And so, we conclude.
Twenty-twenty comes screaming to an end, a confusing, raging inferno of a year. This was a year that will be talked about only in hushed whispers by future generations. This was a year of forced mindfulness, where each day, sometimes each hour, appeared to signal some new cosmic shift – like being blindfolded, without a seatbelt, on a roller coaster.
This was a year that, Heaven help us, may not end on Dec. 31.
And yet we go on, and continue to search for meaning and strength in a world that, seemingly, is built on a foundation of chaos.
My daughter, as she often does, pulls me out of my quicksand brain.
“Daddy, come on daddy, help me with the penguins!”
This morning, early, Uma arrived at our bedroom door in a coat and boots, ready to brave the new-falling snow, ready to begin her day — before breakfast, nearly before light — by playing in the snow.
That’s where we are now; me, barely awake, not even caffeinated yet, the tops of my ears prickling in the cold, building snow mold penguins in our front yard.
So here we are building snow penguins. And as the flakes cover our heads and her cheeks begin to glow with a rosy brilliance, this past year, and the uncertainty ahead, begins to feel more … manageable.
We pack the snow into the mold and begin to build a legion of those penguins, like a private army to enclose us, protect us from the trials of the year, of the virus, of my anxiety.
But not her, not my daughter. In a couple weeks she’ll turn 6. She understands the challenges of this past year; she misses her friends, hasn’t seen her cousins in person in far too long. But she’s not just rolled with it, she’s thrived.
She’s begun to understand what the writer Elizabeth Gilbert calls the meta-pattern of the life quest, an ability to see everyone you meet as a teacher and everything you face as a lesson. Do that, and the truth will not be withheld from you.
She bends over and takes an enormous bite out of the head of the lead penguin, chomping and giggling, her snowy laugh echoing in the white trees.
And I think, of all the things that had to happen, all the miracles and coming together of stardust, and the enormous odds of it happening in such a way to create this outcome of a dad and his daughter building penguins in the snow, what are those odds?
Even in this time, even at the tail end of this year, this moment feels impossible, and yet here we are. And maybe here you are. Here we all are, putting one foot forward and then the next and the next until… what?
Uma has moved on now to snow angels, the white covering thin enough for her to easily reach the grass. I reach down and lift her up after each angel so the outlines remain whole and after a while, our front yard is a menagerie of penguins and angels, a wintery royal guard representing the earthly and the heavenly realms.
Breathe. Step boldly.
Welcome to a new year, to a new moment in time. Make it count. Don’t be afraid. Make it yours and grace will follow. It always does.