Waiting for the hint of a spark

If you were around New Year’s Eve on December 31, 1999, just before the Millennium, you probably approach the week between Christmas and New Years’ Eve with caution.

  • Computer glitches 
  • Banking failures
  • Power losses

My daughter, Mia, was performing with a children’s chorus at the Lincoln Memorial in a televised New Year’s Eve broadcast.  The kids had to be on the mall by early afternoon.  They were staged in a heated tent and our group could only have a few chaparones.  The parents got together and decided to send those among us who were physicians, nurses, psychologists. We were planning for the worst. My husband, a physician, arrived with his black bag full of the stuff you might need in a big medical emergency.

The rest of us watched the telecast from our living rooms, waiting for the end of the world and wondering why we let some parent (me) talk the rest of us into letting our kids spend possibly their last night on the planet performing for 5 minutes in subzero temperatures.  Ok so Will Smith was hosting but still.

When nothing happened, like everyone else around the globe, we felt great relief.  Ever since, if you’re like me, you still hold your breath at 12:01 on January 1.

And it doesn’t help that our inboxes are flooded with emails warning us that time is running out to give to this charity or contribute to that fund.

Everything is just so hectic this week and so slowed down all at the same time.  On January 1, I want to wake up feeling like I did the day before but inevitably I am a little melancholy.

I’m committed to living in the moment yet I wish I could find a way to slow down the time.

During my warm up a few days ago before training at Equinox I was listening to NPR news and was sad to learn about the death of American artist Ellsworth Kelly. He was 92.

According to the NPR reporter, in a 2013 interview, Kelly said, “I feel like I’m 20 in my head.” I don’t know much about Kelly’s personal life but I suspect his youthful spirit was a driving force in his simple and bold paintings and sculptures that influenced decades of artists. 

When I was in my 20s I spent way too much time navigating career choices and relationships to contemplate the passage of time.  But now that it’s here I am keenly aware of what it means to feel young, to be young, to age youthfully, and I’m digging feeling 20 in my head.

In the story, the reporter noted that Kelly would take photographs of an old window or an alley and in that photograph he would see something in the shape of a square and apply the geometric image as the basis of his painting.

“You don’t need a photo to paint a black square,” the reporter said. “You just need a ruler. But Ellsworth Kelly wanted to bring scraps of the world almost mystically onto his canvas.”

Scraps of the world.

Like sparks that swirl around us. I think about this especially when I’m around my youngest nephew because when I’m with him I feel an energy force that’s so clearly the legacy of his late grandfather, who died before he was born.

These sparks are everywhere.  They ignite our memories, influence our ideas, energize us.

As I move through my day, I’ve started to visualize electrolytes as being the charge that zips through my tissues and bloodstream carrying fluid here and there.  Without them I picture myself as a still puddle just waiting to attract unwanted pests.

It’s the whooshes of energy from the people we loved and miss and from the people we never knew but admired that enliven our space.

When I come across a young woman who carries herself delicately but with muscularity I feel like I am in the presence of Emily Johnson, one of Adin’s friends who died of a brain aneurysm in college around this time of year.  I feel the legacy of Amy Winehouse in the music of emerging artists and when I read about Amy’s House, which her family set up to nurture and mentor young women artists.

And there are so many others who fill our air with sparks of energy.

A few days ago the Princeton community learned about the sudden and tragic death of theater professor Tim Vasen. Tim was Adin’s theater adviser and mentor, and he was in the middle of directing the senior thesis project of one of Adin’s closest friends.  And Tim is part of the Yale School of Drama faculty where he’s been mentoring new theater directors for years.  Tim was young and his death is nothing short of shocking.  He was hugely influential both as a director and as a human.

Adin feels the gravity of the loss and is still processing it, and he does not really know how to move forward.  But what is so crucial here for all of us is that he is deeply engaged with his friends and the community of students and friends who also loved Tim.  Through that support they will find ways to hold onto those sparks of his professor's intense light for life, and cling to the lessons he taught them and the love he so generously shared.

Of course these losses are heartbreakingly sad. But if we're able to approach the New Year allowing ourselves to connect with the energy around us that will help a lot.


Since returning from Jamaica and still rehabbing my left hamstring, I'm following a Return to Run regimen out of Ohio State University that Kevin recommended.

Even though he picked the "Advanced" program since I've just finished my first marathon (never underestimate the value of sincere flattery and a gold star, which would have been nice) it still feels like taking baby steps. He pointed out that it's a rehab program that's not meant to be the focus of my exercise.  In fact during this time I can't use running as my major form of exercise so I'm doing a lot of cross training (biking mostly).

When I first looked at this I chuckled at the last bullet under Phase II Walk to Run Progression.

  • Complete only one phase per day

At first I thought it was a ridiculous thing to note, but after completing Phase 1 of the Walk to Run Progression I immediately thought I could do it again at the end of the day and just not tell anyone.

Right now I've completed Day 3 of the Walk to Run Progression Phase 2 and am ready to move on to Phase 3. Mia joined me on Saturday for Day 2. We walked for a full mile as a warm up. This was her idea and it made a huge difference in how both of us felt during the run segments. Wherever possible I'm trying to build this warm up into my routine.

I'm being patient and sticking to the program, and I promise you I am not doing more than one phase a day.

Well not really anyway.

See  you next time!


Carolee Walker1 Comment