Monday, November 15, 2010

Innocent until proven guilty~

I recently sat in an overheated courtroom with seventy-five prospective jurors waiting to be called to fill twelve seats, but most hoping to go home. As the judge read the charges there were audible gasps from many of the jurors, angry shakes of the head, disgusted faces. I too recoiled inwardly—it was an ugly crime: "rape of a child with force," and  "assault on a retarded person."

When introduced, the defendant stood and turned to face us, expressionless as coached, lest we judge the curve of his mouth or the level of an eyebrow. We are primed, each of us, to read subtle facial and body language cues. We often form a first impression in seconds. While we may come to change that impression in time, it's not easy. First impressions are potent.

There is a definite prejudice against those accused of crime, studies show. There's an initial presumption of guilt. After all, people think, this person has been arrested, he's been charged, and he's sitting in court with a lawyer, for Pete's sake.

Several times the judge reminded us of that most basic tenet of criminal law: a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.

While waiting through the lengthy voir dire, the tension was palpable. One person after another was excused from serving on the jury.  On their way out, most walked past the defendant without looking at him, but several gave him a dark look, a glare that said, "What a nasty beast you are."

Right now he's innocent, I reminded myself as I waited. For this day, at least, he's innocent. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt to a moral certainty."

By the end of the day, eight jurors were selected from the pool. I was one of them. The jury was filled the next day, and we settled into our seats to hear the details of the case.

After two days of testimony it became apparent to the dozen of us that there was no evidence that could convince us to convict this young man.

"Not guilty on both counts," was our verdict.

The defendant let go his expressionless demeanor and put his face in his hands and cried. So did his mother. And in the privacy of the juror's room, so did a juror or two.

It's so easy to form an opinion based on any number of things other than the actual evidence. So human…and so dangerous.  And yet, could this young man have actually "done something" as one of the jurors wondered as we were deliberating?

Of course. But there was nothing to prove it beyond a shadow of doubt. As for me, I don't think there was even a shadow.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I'm a calendar girl!

I'm a calendar girl four times over! Ms. January, Ms. July, Ms. September, and Ms. November. 

Ooh la la!

Not exactly me (of course!), but my photos. *Four were chosen in a photo contest by the Taunton River Watershed Association for their first ever calendar.

I'm happy to be part of an organization that works hard to protect the local watershed.
*My photos  are #3, #5, #6, and #10.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It's strange how the mind works. There's a stream of subconscious memories flowing continuously beneath our radar that influences us think or do things for reasons we're often unaware of.

When I downloaded this picture to my computer, my mind jumped back forty decades to when I was in college and worked as a cashier in J.M. Fields--a department store that has long since gone out of business.

I had a reputation among the various department managers as someone who could restore order from chaos, as in: refolding and organizing a customer-mussed pile of baby clothes, rearranging cups, plates, and wine glasses on the shelves in the housewares department, and folding bras—some with cups big enough to fit my head—and organizing them by size. Not rocket science, but an inherently pleasurable task making things neat is.

The long-ago praise from managers, so rare in jobs like that, still comes to mind when I'm organizing something--a kitchen cabinet, a sock drawer, a piece of writing—and for some reason, this photo made me think of it yet again.

This photo "neatens up" the tangled thicket of grasses, vines, and shrubs, pulling the important things (to me) to the fore, and downplaying the rest.

That's part of the lure of photography. Out of the myriad of things that assault the eyes and compete for attention, I can focus on one and pull a single image out of the clutter, one simple shot from among the millions I could have taken.

An inherently pleasurable thing to do.

Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. ~Albert Einstein

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What's your name?

I walked into the assisted living home to find a dozen or so of the residents singing "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover." I was going to skirt the room and take the stairs at the far end to the second floor where my mother's room was. But I paused to look at the faces just in case she was part of the group.

She was.

She wasn't expecting me; I hadn't called to say I was coming, and she wouldn't have remembered if I had. This I'd discovered on other visits when I had called before making the hour-and-a-half drive.

She always had that spark of recognition when I knocked and then entered her room.

"Hi, Ruthie," she'd exclaim, and I always felt relieved, knowing I was still in her shadowy memory bank.

