Thank you for the reminder that our children are wonderful creatures! May the new year bring more peace and happiness than you thought possible.

Did he say ‘jeezum crow’?! I thought I was the only person who says that. :)

[Back to Top]