It is the last day of the year, which is as good a time as any to look at the present moment.

So here it is: a moment.

It’s 1:45 on a Monday afternoon, and I am sitting at my desk in the family room, with my laptop in front of me, and I am listening to a Nellie McKay song called “Gladd.” I just heard an interview with her on “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross while I was in the car, and so I came home and downloaded some of her songs on iTunes. (When my New Year’s resolutions kick in tomorrow, I will not be downloading quite so many songs on iTunes.) I’ve just realized that this song is from someone who died–it’s kind of a hymn of comfort, the type of thing a dead person might want to say to those left behind…and since this has been a year in which a lot of people close to me died, it seems particularly fitting to listen to right now. You can listen to it for free on the npr website…here’s the link,, and then you click on Listen. (I promise you: it’s not a sad song. It’s really beautiful and comforting.)

Anyway, back to the moment. (This is why I can never be a Buddhist; I can’t stay in any one moment.)

It’s now 2:26, and I’m just back from making a pot of white needle tea, which is wonderful–warm, light and delicious. The dog is stretched out asleep next to me, but you can see by his flickering eyelids that he’s not deeply asleep. His feeding time is officially 4 o’clock, but he gets ready by 2, and so any time I shift in my chair, he comes to hopeful attention.

Outside it is sunny although we were supposed to have a snowstorm today, so the sky–which is a delicate egg-shell blue with little white wispy clouds–seems like a particular blessing today. One of my children is snowed in in Boston; another had snow yesterday in Pennsylvania, and the third has gone off to meet New Year’s Eve in New York City. The house still looks like a post-Christmas apocalyptic catastrophe. I managed to get the wrapping paper out of here for the garbage pickup today, but there are still stockings lying around, looking indolent and self-satisfied, and a few stray boxes that should either go up to the attic or politely out with next week’s trash.

If I were to make a list of all the things I should be doing, it would be long indeed.

  • I should be interviewing the subject of my next newspaper story, a 16-year old boy who will tell me why he believes exercise saves him. (I did try to call him; he’s not home. No doubt he’s out being saved by exercise right now.)
  • I should call Jennifer and Stacy and Alice and Butch and wish them all Happy New Year, because it’s been too long since I’ve checked in with the extended family, and I would actually LOVE hearing what they’re all doing.
  • I need to make an appetizer for the New Year’s Eve party we’re going to tonight with friends. While I was upstairs waiting for the tea to brew, I read the Cook’s Illustrated cookbook and thought for a long, hard moment about launching into a huge cooking project, and then decided, “Nah. I’ll go buy some shrimp and make shrimp cocktail. Everybody likes that, and why wreck the moment of being alone in the house listening to music by myself?”
  • I could do laundry. I think it’s been weeks.
  • Empty the dishwasher–those dishes in there have been clean for a few days, I think.
  •  Go the gym and see if exercise saves ME.
  • Send out Christmas cards, which now would be called New Year’s cards and may yet have to turn into valentines.
  • Make some more New Year’s resolutions, along the same lines as STOP DOWNLOADING ITUNES.

But you know something? This day is just too marvelous the way it is. Just a perfect moment in time–the heater roaring softly, the music, the taste of the tea, the knowledge that soon I’ll have to go out and buy shrimp and cocktail sauce. I will go back to reading my novel and making the last little tweaks, the last Ridding of the Adverbs as I think of it.

Nellie McKay is singing her last line: “It’s been a long time coming, but all the pain has passed and there is peace.”

To all of you who stop by for a visit, Happy New Year…and may 2008 bring you much joy and peace.