Today I went over and knelt on the floor beside her chair. She smiled and said hello. But she'd spoken politely as she might do to a stranger. Then she gave me a quizzical look. 

"You look like my daughter, " she said, searching my face.

"Because I am, Mom," I said. "I'm Ruthie."

She chuckled and clasped my hand, but I could see she wasn't sure. We listened to the music for a while.  A lively woman was taking the residents on a European "tour," telling a fanciful story and singing songs from each country.

My mother joined in on "Loch Lomond," a song she and my father sang on car trips. Although she doesn't remember the trips—or my father, anymore—she didn't miss a word. "For me and my true love will never meet again..."

Then she said, "You look like my daughter."

"Mom, it's me. Ruthie."

"What's your first name?" she asked.

"Ruth," I said, shaking my head to myself. She'd slipped mentally since my last visit.

"No, what's your first name?" she repeated. 

And it came to me. Since birth I've gone by my middle name, but I carry my paternal grandmother's name as my nearly forgotten first.

"Lillian," I said.

"It is you," She said. And she laughed, and held her arms out for a hug.

Click to read: The Scent of a Mother 
Click to read: Citrus-scented Love

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to forget. ~Kevin Arnold

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thirty-nine men~

They were men in 1967, albeit young and untested, until the dense and steamy jungles of Vietnam became an exam they dared not fail.  Now they call themselves the "Boys of '67." They met as a group in 2008 for the first time in forty-one years as graduates of the class of 5-'67 at the Basic School in Quantico, Virginia. From that reunion emerged the desire to honor their missing classmates in a permanent way.

The "boys" placed a new monument at the Marine Museum in Triangle, Virginia, in honor of their thirty-nine classmates who died in Vietnam. This monument was a gift from those who never forgot--never could forget and never will--their friends who didn't return home. Dedicated in a ceremony on October 16, it speaks to the power of the loyalty that is often generated in the worst of times.

Families of the deceased were invited. Many came--brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and one ninety-five-year-old mother who's lived forty-three years past the death of her son. All were moved to realize that those who knew their loved ones only briefly remembered them still. The men whose names were engraved on the monument were as present as any of the men who bowed their heads as the names were read.

From the Vietnam War--any war, really--came turmoil, hate, division, fear… and much death. And yet the men who faced it together forged bonds that rose above the ugliness.  Along with the horrors of the war lodged in unwanted memories, these men share a respect and love for each other that no other relationship can rival. They talk, but it isn't usually to recount battlefield stories. They leave most of those memories pressed like a thorny rose between the pages of a closed book--a mere shadow of reality, and not to be examined often.

Just because it's over doesn't mean they forget. Just because it's been forty-three years doesn't mean the hurt has faded.  There are too many names carved in cold, black granite.

Click photos to enlarge. Click back arrow to return to blog post.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Midsummer night's dream~

Midsummer eve~
Click on photos to enlarge them.

What better way to spend a midsummer evening than a picnic on the lawn overlooking a vineyard … listening to live music … drinking wine … watching kids play the air guitar… smiling at the others enjoying the same thing  … while the setting sun puts on a fantasia in light?

Being there with friends, maybe. But last night we made a last minute decision to go to Westport Rivers Winery for the Friday night concert. We tossed sandwiches and fruit into a cooler and went by ourselves. We sat in the crowd, eating and drinking to the mellow sound of One Bad Ant, a local singer—Gary Duquette--with his unplugged mix of country songs. Good stuff.

 Summer concert~

The evening was a people watcher's delight, and I'd often find people watching back. I'd been glancing at a nearby woman who reminded me of a younger friend. This is just how she'll look when she ages—pleasingly plump and like she's a lot of fun. The kind of person who's always wearing a smile.

Later this woman saw Bruce and me doing the "you-take-my-picture; I'll-take-yours" thing, and she came over and offered to take one of us together.

