We started taking down Christmas today. At least we waited until the 12 days of Christmas were over. For some reason, Christmas and the holidays were different this year. Perhaps it was the gray weather much of the time, perhaps it was that Christmas and New Year’s were on a weekend, or perhaps it was the lack of visitation from our out-of- state family because of other obligations such as work and other family commitments on their end. Too much stuff to be crammed into a single week. Nevertheless, Pam and I were glad to get on with it, and look forward to a new year.

Ah, the new year. So much promise, so much to be hopeful for, so much of it unknown. There are, of course, some things that are predictable and expected. The sun will come up in the morning (somewhere), spring will eventually come, and the earth will begin to stir with new life.

Here at home, the flower seeds have been ordered and are arriving and will soon be in the trays under the lights. The long days of winter seem shorter somehow when the green sprouts of spring plants poke out of the soil for the first time. There are other things starting with the new year also. Waupaca’s Community Chorus practice starts in a few days in preparation for the spring concert on Palm Sunday weekend. After a season that could only be described as Community Chorus Lite, the classics are back in full force and should be an uplifting experience.

Elsewhere around home, there are a couple of major projects that are awaiting completion this year. Our barn, which seems to be a perpetual project, is slated to have new windows and an interior staircase installed, along with new shutters before the gardening season starts, so as not to trample all the ferns, hostas and other plants that live along the barn basement walls. In addition, there needs to be some major sorting of the barn contents. It is amazing that if there is an unoccupied empty space, it gets filled, usually with things that should have been either recycled or outright thrown away years ago. Nostalgia can go only so far before reality sets in and one must finally say enough is enough.

In other projects, we have a lot of trees to clean up because of the windstorm that came through the area a couple of years ago. Time, money, equipment, and help are all factors in the completion of this project, but for the reasons listed above, this task doesn’t have quite the urgency that others with more immediate needs do. Perhaps, though, it may be possible to make some inroads on these things this year, if there are no other unexpected left turns along the way.

South New Hope continues to be a significant player in the consumption of time, energy, and emotional resources for our small but dedicated band of caretakers. This iconic little white church that played such a significant role in the establishment and nourishment of the Scandinavian-American community in Eastern Portage and Western Waupaca counties still stands strong, but now silent, amongst the tall pines and aging gravestones on Plank Hill. I believe there will come a time, however, when that place will once again be a source of singing, laughter, and intellectural pursuits, as well as family and community activities and memories. Laudable goals certainly, but we will need help in the form of willing hands and workable ideas to bring about the desired results.

I have always enjoyed looking forward to the New Year. There is a certain adventure about it that’s exciting and yet, in some ways, foreboding. I suppose that may be hard for some folks to understand, but when you begin to realize that as we age, another year brings us a step or two closer to the final chapters in our lives. So, this is more reason than ever to be extremely thankful we are living where and when we are, and that we have the pleasure of the love and companionship of friends and family. In years past, I have often referred to the “dash,” that space on the tombstone between the date of birth and date of death. If we haven’t done it before, certainly, now is the time to embellish that dash with what you want remembered. I think it urges us all to look around us and appreciate what we see and enjoy every day that comes along. It seems to me that we should look upon each day, each week, each year as a gift for which we are to be extremely grateful. Enjoy life and be happy now, for this could all change in an instant. Maybe we should think about that as a goal for the New Year.

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