My watchword for 2018

Rather than make grand resolutions for 2017, instead I chose a single small word to guide me through the new year: focus. I’d been trying to do too much, I decided. I would be happier and more fulfilled if I did less, and with greater attention.

Then a bunch of unexpected things happened — my husband got sick, we sold our house — and I discovered that focus wasn’t the problem. When the situation demanded it, I was like one of Austin Powers’ “sharks with frickin’ laser beams.”

In hindsight, 2017 taught me that it wasn’t focus I had been lacking, but a sense of purpose. So that’s my watchword for 2018: purpose (or porpoise, if you’re from New Jersey).

But before we jump too far into the purposeful year ahead, here’s a roundup of a few times in 2017 when I remembered to pause and focus on the moment.

January 11 • The cafeteria at work feeds me a raw meatball. Surprisingly, I do not die.

Meatball IMG_5520 BLOG

Sometime in June • While stopped at a red light, I watch an old woman sway her bony hips to music only she can hear. I don’t have the courage to photograph her.

Lee Liquor 1280714 BLOG

July 17 • My neighbor gets evicted and leaves behind a few tires.

Piles of tires 1780940 BLOG

August 6 • After a heavy rainfall, a leaf unfurls to reveal a tiny castaway.

Caterpillar IMG_6335 CR2 BLOG

August 10 • Sidewalk philosophy.

Dog on a walk IMG_6354 BLOG

August 11 • During my morning walk a red fox stops in the middle of the train tracks, locks eyes with me, and then vanishes silently into the fog. Breaking my stride makes me notice wheat sprouting where it has fallen out of the boxcars.

Train tracks IMG_6365 BLOG

Train tracks IMG_6375 BLOG

August 13 • Another morning walk is interrupted — this time by a drunk, injured neighbor. He survives.

Bloody hell IMG_6381 BLOG

August 19 • The Washington Post becomes inexplicably fixated on poultry disassembly.

Chicken dismemberment IMG_6400 BLOG

September 4 • Another neighbor moves away … without his belongings.

Moving day IMG_6488 BLOG

September 30 • Among the crowds at the Renaissance Festival I spot this child, readying his pirate-ship crib for a nap. The light reminds me of Vermeer.

Renfest child 1800689 BLOG

Renfest child 1800690 BLOG

October 1 • I drive downtown to watch my sister run the Twin Cities Marathon but miss her somehow (it’s her first 26-miler, and she finishes in four hours). Since I’ve already paid for parking I explore the ruins under the Stone Arch Bridge.

Marathon 1800696 BLOG

Mill City 1800702 CL BLOG

Mill City 1800705 BLOG

October 23 • Visiting my folks in Florida. I get up every morning to watch the sunrise.

Florida sunrise IMG_6684 BLOG.jpg

October 30 • I stand one last time at the edge of the vertiginous steps in my house.

House steps 1810147 BLOG

November 27 • Ash from the California wildfires colors the sunrise on this crisp morning.

Sunrise IMG_7517 BLOG

December 5 • I pity this model and hope he has other gigs he can put in his portfolio.

Superamerica IMG_7562 BLOG

December 17 • The tire marks in the fresh-fallen snow remind me of a hand-loomed blanket.

Snow IMG_7601 BLOG

January 1, 2018 • The new year begins with a supermoon and with a quiet reminder that time is fleeting, and precious.

Courtney Carver with supermoon 1810377 BLOG

Here’s to a renewed sense of purpose in the year ahead.

80 comments

  1. That was an interesting and entertaining year in review. So many questions…like WTheck’s with all the tires? If your neighbour didn’t die, how many stitches? Will you ever eat another nasty meatball (I’m vegetarian). Were those deadly stairs built to code?

    Good call on the lighting and Vermeer! Yes very much so. Under the bridge, while a very interesting POV of urban decay, doesn’t look like a place a woman should venture alone even if you have parking to spare….Heidi, be careful! (am I over reacting? Is there a Starbucks 2 ft away?) x Boomdee

    • I wish I could answer all of your questions, dear Boomdee — but the tires were as big a mystery to me as they are to you.

      I also can’t tell you exactly how many stitches the neighbor got because I always steered clear of him (especially after he started keeping a Rottweiler chained in his back yard).