"If you saw me watching you, it's because you remind me of a friend," I told her. She said a man once told her she had a Norman Rockwell look about her.
 Bruce and me~

Indeed, the whole event would have had Norman sketching to beat the band, so Americana it was. There was a group of mixed-race families and their children sitting together. I wished Rockwell were still here to capture this changing face of America and let its beauty shine.  We need these pockets of humanity, people spending a few hours together for no purpose other than enjoying the moment, to remind us that we're all in this together--sharing a brief moment in a world that depends upon working together and recognizing the similarities beneath the thin layer of skin that holds our important parts together.
One of my theories is that the hearts of men are about alike, no matter what their skin color. ~Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Maine

While Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck—and, of course, Lance--raced along the oxygen-thin ridge of the French Alps, Bruce and I hopped on our own bikes. We rode two "stages" for a total of fifty miles, compared to the twenty-stage, 2000-plus mile run of the Tour de France.

Our "alps" were the rolling hills of coastal Maine where the oxygen is at a comfortable sea-level dose, no matter how high the hill might seem to the biker. And we weren't racing. But still… I'll bet every one of the eighteen of us on the trip thought of Lance with great respect at least once, especially when puffing up a steep incline. And there were a few!

When my friend Amy suggested the Maine Coastal Camping Bike Tour sponsored by L.L. Bean of Freeport, Maine, I thought it sounded fun. What better way to explore than on a bike, where the sights and scents are not held at bay by the walls of an air-conditioned car? The website promised a leisurely paced weekend bike tour along scenic routes, a boiled lobster dinner, a night of camping on Casco Bay while watching the sunset over the water.

What they didn't promise was… the sun.

When you pick a date a month ahead, all you can do is cross your fingers and hope the weather cooperates. In this case it didn't.  The region was swathed in showers, and the grey clouds that threatened in the distance wended their way directly above our bikes right about noon on both Saturday and Sunday. The rain soaked us to the skin. But the thing is, it didn't—couldn't--dampen our spirits. It kept us cool when we might have been dripping with sweat and complaining about the heat.

In her three years of being a guide, Rachel told us, it was the first time it had rained on a bike tour. So we had the distinction of being "the first," a distinction we'd not have competed for, but a distinction nonetheless. I ended up grateful for the rain, a blessing in disguise that didn't stop any of us from having lots of laughs and doing everything planned, including watching a magnificent sunset after all…complete with a rainbow. Can't have those without rain!

The champions!

(L-R Front) Nancy, Tony, Mary, Ginny, Debbie, Nancy, Teresa, Nate
(L-R Back) Bruce, Ruth, Frank, Rich, Amy, Willie, Joe, Joe, Phil, Josh

A heartfelt thanks to our hard-working guides, Dave and Rachel, who did everything they could to make the weekend work, including making blueberry pancakes after all. They succeeded.

More pictures will be posted here: Ruthiedee's Photography in the "Maine Bike Tour" album. Scroll to find the album. Click on each thumbnail to enlarge the view. There will be several pages, so make sure to see them all.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ready to rumble!

Toby and Tucker, the two young cats we adopted, race and romp through the house while we sleep until their fur is flying. I wake each morning to the muffled sounds of padded paws pounding up and down the stairs, and to a living room rug from which I vac enough fur daily to knit a small kitten.

Becky had become sedate in her dotage, so having two spunky young cats in the house feels a little like the not –so-gentle reminder you get the first time you have the grandchildren overnight. Oh, yeah! The young have energy. I'd forgotten just how feisty young cats could be.

The leaves on the houseplants bear punctures from feline fangs. Swishing tails knock picture frames off the end tables. The cats discover that nibbling my toes is a good way to get attention at 2 a.m. (and 4:30 and 6:00…) And I no longer have the Galileo thermometer on the bookshelf…or anywhere. It shattered during an early morning chase, scaring the cat that knocked it off as much as it scared us awake.

"Mom, let's just go to the Animal Protection Center and look," David had said to me one morning a month after we buried Becky. He knows I would never live long in a catless house, but I'd planned to get through the summer and then think about adopting. I was in no hurry. Still, what does it hurt to look?

We looked at all the cats more than once. The place was full to overflowing. We patted and stroked and wished we could take them all. It's heartbreaking to pass by the cages--tiny paws reaching out, soft meows, and eyes pleading for attention. There weren't enough cages, and the cats that were deemed sociable shared a "living room" complete with couches, rugs, and more toys than a preschool. Sitting in there was cat lover's heaven—and yet sad, too. Poor homeless things.

