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Rounding the Mark on 2023

The forest is dead quiet in the early morning hours when you walk out into it. At least until the creatures assess you and, seeing no imminent threat, go back about their business. It’s akin to going to a cocktail party and either working the room as the life of the party or receding back a bit and seeing what’s actually happening in the room. You might believe you’re the life of the party in the one case, but you won’t know what’s actually going on around you. It pays to shut up and read the room now and then.

Sitting quietly in my trusty Adirondack chair, the woods soon erupted into chatter, as various couples expressed distain or encouraged more urgent attention to the nest. A young squirrel chewed through maple branches and hauled them back to the nest, where another squirrel seemed to be dissatisfied with the progress. Nearby, a house wren destroyed the silence with loud chattering birdsong. It’s always the smallest birds that make the most noise. Some might say the same about people. Two ears, one mouth is the ratio I taught my children. Sometimes I even take my own advice.

There have been precious few mornings like this, just sitting outside listening to the world wake up around me. We’ve arrived at the month of July, and in New Hampshire it doesn’t really feel that’s possible. Blame it on the rain, relentlessly taking control of the month of June in the region. We’d all like to gift the precipitation to places that desperately need it now. Canada, on your big day, please have as much as you’d like. Feast or famine: that’s the climate now. The lawns thrive, the tomatoes and basil are horrified.

I use that Adirondack chair for more than just listening to wildlife. It’s the place to listen to what’s happening between the ears as well. Assessing where we are, what we’ve done, what was left undone. Sometimes you have to sit still long enough to recognize it wasn’t ever about listening to the squirrels and house wrens or the weather. Assessing moments with people, places seen for the first time or the thousandth time, projects completed, projects put aside for another day. Where did it all get me? How about you?

We’ve rounded the mark on the year: six months down, six to go. When we look back on the first half of the year, now ended, how do we feel about it? Do we like the view? A good life is represented by stacking our days with memories and small wins, all measured as progress. Sometimes we aren’t progressing at all, but receding and trying to hold it all together as best we can. Sometimes everything slips away and we feel we’re left with nothing. That’s life too. We all know how this ends, but it doesn’t mean we have to let today slip away without a small win. Maybe tomorrow too. String enough wins together and half a year later maybe we actually have something to celebrate. I hope so. But either way, there’s this other half of the year to reckon with, beginning today.

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