What Lies Ahead

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 A year ago I was filled with mixed emotions about the coming year. I had spent the first days of 2020 at funerals for two wonderful women who had inspired me to be a better person. One was my cousin, Jeannie, who was always laughing and finding ways to bring people together for fun. She was a beautiful soul whose life was cut short all too soon and somehow saying our final goodbyes to her at the dawn of a new year seemed so wrong. To compound the sense of foreboding that I was feeling I attended the funeral of my Aunt Claudia, fondly known as “Aunt Speedy.” only a day after laying Jeannie to rest. I had loved and adored these two women from the time I was a child and somehow I could not imagine a world without them or a bright future in a year that began with so much sorrow.  

I’ve always found January and February to be a bit dreary. Aside from my brother’s birthday on January 6, there are never really many things on the calendar to brighten the winter days. There is a kind of letdown after the joyful feelings of the holidays that not even Valentine’s Day can counteract. It always seems a long way until spring when the trees and flowers begin to bloom again and the promise of summertime. In January trips and gatherings with friends seems impossibly far away. 

In 2020, I had little idea that those gloomy days of routine and grey skies would lead into ten months of pandemic isolation from those I love. Somehow I assumed when the virus did come that we would lockdown for a few weeks and then return to our everyday routines. In the meantime I took it as a personal challenge to remain optimistic and find ways of dealing with the strangeness of it all. For the duration of 2020, I made a game of staying home and not being physically present with my family or my friends. I found ways to have fun and enjoy the different way of living and everything turned out well. Now I find myself getting those January/February blues in spades this year so it’s time to make some new plans to lighten things up. Perhaps a nice day trip is in order.

I suppose that it would be lots of fun to spend the day at Brazos Bend State Park. I’d love to take my trailer there and stay for several nights but everyone is camping right now and getting a spot in a state or national park is almost impossible, so a day trip seems to be the most logical choice for getting away and I like the idea of just enjoying the serenity of the place for a few hours.

Brazos Bend is a swampy area along the Brazos River. It is a haven for wildlife of all sorts. On any given hike along the trails there are views of alligators and exotic birds. A rabbit might hop right past the visitors who always demonstrate a kind of reverence for nature. The quiet atmosphere save for the sounds of animals or breezes blowing through the trees is always a relaxing reminder of how we humans share this world with other living creatures and plants. It is an enchanting place and one where the specter of viruses and other human problems seem far away. 

Brazos Bend is about an hour’s drive from our home. If we pack a lunch we can spend a day there in a kind of mini-vacation and it costs little or nothing. It’s a perfect way to get out of the house and away from the fact that it may still be awhile before we see anything resembling normal in the world as we know it. The park is a kind of gift sitting in our midst just waiting for us to remember how truly beautiful simplicity is. Everything feels harmonious and basic there. The pace is slow and deliberate. 

I have thought a great deal about the way we do things of late. We spend too much time dreaming of going Disneyworld or enriching our bank accounts. We get caught up in a whirlwind of activities that leave us in an exhausted state. We rush and compete and purchase things and foods to make us feel better when nature itself is waiting for us to pause long enough to notice how healing it is to shed the trappings that please us for a time until they become old and uninteresting. Places like Brazos Bend on the other hand are timeless and so satisfying.

I think I will plan a day trip to the park very soon. It will be fun to wander aimlessly down the trails and to sit quietly observing and meditating on how glorious life really is when we strip it down to its most basic essence. I hear the call of the wild and I plan to answer it in the coming days. One step at a time will get me to spring and then we shall see what lies ahead.