Like looking at cupcakes in a bakery, it's tough to leave without one. We left with two. I wish it could have been more.

Toby and Tucker are already carving their own spaces in my heart, right next to Becky's. Amazing how wide hearts can stretch for animals.

Enjoy her while she's here~

Missing Becky~

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don't Blink~

My son shared a Kenny Chesney song with me today… Don't Blink.

"Listen to this, Mom," Dave said. Then he left me to listen, and went back down stairs to continue unpacking. He's home from college for the summer and is trying to reestablish his nook in the basement.

I don't think he expected to find me in tears when he came back to the kitchen. But the song moved me… a cliché of a song really… and that's not meant to take anything away from it.  It was a "time flies" song, and that theme's been done to death. Remember Turn Around?

*Turn around and you're two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door.

Tempus fugit. Whether you're having fun or not.

But there's no reasoning with emotion. There was something about the music and the lyrics, something about the YouTube video portrayal of an old man of 102 exhorting us to love… that hit me.

Dave hugged me. "Sorry," he said. "It's kind of depressing." I rested my head against his chest, this tall young man who just yesterday, I swear, was my baby.

But no, I assured him, it wasn't depressing at all. Just poignant.

I recently attended a 100th birthday celebration. I was there to get the story for the newspaper, but the celebrant, Rose, fell and was whisked to the hospital rather than her party, so I didn't meet her until later. A lovely woman, she didn't look 100--or what my image of 100 is, anyway--and she seemed not to think her milestone age was much of a big deal.

"I never gave it any thought," she said. "I took each day as it came."

There is no secret, formula, I suspect, for reaching a ripe old age--other than good genes and a little luck. But there is a secret to being happy at any age: love those around you. Don't hold back. Time flies.

*A hundred years goes faster than you think.
So don't Blink.

*Turn Around by Harry Belafonte, Malvina Reynolds and Alan Greene. Published by Clara Music Publishing Corporation
*Don't Blink by Kenny Chesney
The Present is a Point just passed.  ~David Russell

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Missing Becky~

Becky~ August 19, 1991 to April 26, 2010

She was so loved, this gentle pet of mine.  And how she loved us back.

I've been alone in my house before, of course. Those days when my husband took the kids out for the day, being able to vacuum without a baby in one arm and a toddler, riding the vacuum cleaner like it was a bronco, was solitary pleasure. Later there were quiet days as the kids were at camp and my husband at work. And then came the bittersweet aloneness when kids left home for college and a life apart. Still, I'd always liked being alone, knowing it was short lived.

This morning, after my husband pulled out of the driveway with a day full of plans,  I stood in the living room feeling alone in a way I never had before.  An unfamiliar emptiness and silence surrounded me.

Yesterday we put our 18-year-old cat, Becky, to sleep. The decision to do so was surprisingly easy. The vet had told us Becky would let us know when it was time, and somehow she did. But the decision wasn't without its pain, and we mourn her loss deeply. If you have not loved a pet with all your heart and soul, perhaps it's hard to understand how tight and loyal is the bond between human and animal—how unconditional the love.
For 18 years, Becky has been here, filling the house with her quiet presence. Who would think that a tiny eight pound cat sleeping on the couch could have sweetened what I thought was silence with her soft and constant song of love?  I now experience real silence--a hollow void. I miss the silent noise that has been with me for years… even when I thought I was alone.

I miss you Becky… I love you still and always, my sweet girl.

More about Becky: "Enjoy Her While She's Here."

I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul. ~Jean Cocteau

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When the sun gets serious~

 I wander through the winter weary yard,
a collage of brown,
crisp and dry,

but for the tender tulip tips
blushing pink,
but not shy.

They know the power they contain,
the joy they'll bring when the sun gets serious.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Magic wands~

Golden grasses sway,
seemingly subservient 
to wild winter winds,
but they are magic wands
waving spring closer.


