A few days after moving, I put on my gloves and coat and went for my first walk in the new neighborhood. Sometimes the best way to settle in is to give my body the chance to orient itself, to begin to know a place.

I walked up the hill and past the domed church, watching how the last dregs of winter light catch the treetops. For the first time in a few months, I began to feel the space around my body opening up. As I went further, I dropped into this simple presence more easily; I noticed what is good. I noticed the smallest gestures of peace. I also noticed – again and again – my whirring mind, spinning from present to future. But then I paused the whir again as my eyes were greeted by gorgeous violet berries on a branch. Whir. Pause. Whir. Pause. Pause. I started to breathe more deeply.

Though my mind is spinning in these days of collective suffering and sorrow, I am learning to be a better friend and ally not only by acting in solidarity but also by taking moments to let my feet touch the ground. To embrace the touchstone that reminds me to “be present as fully as possible.” And here, as this touchstone reminds me, I can allow my doubts and fears to rub shoulders with my hopes and strengths. 

As a new year beckons, I’ve decided to eschew lists and resolutions and simply choose a word to hold close to my heart in the coming year. I am choosing presence. May I be present to what is in front of me. May I not turn away. May I keep my feet touching the ground. May I lean into hope and trust.

I like to listen to “The Color Green” by the innocence mission when I am walking around, watchful for the “sudden visit” of a color or a sound or a glimpse, something simple even in the midst of complexity, something that could even “lift me up three stories” if I am willing to be lifted.

Here is my wish for all of us: for simple presence to suffuse our coming days. For this presence to be compassionate – granted kindly to ourselves and others. For us to find moments where we can “see the day gifted with a million gifts.” 

What words are you holding close to your heart for 2017?


JoVanceJo Vance is the Marketing & Communications Associate at the Center for Courage & Renewal. A stalwart believer in the power of stories to spark change in the world, Jo is passionate about creating space for those stories to be shared through effective communications. When she’s not hiking in the mountains or by the ocean, Jo volunteers with fellow environmental and social justice activists, works on her poetry manuscript, and delves into her ever-evolving stack of library books.

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