The sun crosses the screened-in porch in long southerly slants. In the pond, ice forms small swirls, the pull of freeze and thaw evident as the temperature plays tag with the water. Six deer bound into view, stopping long enough to eat a snack and check the rear for predators. And the meadow, once full of tall grasses and wildflowers, lies spreadeagled and naked across the horizon.

My boots crunch and squish as I wander. Straining to see beyond the obvious, I listen to the land whisper its dark mysteries. Here, where the thin skin of nature reveals its beating heart, the old year slips away. A new one waits, sleeping all around me.

I walk and I take stock…where I was, where I am, where I will be. Ending and beginning and everything in between.

The wonder of this season embraces me. Despite the bustle and noise of groceries and malls, I sense within a still, small kernel of peace. I can bid 2014 adieu, albeit it with mixed feelings. There have been so many blessings. New students. New friends. A new house. A new grandson. So much joy in watching our daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren grow.

There have also been more challenges than I anticipated. Pain has become a frequent visitor. Shots of cortisone in both wrists to combat sinotenovitis and carpal tunnel. Double vision and scleritis, side effects of my treatments for hemifacial spasms. Which leads to highway multiplex: images of six lanes instead of three. Signs that jump and wriggle when I squint at them. Two doctors have suggested, with some seriousness, that I wear an eye patch. Aargh! Pirate Jan at your bleeping service. So annoying. Sometimes frightening. I face the limitations of age and wear and tear on my body. Yet these issues pale when compared to my friends who are coping with blindness and Parkinson’s and kidney disease. Who am I to complain of such petty inconveniences when they deal with true difficulties?

I walk and I take stock…who I was, who I am, who I will be.

What great act will I perform? What small kindness? Whom will I comfort in this new year? The chance to renew, to start fresh, to make a difference gives me courage. The opportunity to be of use to those I love and to those I admire, to expand my own knowledge and contribute to growth excites me.

I walk and I compose, form characters and dialogue and narrative and description. I savor the past year’s publications and anticipate the new year’s possibilities. The past stays put but the future is mobile. Beneath my feet, next spring’s grasses sleep, the wildflowers nap inside their hulls. Like them, I take my time, enjoying the passing of one season to another.

Walking. Taking stock. Offering benediction.

With every hope that your endings will be smooth, your beginnings wild and happy and your in-between peaceful and full of joy.