Friday, February 19, 2010

POLL: This Woman feels sorry for Tiger. Is she sane?

I have mixed feelings about Tiger Woods.

If Tiger were Joe Schmoe, would I care what he does in his spare time? Not at all. By the same token, I don’t much care what Tiger does in his.  And there were plenty who didn’t care what President Clinton did in his free time, either.

If I were Tiger’s wife… well, if I were his wife, I wouldn’t be his wife any more. Money and the good life be damned. But then, I never loved him like Elin has, and I haven’t had a chance to see how much being a multimillionaire might change my mind. So who knows, really?

What happened is between Tiger and Elin… and by default, his children, who are blessedly too young to absorb what’s transpired. At the present, anyway.

It’s not for me to judge. I wasn’t primed for fame from age three. I wasn’t blessed with (cursed with?) the power, money, and good looks to send men flocking to my feet. It’s easy for me to sit in my living room, with my cat purring on my lap, and shake my head at Tiger’s indiscretions, but what if I were a gorgeous golfer who traveled the world?  I doubt I'd earn the nickname “Tigress” but still…

And then there’s the question: Which is worse? Screwing around with 20 women once or twice each? Or taking one life-long lover that you sleep with 20-40 times? Pick your poison if you’re the unknowing spouse.

After Tiger’s public apology the pollsters began gathering data: Do you think Tiger is “sincere?”


How would anyone know? He’s clearly of capable of deceiving. You have to at least appear sincere to have umpteen lovers and a devoted wife at the same time. It’s an art form, appearing sincere.

And now people are not only judging Tiger’s sex life, but also his apology.

Headlines scream:

“Body-language experts divided on Tiger's speech”
“Watch His Apology, Get Celebrity Reactions & Share Your Thoughts Now”
“POLL: Tiger's Speech: Perfectly Professional or Too Cold?”
“Do you think Tiger Woods did enough today to put the scandal behind him?”

And what even weirder is that ...  I Googled “Tiger’s speech” and the page refreshes constantly. Every thirty seconds. This is big. Wag the dog? Or just vicarious thrill? Or righteous indignation?

Oh, boy.

I feel sorry for Tiger.

“POLL: Woman feels sorry for Tiger. Is she sane?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Visit to the post office~

Our mail comes to the mailbox at our driveway's end—a black plastic box that replaced the metal one the plow took down last winter. This is where I stick my outgoing mail, as well, flipping the red flag to attention so the mailman will stop, which he'd do anyway, because there are always supermarket fliers to deliver, if not bills. But today I need to mail a book to someone who reviews for the Internet Review of Books, so I go to the post office.

Post offices are funny places--friendlier than the Registry of Motor Vehicles, but not much more efficient. I've met some great people in both, and had some wonderful conversations while waiting my turn. Efficiency is not conducive to chatting; I'm fine waiting and talking.

Today I stand in line with a book in a "Priority Mail" envelope and a five-dollar bill in hand to pay $4.90 to send the book from snowy New England to New Mexico's desert in a day or two.

The line shuffles forward; only one of the two windows is open, but people are patient. Each person has a reason to wait—they send packages to servicemen, birthday gifts to grandchildren, a camera to a winning eBay bidder. And a book to a reviewer.

The clerk is Al. He has a toupee. It's an old one, well-worn, and the part is wide as a pencil… white fabric of some sort, no hair there. He's a serious man and he always asks me five questions:

Do I want delivery confirmation?




Do I want something else?


Do I want another thing?


And when my package is in the bin behind him, do I want stamps, today?

No, thanks. Have a good day. Bye.

Today, when he opens his mouth to ask, I say with a smile, "No, no, no, no, no. I'll save you from asking. You must be sick of saying it."

"I could say it in my sleep," he says.

Puffy eyed from a wakeful night, I say, "At least you sleep."

"First I talk to my uncle Jim," he tells me. I notice his lack of a wedding ring. I picture him, lonely, touching base with his uncle, his mother's brother maybe, before he sleeps.

I say nothing, and he says, "I talk to my uncle Jim, or my uncle Jack."

And I get it. I laugh. "Your uncle Jim Beam?" I ask. "And Uncle Jack…?" I know the name, but I can't bring it to mind.

