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Category: Holidays

Welcoming the New Year

Welcoming the New Year

“The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.”
― Maya Angelou

In our writers’ group on Wednesday, I suggested that we consider our writing over the last year and, during our “free-write” time, imagine a trajectory through 2023. I was thinking of exploring direction, rather than resolutions. Regretfully, I used the word “goals,” and the response was pretty humorous. The writers, all in their 80s and 90s, laughed at the idea of setting goals. Their free-writes were biting, if tongue-in-cheek. Better, they agreed, to just see what each new day presents and remain open to the creative opportunities that present themselves in the moment. I thought of Jane Hirschfield’s poem, “The Bowl.”

The Bowl

Jane Hirshfield

If meat is put into the bowl, meat is eaten.

If rice is put into the bowl, it may be cooked.

If a shoe is put into the bowl,
the leather is chewed and chewed over,
a sentence that cannot be taken in or forgotten.

A day, if a day could feel, must feel like a bowl.
Wars, loves, trucks, betrayals, kindness,
it eats them.

Then the next day comes, spotless and hungry.

The bowl cannot be thrown away.
It cannot be broken.

It is calm, uneclipsable, rindless,
and, big though it seems, fits exactly in two human hands.

Hands with ten fingers,
fifty-four bones,
capacities strange to us almost past measure.
Scented—as the curve of the bowl is—
with cardamom, star anise, long pepper, cinnamon, hyssop.


I love the idea of the new year as an empty bowl, spotless and hungry. And, though that may be true of every moment, the symbolism of the holiday always strikes me as especially beautiful. So I’ll say this.

May your 2023 be bursting with an abundance of health and love, with personal growth, and creative exploration. May exciting and enriching new opportunities appear the precise moment you are most open to embracing them.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!



Snowy Owls on Christmas Morning

Snowy Owls on Christmas Morning

We spent Christmas Eve in town with my mom in her independent living facility. We had dinner in the common dining room, chatting with her neighbors, and then returned to her apartment to read A Child’s Christmas in Wales, by Dylan Thomas.

This morning, across the snow-covered parking lot, the tall blue spruce still glows with blue and white lights. Not even the resident Canadian Geese are stirring. Soon, we’ll bundle into the car to visit our daughter’s home and the merry rauckous will begin.

For those of you who are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a day filled with joy, both in the moments of stillness and in those of communion. I’m sharing, below, the short nonfiction piece I wrote for our Winter Solstice Reading last week. The story is a reflection about a moment of quiet communion I experienced when I was a child in Alaska. I hope it will bless your day as it did mine.



Snow Owls

It was late afternoon, sky black and glittering, in the deep Alaskan winter. I walked the trail between my friend Jane’s house and mine, leaving behind the old homestead with its metal half-round dwelling, golden light etching distorted square panes across the untouched snow.

The stars grew brighter as the air cleared of chimney smoke, and I cut through a hushed forest of hoar-frosted birch and stunted mountain hemlocks, snow-laden and slumping heavily against each other. Branches thick with white crystals and mounds of snow, brilliant white, reflected starlight. I walked with mittened hands pushed deep into the pockets of my down parka, the only sound the rhythmic crunch of mukluks on encrusted snow.

Until the reverberation of icy air carved open by wings – and two great white snowy owls alighted in the frozen birch beside me. White, on white, on white, and four bright gold eyes blinking. I could have reached out and touched their feathered bodies. I stood breathing in the sparkling silence, blinking back, my toes and fingers and cheeks growing numb.

If there is a center of our lived experience, something beyond the birth of our children, the death of a loved one, something beyond the major milestones in life – graduations, marriages, retirements – this moment of sacred silence was mine. When the world spins in chaos, my memory of two snowy owls in a hoar-frosted birch tree is the eye of the hurricane. A single moment in my childhood on the longest night of the year. Winter Solstice.    


Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

Cabin Christmas

Cabin Christmas

Close quarters might mean sharing chairs!

It’s tight quarters and not “real” Christmas (Santa climbs down our daughter’s chimney next weekend), but cabin Christmas is special in it’s own way. We brought the little table up from the utility room where the 300 gallon cistern collects well-water. We angled the tables into the kitchen, surrounded them with every chair we could find, and the piano bench, and everybody got a spot at the table.

Ampa pony following orders.

We first added the “cabin Christmas” last year on a small scale. It makes sense to celebrate in our grandchildren’s home on the actual day, but they live in town and we all wanted a little bit of mountain magic during the holidays. So I wrapped coloring books and colored pencil sets and put them under the cabin tree for the whole family.

Our grandson serves his favorite carrot cake.

This year, with four generations, and all the children and grandchildren in town, we thought we would try an expansion of that. We’re scaling back a bit and breaking up the holiday, so the grandkids aren’t overwhelmed.

Good medicine, four generations of love.

We celebrated “cabin Christmas” last Sunday, a week before the actual day. We exchanged most gifts between the generations, and that was fun. On Christmas day, the kids will open gifts from their parents and Santa. Craig and I will spend Christmas Eve with my mom, and we’ll join the rest of the family in the morning with a stack of Swedish pancakes (a favorite that travels well).

A little lesson in sharing the couch!

We’ll see how it goes! The most important thing in all of this is that we’re together. With so many of us recovering from various ailments, we chose to celebrate Thanksgiving separately.

Next year, we hope to have the Bed and Breakfast up and running by winter. If that happens, the table will be longer and accommodations more comfortable.

For children, there’s nothing like the magic of bounding out of your own bed to see what Santa left under the tree. But, there’s still something to be said for a Rocky Mountain white Christmas. May the two always coexist in the peace of the season.

Whether near or far, may each of you find a little mountain magic in your life. Wishing you all a wonderful holiday!


Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.

You Do Not Have to Be Good

You Do Not Have to Be Good

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body

Love what it loves.

~Mary Oliver, Wild Geese


Carols have been playing in department stores for weeks and holiday images permeate our media – homes lit with strung lights, greenery draped from banisters, candles glowing on mantles, families coming together in conversation, worship, and laughter. It’s all so perfect and lovely, isn’t it?

Well, there are lovely moments, sometimes strung together like prayer beads into a full day or more. But sometimes not so much.

When the kids were young, no matter how many times I told myself I wouldn’t do it, I succumbed to those heightened, commercialized, expectations. Craig reminded me the other day that one year we had six Christmas trees of various sizes and themes scattered throughout our home. They were beautiful but, in retrospect, a grasp at that shiny perfection we see on every magazine cover this time of year. If I weighed, now, the effort and expense in putting those trees up with the pleasure they provided, the effort would grossly outweigh the pleasure. And the sparkly dressing never really changed the reality of day-to-day life. Despite the splendor, we had family conflict (even more so because we were all exhausted), we experienced sadness and loss. I remember one year when a loved one overdosed and tried to avoid the paramedics by hiding behind the decorated tree in the dining room. The tree came crashing down onto the table, destroying glass ornaments and the centerpiece. In the end, none of that mattered. The only thing that any of us cared about was that a precious life was saved. We had more time together to learn and grow.

We’ve decorated our tree, hung the lights and set out the candles. Snow is falling and I put another log on the fire. It’s beautiful, and I still love it, but it’s not perfect. None of us are, and that’s okay. In the end, the only gift that really matters is the gift of time. The miracle of this moment.

If you or a loved one needs help, please don’t hesitate to ask for it.

Reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.

Copyright © 2022 Carmel Mawle. All rights reserved.