      But at least with the meatball I can answer with a big, confident YES that I will never eat another.

      As for those stairs: definitely not up to code! Fortunately the buyer didn’t care. Whew!

      Lastly, about those spots under the bridge … yeah, it was a bit dodgy, but there were enough other tourists and joggers around that it seemed *someone* would hear me yell. It’s a constant tug-of-war with me between wanting to explore these places, and being prudent about personal safety!

      Well, here’s to fewer WTF moments in the year ahead, eh? 🙂 Thank you so much for stopping by! xx

    • A guess on the tires: nobody will take them without a disposal fee. I wonder if the neighbor was charging some small shops to dispose of the tires but not actually disposing of them. That’s going to cost the landlord/mortgage company more than a few bucks.

  2. Hmm…maybe there’s a sign in that meatball. It looks pretty normal by French standards! 😉 BTW, I also set an intention for 2018: believe. Will be interesting to see where it leads.

    • Haha! You’re right that the meatball would be perfectly acceptable in France — which I use as an excuse for my steady diet of pains au chocolat. 🙂 And what a wonderful intention you’ve chosen for 2018! As your newest follower, I will be eager to see where it leads.

  3. This is über-amazing and wonderful. I do however have a few questions or rather observations:
    I’m sure happy and glad for you that you moved. Seeing what your neigbourhood/habitants do/leave doesn’t give me much confidence. I did wonder however if those pics were an elaborate joke or real…. I have no idea about the ‘state of affairs’ or even anything at all of where you were. And WHAT the heck was with those stairs? Nobody can climb those…. or again, is it an elaborate angle or are they stairs leading to the attic?
    The advice to the ‘model’ is priceless – you’re quite a master!
    Love the last two….. beautiful.
    I’ve found my word this weekend – goodness (inner….). Striving (more) to be good (better) & kind(er). I’m sure Hero Husband (and all the hundreds, thousands I deal with) will notice! 🙂
    Have a great week and a fantastic year. And enjoy your new home, now more than ever!

    • I wish the neighbors’ escapades had been elaborate hoaxes, Kiki, but sadly they were all too real and part of a pattern of bizarre incidents over many years. A lot of them were fairly benign and attributable to drink or youthful idiocy … but after a while one gets tired of calling the police yet again to report a car smashed into a tree, or a sofa on fire in the middle of the street.

      As for those stairs … well, yes, part of the steepness was indeed due to the camera angle — but not all of it! We had more than one friend climb to the top of those and then hesitate a bit about their ability to climb back down. I always joked they were good training for climbing Mexican pyramids. 🙂

      And hats off to you in your own quest for goodness. What a wonderful thing to strive for! The world could use more goodness …

      My best wishes for the year ahead, and thank you for stopping by!

    • Thank you so much, Michael! I was a bit self-conscious about posting them, because most were just snapshots on my phone. I am honored you liked them.

  4. Wow, your neighborhood was a happening place in 2017. Mine was not nearly so eventful. If there were any incidents involving liquor and blood my neighbors kept it all inside.

    Purpose sounds like a good emphasis for the year. I have never chosen a word (Or made serious resolutions). But perhaps I need to start.

    • “If there were any incidents involving liquor and blood my neighbors kept it all inside.” I don’t know why, but that phrase made me chuckle. But one thing I can say for the old neighborhood is that it was never boring — I’m sure there are transcripts of a few 911 calls that the cops are still passing around for laughs!

      As for choosing a word to greet the new year, I got the idea from our friend Jim Grey. I think it’s a brilliant way to live life with more intention, rather than to focus on a single behavior (like, for instance, doing your boozing and bleeding behind closed doors). Cheers to you, and thank you for stopping by!

    • JPC; I just snorted my white wine over the iPad …..
      ….. If there were any incidents involving liquor and blood my neighbors kept it all inside….. too funny!

  5. I LOVE your blog!! Your photographs are absolutely exquisite. The photo of the boy in his crib and the snow/blanket are Gorgeous! The wheat growing in the rocks on the train tracks is very prophetic. Please continue to share these photos and your beautiful thoughts with the world 🙂 ~M~ Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • Oh gosh, Mandy … I’m blushing. Thank you! I’m truly honored and pleased you like my photos and will do my best to keep bringing you more in the year ahead. xx

  6. I also meant to say that the name Vermeer sprang to my mind too, two lovely, wonderful photos – or a sequence of ‘The Midwives’ maybe…. wonderful!