"Daniels," he says. His eyes twinkle and I don't even look at his toupee. I see the life in his eyes instead.

"You know," I tell him, "I have an Auntie Merlot. Maybe I should give her a call tonight.

"You should," he tells me. He smiles and forgets to ask if I want stamps, which I don't.

No, thanks.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Who you callin' a recluse?

When people die, friends and family eulogize them, unless, somehow, they are "famous," in which case everybody gets into the act… as is the case with J. D. Salinger, author of, among other things, the acclaimed The Catcher in the Rye, a book you may have been exposed to in high school, and if not, then you must have been meaning to read it lo these many years. If you fall into this category, it's time you meet Holden Caulfield. Get thee to the library.

Apart from his publications that ceased decades ago, Salinger has been getting his share of recently ignited posthumous attention after living out the last nearly half century of is life as a media endorsed "recluse," before dying at 91 this week.

For the past five decades he was a resident of Cornish, New Hampshire, a town touted for harboring its share of "reclusive" artists. Salinger got out and about—church suppers, book stores-- and maybe stayed home just as often, like many folks do in towns where the population is 1700 or there about. While his widow thanked the town for affording her husband "a place of awayness from the world," is that what makes a recluse? Who doesn't want some "awayness?"

Are not writers solitary creatures? Try writing productively in a crowd. Or at least while engaging with the crowd. Do not writers, perhaps, create believable and memorable characters because they observe more than they engage?  And might not writers decide that writing for public consumption isn't what matters to them? So they stop. And might they tire of endless public evaluation of their work? And shouldn't they be granted this gracefully… no questions asked, or speculative magnifying glasses aimed their way?

Recluse? Is that what we call someone who once gave us good tales, and then stopped providing them for whatever reason? What about the other residents of Cornish? The…regular people. Were they recluses because they lived in a small town that afforded them privacy? And what is privacy anyway? Can you not be as private camouflaged on a crowded sidewalk in a city of  500,000 other souls to whom you don’t even raise an eye?

John David Salinger was a man, just a man. He wrote, and was published, and we read his stories and liked them or not. But now he's gone… leaving some of his words behind, and maybe, hopefully, many more hidden. Recluse. Who knows? Who cares? And what's the big deal anyway?

Salinger was who he was, and now he will now be redefined, many times, post death. He was a man, just a man. But we'll pull him back into the limelight now, poor guy.
I hope to hell that when I do die somebody has the sense to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. ~J. D. Salinger

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter sings~

Can you hear it?


 cold and shadowy winter sings

in tones so low you'll  miss them

 if you don't put on mittens and scarf and squint into the setting sun.

Then the quiet aria becomes a duet,

then a quartet,

until soon

all nature raises its voice in harmony.

Do you hear it?

Do you join the chorus?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A thousand silent words~

In silence,
with no fanfare,
you blew your crimson trumpet 
and heralded the snow.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

This New Year thing~

A tiny planet traveling at about 67,000 MPH makes a trip around a nothing special star 93 million miles away—and we who ride along mark its completed circuit with a big celebration.

These circuits—years—accumulate into centuries, millennia, eras; we measure our history with them. And yet we seem not to think far in the future to the time when the present  will be but a dusty memory, a two sentence paragraph in a text book--or maybe not even that.

Thomas Paine thought he lived in the “the times that try men’s souls.” Haven’t all generations before him, and those living after, thought the same thing? That the decades we live are the toughest, the most meaningful, the ones that will be remembered as especially noteworthy? A turning point? Something more important than anything in the past?

When I listened to the 2009 wrap up… pundits declaring certain moments as highly significant and memorable, I couldn't help but think of how many of the events are but  shooting stars… sound and fury… figments of our own self-importance.

What we do, individually and collectively, does matter, of course, and will affect the years to come. But we have to recognize that we are just a small part of the warp and weave of a universal tapestry and that no thread is unnecessary or less important… that we build on the old just as those in the future will contend with what we have contributed, for better or worse.

As this new year begins, I look with humility at what small stitch I might add to the future, what small touch of color I might add to the tapestry.