If it’s not working, try restarting, they say. They are full of wisdom, right? The new year is always a good time to try out the old adage, along with clearing out the old and making way for the new. I’m well overdue for a refresh and like most of you kind readers out there, I’m taking the opportunity of a new year to burst forth with fresh plans. My attic needs a good sorting out.

What have you been holding onto that no longer fuels your fire? Is it time to gently place it on the burn pile and release the tether of its energy? After the smoke clears and the embers release their last blasts of flame, the feeling of lightness and clarity that comes might just overwhelm the nostalgia for the past.

This is very hard to apply to our relationships. A friend once said, “How do you end a friendship? I don’t understand.” Like family, it may be beyond our imagination to decide it’s time to move on from someone we once held in love. If you have tried in good faith to work it out, and it’s not working, it may be time to restart. Unplug it, plug it back in. If it’s still not lighting up your life, it may be time to retire the relationship. No guilt, no blame. A mediation is a good place to bring a close to a long relationship. It can be a space to respectfully extend gratitude for what was shared and peacefully part on good terms. Oftentimes, there are bits and bobs that need to be tied up, and a neutral meeting to part amicably can be a great help, and a very good way to honor the goodness that once was.

As a cook, my pantry is a great place for me to begin. Old spices that have lost all their flavor, stale crackers and such; a spritz of water and vinegar on the shelves. Maybe I’ll find something I didn’t think I had, in the back, in a corner, under some reusable bags. I’ll sort through it all and bake up a new recipe; or maybe some stew for these cold wet nights.

Happy new year!


The notion of hard work is well matched with the achievement of career goals, scholastic efforts, even fitness or health pursuits. When we think about the work it takes to attain or maintain good relationships, many of us stumble or even resent thinking about intimate relationships in terms of aquisition and excellence. Do we think human relations should be organic and free, natural and wild? Or that real love just happens and is some kind of magical force strong enough to chart its own course? Certainly real love is wiser than us, and doesn’t require our feeble tinkering.

My mythos of romance, the charm and seduction of blind enchantment doesn’t really pair well with my ideas of structure, hard work, list-checking and regimented discipline, and I kind of see them as operating in very different rooms in my mind. Moving toward the application of the idea of being business in the front AND back seems so rigid and efficient, or at least controlling and robotic and not sexy. The application of techniques, strategies and tactics feels calculated and not disingenuous but somehow distanced from open-hearted presence.

When we consider our most important relationships, do we think it’s a crassification, or a commodification to attach a work ethic to their maintenance and care? In what may be our last bastion of personal freedom, allowing for the seemingly random chaos of love deeply satisfies a need we have for wild places. How are we served by believing that these important relationships will somehow take care of themselves and be there for us when we need them the most?

I like the analogy of a garden. Permaculture has been a fascinating obsession of mine for a long time and I marvel at the balance struck between intervention and an accepting appreciation for what is. Whether in habitats or between loved ones, applying an intentional and curious attitude toward cultivating healthful and supportive relationships seems the epitome of my idea of what is beautiful and truly natural: that is, we are always affected by what’s going on around us; changed by it, inspired, motivated, or discouraged by our environment. As we bounce off all that surrounds us, we change the world as well. Our lives make a difference.


Construction time again! This is the season where we open up our homes to our friends, make new ones, share warm memories and build upon the foundation of our rituals and traditions. It’s the season of using my hands, creating structures, dusting off old things and making them new again. And you know where I’m going with this metaphor, right? But it’s so true! Looking to mediation can be as exciting as a new construction project, or a refurbishment project, making old things work better than before.

It can be a challenging time for us as well. There you are, sitting comfortably, sipping on a hot cider when from out of nowhere your sister says that one thing to set you off, or your best friend makes a mean joke about your casserole and a wonderful gathering turns into an interminable nightmare. It can leave you hating every holiday party you feel you have to suffer through for some obligatory reason. What if there was a way to deal with those feelings instead of stuffing (mmm…stuffing) them down again, like last year?

Mediation is not the quick fix we might like after a blowup sends shards of buried emotions to pop holes in our relationships. It’s more like an opening to a conversation. It can be hard to start those conversations, and it takes a commitment to building the trust we have with ourselves, to wade in without knowing the outcome.

What is Aunt Sally going to say this time? Why does Bob always have to bring up politics? This season can support our practice of acceptance and forgiveness. Seek to see those potential outbreaks of crazy as opportunities to develop the characteristics you value most. Be the change, right? I think that’s how it goes.

I am already beginning to plan and plot, making lists and testing recipes. Sharing in the challenges of this life, the sweetness and sorrow—that’s the way through for me.

May your holiday season be full of joy.