“I realize there’s something incredibly honest about the trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” — Jeffrey McDaniel

“We should never forget a good act that has been done to us.” — The Thirukkural

As I stepped out of my vehicle into the straight lines and right angles of the parking lot, leaves — wispy and whirling — whizzed past me as the gusts of wind directed their descent to earth. Flitting and floating shades of amber, coriander, tobacco and cinnamon offered contrast to the somber, slate-colored clouds. I stood momentarily as pin-prickles of spiky raindrops spotted my glasses and seemingly pierced my face. Another change of weather signaling winter was coming soon.

Remnants of the dream from much earlier, well before I rose for the work day, still clung to me the way the smell of cigarette smoke once clung onto my clothes after a date night with my husband, early in our marriage, before laws banning public smoking. I continued to let the rain pelt me as my vision began blurring from the droplets accumulating on my lens.

“Let it go, Steph. Let it go.”

Soon enough, I was immersed in my day, and all was forgotten, replaced by the immediacy of the present moment.

Teaching, whether in my current middle school setting, or when I am in the midst of a yoga or fitness class, demands that I fully focus on the needs of others. What is the goal of the day’s lesson? How are the students responding? Do I need to make adjustments? It is a continuous feedback loop. Present, observe, adjust, interact, respond, sense, encourage, listen...the verbs are endless. If I am really focused, all else is forgotten, and before long, another 45- or 60-minute class has flashed before my eyes.

Likewise, writing, planning, cooking, or other purposeful endeavors can draw me into only what is happening, right there, in that instant. In fact, quite often, if I do not set timers, I can become totally engrossed and lose track of all time — often making me late for whatever is on tap for the day. It is both a curse and blessing.

Additionally, as I become more keenly aware of the passage of time via the loss of loved ones, the aging of other loved ones — both above and around my age — as well as my own changing life, body and status, I fully recognize that I am no longer that young, wide-eyed, optimistic young woman who wanted to leave my home geography, eradicate injustice, offer love and hope to those without, and move up the ranks of education. Instead, life has kept me rooted home, and offered me experiences I could have never envisioned.

So life has not been what I once envisioned it to be as a younger person. What of it? So there have been challenges, difficulties, heartbreak, and even an occasional bad dream about a past event. Again, what of it? I can choose to focus and wallow on those perceived negatives — and quite honestly, I occasionally do. However, why negate all the good that has occurred in my life and continues to occur? I have so many bountiful blessings that money, prestige, or another address could have never given me.

I am not the story or labels in my head, and neither are you Dear Reader. We are each uniquely, infinitely, and beautifully created by a Divine Source.

I have, and continue to enjoy, opportunities to travel and explore, not only within Tri-State region, but also throughout the U.S. and Canada. I have been further blessed to teach in a multiplicity of settings with a wide array of ages that my younger self, with its limited perspective, could have never imagined. Additionally, I was lucky enough to have a young woman take a chance on my writing in a now defunct county newspaper that gave me the confidence to approach another local paper that continues to welcome my writing — something I absolutely never dreamed I would do and for which I continue to be grateful with each passing week.

Furthermore, I am so fortunate to have lovingly shared my life with another educator who is just as passionate as I am in the lifelong pursuit of learning and sharing with others. Together, we have a daughter who is half way between her 20th and 21st year of life — a time that is so exciting, unpredictable, and oh-so-challenging. What a wonderful gift it is to see the world through her eyes!

I had/have the love, support, and/or closeness of my spouse and daughter, parents, grandparents, siblings, in-laws, countless relatives within immediate and extended family, friends, acquaintances, teachers, mentors, and the list could go, including pets, connected like an intricately woven spider web, drenched with early autumnal dew of which I am but one strand of connectivity.

Thank you, God, Divine Source, Ultimate Creator, for keeping my heart beating and my breath coming — continuously, persistently, resolutely. I am Your instrument. My prayer is that You, in an Infinite Wisdom that I will never comprehend, continue to use me, lead me, teach me, and guide me. I am here to serve; I no longer question my calling — that in and of itself is a gift.

Lead my life where You will, and I will continue to do my best to live in the present moment, shaking off the dust of my past and uninformed self as the trees shed their leaves in the fall.

Though the trees look dormant in times of winter, life is percolating inside, revitalizing, nourishing, and strengthening, so that when spring emerges — and it always does — it can offer shade in the heat of life.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net. Or you can check out her website, stephsimply.com.

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