Well, the baby arrived again Friday night, whole and healthy. Both mother and child are fine. The waiting is over. Now we can celebrate the new beginning his arrival makes clear: that every single one of us now breathing is blessed with life. Every single breathing thing, too.

I made a little pre-Christmas trip north to be with my family a few days while the good people at Lindsay Vet Clinic hosted and tried to give out for adoption the last two kittens I was gifted in mid-September. There were four in the beginning; the first one found a home before Halloween with a beautiful young woman studying at Porterville College. The second one went to the eager sister of a new teller at Lindsay’s Bank of the Sierra. On Christmas Eve day, the third one was scooped up by a Tulare girl who will take him to be her delightful companion in Arizona where she’s attending college. And the fourth one, the runt of the litter, apparently will stay here to entertain the two older cats I have left in the house, and also to remind me there is always new life if you are open to it. “Dickens” is his name, not as in “Charles” as you might be thinking, but as in “you little …” or “you cute little….”

My trip north reminded me that all we really can give each other for Christmas is our love. The presents in the fancy wrappings are just one of the ways we do that. The good food and the laughter, even the tears, are another way. The thank you notes we often don’t write afterward (see Andrew Fiala’s Fresno Bee column from Sunday, if you think those are now unnecessary) are the opportunity we have to let those we love know that we received their love, which helps keep it going (and, as Fiala pointed out, keeps our gratitude growing, too, the real gift of this season.)

The 300-mile journey to my family takes longer every year unless I drive it in the middle of the night when the traffic is less. The night before I left Mom’s, I barely slept, listening to the rain pour down in buckets, worrying about the drive. I abandoned Mom earlier than usual, and saw muddy creeks rising where they converge in the middle of her mobile home park. I prayed the rain would lighten, and it did—not because of my prayer, but because that band of storm clouds was moving south. Every time I got stuck in traffic, the rain lightened because the storm kept moving while I did not. There was a band of blue sky behind me most of the trip, and occasional bursts of sunshine. Then I’d catch up to the storm and have to make the windshield wipers work overtime. It was actually wonderful to experience storm’s travel first-hand.

Our days have been like that ever since: sunshine and rain. There’s a line from a song, of course, that was triggered as I drove and has stayed with me since from an old hymn titled “Harvest Time” by its composer, W. A. Spencer. I learned the song from my Methodist preacher/songwriter friend John Pitney, but it’s well-known and loved by people who dedicate their lives to serving others. My friend Jann McGuire knew it by heart from her community organizing days. According to John, “If you have never straddled the fence between quitting or trusting, you won’t understand this song. If you have felt the despair of not knowing whether your little contribution will ever really amount to anything, sing on boldly.” The triggered line ends the third verse:

“Another may reap what in springtime I planted, /Another rejoice in the fruit of my pain, / Not knowing my tears when in summer I fainted / While toiling sad-hearted in sunshine and rain.”

Then the chorus takes us where we need to go:

“Over and over, yes deeper and deeper, / My heart is pierced through with life’s sorrowing cry, / But the tears of the sower and the songs of the reaper / Shall mingle together in joy by and by.”

Some years we get to make a fresh start at something; some years, we just keep on keeping on. Be glad for either. Happy New Year, everybody.

Trudy Wischemann is a settled sojourner who writes. You can send her your travel stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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