Story and Photography by Caroline Maxcy Fox
I’m giving you a formula at the end of this article that is guaranteed to work for New Year’s planning success. But first I’m going to tell you a story about how it didn’t. How this year, in those first hazy days of 2024, the tried-and-true, fail-proof formula failed me.
And this all begins with another fail-proof formula for processing things. It involves:
#2 Uninterrupted time
#3 Shimmering daylight
Give me those three things, and my scattered thoughts start to click into place, my mind starts to actually work. I can process and grow. I can write and create and brainstorm with the best of them. I could conquer the world with enough of it, I truly believe.
But the three seem to be quite elusive. Especially in the last three years since becoming a work-from-home parent to my toddler, Norah. And to find them in unison is nearly impossible. So here at the beginning of 2024, I’m trying my hardest to pivot. To seek out nearly perfect scenarios and roll with it, if you will.
How do I find solitude in the presence of others? Noise canceling headphones help.
How do I carve out large amounts of time where it doesn’t appear to exist? It seems, if you squint, you can find the time in tiny increments between all the other things pressing in.
How do I learn to think in the dark? Seek the magic of the daylight beyond the horizon.
The Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (1917 – 1980) said,
“Christianity discerns that beyond the night
The dawn already glows.
The hope that does not fail is carried in the heart. Christ goes with us!”
Now I can’t stop thinking of the dawn glowing beyond the inky black horizon of night. And somehow, by some miracle, outside of the laws of my fail-proof formula, I’m writing this in the dark.
It was that first week of the New Year, that time of year when you’re not ever really sure what day it is. We were on a trip to Tennessee to visit my husband Devon’s side of the family, then hit the road to visit with my side. Between the two was a winding road, a national forest, a state line and a mountaintop.
On the two-hour trip from valley to valley, we climbed our way up and over a snowy mountain range. As we got higher the light grew brighter, the air grew thinner, the sky grew bluer, the dusting of snow grew deeper, the road grew quieter.
We stepped out of the car at the peak and into a crisp silence. We formed a snowball or two in our bare hands. Not another traveler to be seen.
I took a deep breath of the crisp clean air and paused. Solitude.
We threw our snowballs at the earth and climbed back into the warm comfort of the car and started the slow descent back to the valley floor. I put on my headphones playing soft piano music and relished the uninterrupted time to think.
I used to hate winter and its wintery scenes, all barren and such. Twiggy brown branches grasping towards a gray sky. But then I moved a bit further north for a time and learned the pure joy of spring. The trees bursting with color and pillowy blooms. What was once tucked beneath a dusting of snow and gray is now carrying new, vibrant life. I’m grateful for it now.
I can’t stop thinking about the dawn of spring glowing beyond the dull gray horizon before me. The magic of the shimmering daylight found in the bleak mid winter dark.