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I’ve been working with several words in the past few months. Spacious is one. And authentic is another. Also balance and path

– as in, “What is my right path? What is my work on this ride we call life?” Not able to limit myself to A Word — just as I can never decide between savory and sweet on a breakfast menu or, god forbid, breakfast and dinner on one of those vexing menus that doesn’t  fit a time of day — I now add another word for 2014:  Generous.

As in – I want to read authors who are generous with their characters and their readers. This is how I felt all the way through Telegraph Avenue. Months after having put it down I still miss Gwen and Valetta and Mr. Jones and their very real attempts to live fully. Ditto musicians who live their music and moviemakers who are carried away by the storytelling and the desire to share a certain truth.

As in – I am continuously thankful for my many friends who give of their time, kindness, and talents — friends who talked me off of my own particular cliffs last year, who shared in our wedding, who opened their homes to my kids.

As in – I want to eat food that is generously prepared – warming of the soul as much as the palate. Here, I think of the plate of greens and eggs and a buttermilk biscuit dripping with homemade strawberry preserves that was handed to me by Eric Menzel at his Salt Fork Farms market stand on a drizzly morning in early September. Or of a salmon that had been grilled and deboned by my friend Carey and then shared around little kitchen table along with late-into-the-night conversation.

As in – I realized how much I want to stay in this house because I am blessed by neighbors who look out for all of the creatures of my household and who teach me to repair my lawnmower, right down to a lesson in spark plugs.

As in – I want to keep doing business with tradespeople and store owners who are in love with the way an old sink matches the oddball tub and the possibility of finding a skirt that matches the just-so shirt. I found both in the final months of 2013 — an old sink brought to life by Ginny Blair and an outfit patiently put together with help from Kara at Catherine’s and my friends Cheryl and Tonya.

As in – I am honored to have kids who can tell when I need a hug and open their arms wide. Last week my son said – seemingly out of nowhere – “I’m so glad you get to go back to Kripalu. It makes you so happy, and you deserve it.” What a gem to know this and share it with me.

As in – I look forward to another year of exploring generosity with my husband (still trying out that particular word!). His ever big heart was on display in a dream I had the other night in which a friend who is in a bad spot right now came back to Iowa City for a party. At the end of it, we realized that among the gifts she received was a bright aqua washer & dryer set. We had no idea who had given these grand and much needed gifts, and as we asked around no one ‘fessed up. When I got home, the twinkle in Chris’ eye at hearing the story indicated the gifts were from him. In real life, I don’t imagine Chris giving anyone aqua appliances, but the dream spoke to his big spirit, the way in which he gives of his love, wisdom, and patience without any expectation of recognition.

So possible synonyms for generous are kind hearted, patient, creative, buttered, soulful, intentional, authentic, balanced. Authentic? Balanced? Those sound familiar. Ah, I see a path here all the way back to my heart. All the way back to remembering that being generous with myself is the most important thing I can do this year.


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