–by Mary Helen Darah
PUBLICATION DATE: Jan 08, 2019

I began my New Year’s Day ritual of writing down my yearly ambitions and found myself, as my Gram would say, in a “funk.” As I perused the items on last year’s list, I came to the realization that I was a big, fat failure. Literally “big” and “fat,” as I did not conquer item #7 on my list which was to lose 10 lbs. I also did not finish my novel, read the directions manual first, believe the Google maps directions over my own, figure out why I have six remotes and one TV, and can’t keep a “pretty towel” pretty for longer than 12.8 minutes.

When feeling “funky” I often turn to my go-to book, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” by Frances Mayes and it did not disappoint. As I flipped through the well-worn pages, I came upon a section that has always resonated with me. When Frances’ life was in turmoil, she recalled what a woman told her about the train running between Vienna and Venice. It is said that the tracks built over the Alps were constructed long before there was a train that could make the trip. Everyone believed that one day the train would come. Perhaps I need to look at my annual ritual in a different way and put a new twist on the year ahead. Instead of focusing on miniscule to-do items, I need to look at the big picture, lay down some tracks, and in my heart know and believe that my train may be late (especially if it is an Italian one) but it will eventually arrive at my station.

Like Francis Mayes, I have spent time in Italy as well as numerous other countries. I love to travel and have learned many life lessons from the places I have explored. The sad thing is the lessons tend to fade when I return to the routine of my everyday life back home. This year, instead of an itemized list, I am going to recall what I have learned from my adventures and be more Italian, Alaskan and Canadian.

La Dolce Vita
“Dare alla luce” is the beautiful way Italians say, “to give birth.” Translated it means “bring into the light.” This year, instead of looking at work, relationships, projects and goals as laborious, I’m going to bring them into the light. Also, in true Italian form, I am going to bring people around the table with food, conversation, laughter and vino, take the occasional nap, have gelato drip down my chin, wave backwards beckoning people to return to me and remember that family and friends are my greatest treasures.

The Last Frontier
The license plate slogan for Alaska reads, “Beyond Your Dreams, Within Your Reach.” I hope that sums up 2019. My time spent in Alaska re­­­­minds me to think BIG. Anything is possible. Also, after flying in a seaplane and what felt like dangling over a cliff in Denali in search of grizzly bears while a passenger in a converted school bus, I want to get a little uncomfortable. If I’m living a bit out of my comfort zone, it means that I am taking chances, growing, not always playing it safe and living larger.

Oh, Canada!
For over seven decades my family has had a home in Canada. It is where I’m truly at peace. In 2019, I want to remember to keep things simple and not complicate my life with ambient noise and clutter, as I do while at my northern home. I’m going to watch sunsets, look at stars and truly BE with those I love. I am also going to take the advice from my dear friend who said, “Quit chasing ‘butterflies.’ Take time to be still and they will land on you.” I did that lakeside one day and miraculously not only did a winged beauty land on me but spent a couple hours in my company. Maybe this year my “butterfly” will be in the form of a 6’, nice, normal male.

In the year ahead, I may still be up 10 lbs., (as if I could ever give up baked goods) and holding an unfinished novel, but I’m remembering life lessons from near and far and laying down some tracks knowing that my train is just around the bend.