  7. Integral to life, having purpose! And so individual this one – so much discovery and looking inside oneself, ongoing. A deep, life-affirming, self-affirming way to enter the new year – cheers! And love the flow of pictures you added. The tires – wow. And the sunrise – wow in an ongoing renewal and joy way ; ) Thank you –

    • “Colorful” is a great name for our old ‘hood, Jim — at least it was never boring! I’ll be curious also to see how this idea of purpose develops in the year ahead. It’s something I’ve been pondering more and more often as I get older.

  8. I love the moments you focused on and shared from last year! Your eye and attitude are always appreciated and at times a bit provocative. The Carver quote is so very wise! Enjoy whatever purpose leads you into a wonderful 2018. Happy New Year!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Patti — I’m glad you liked some of the moments I shared from last year! (I won’t remember all of them fondly myself, but it’s important to include the bad with the good, because that’s life.) I hope you also will have a very happy, very healthy year ahead. Cheers!

  9. I really love this idea! I think I might steal it for myself. I’ve tried to stay away from resolutions and create goals, might be a wee bit similar but I feel it’s less pressure and more likely to stick with it.

    I’m really enjoying your photos as well – you’ve manged to capture some really amazing images!

    Here’s to a purposeful 2018! 🙂

    • They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery — so steal away, Shalou! 🙂 I hope 2018 will be happy and healthy and rewarding for you too, and that you’ll finally enjoy the homemade waffles and pasta of your dreams. 😀

    • Thanks be to God, indeed! Thank you very much for your kind words and lovely sentiments. My very best to you also in the year ahead.

  10. Lovely and intriguing post. Very thought-provoking. Would love to know what type of camera you use. Marvelous photos.

    • Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind comment! I shot most of these photos on an iPhone 5S, with the exception of the child at the Renaissance Festival and the Mill City ruins — for those I used my Panasonic GX7.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Penelope! I like your style very much too. 🙂 But I’m hoping the year ahead will be just a little bit less shocking, ha ha!

    • I am honored you found it inspiring, Bima! And I hope that in the year ahead you will find the courage to follow all of your dreams.

    • Thank you very much for your kind comment … especially about the photos, as 2017 was an “off” year. All the best to YOU in the year ahead!

        • I’m sorry to hear that 2017 was a bit “off” for you, too. But I like your philosophy very much: Hope for the best; plan for the future. Here’s wishing you a fulfilling, successful 2018!

    • There are indeed always external factors that shape our lives, Björn. But purpose seemed to be one area in which I could at least have the illusion of control by asking myself, “Why am I doing this?” Whether it’s a small task at home or a big project at work, I’m always happier when I’m working toward some goal … it’s more a sense of “why,” whereas focus was more about the “how.” All of that said, I’m still sort of muddling through my days, feeling generally rudderless and unproductive. Maybe it’s not new words I need, but action? 🙂

  11. May I borrow your word for this year? I would like to be less busy, yet more productive and filled with purpose. “If you don’t have time for what matters, stop doing things that don’t”. I’m gonna put it on the fridge right now! My boys are growing up too fast and time is fleeting. I want to say yes to things and people that matter. Thank you for the reminder sweet Heide. P.S. My favourite images are the toddler getting ready for his nap and the tiny castaway. 🙂

    • I would be honored if you would borrow this word, Rochelle! The more I read and think about purpose, the more I think it may be a key to the meaning of life (along with love). I hope that saying yes to the things and people who matter will help you savor ever day even more. Big hug to you! xx

    • … and through your comment I discovered your photos too, Adam. Your work is exquisite! You are a master at capturing light — and your photos of the aftermath of hurricane Sandy are among the best I’ve seen anywhere, hands-down. I look forward to following your blog and seeing more of your work.

  12. You live (or is it lived?) in an interesting neighbourhood. An interesting loopback at the year that was. Did you actually eat that meatball? That last photo of the tire tracks is a great piece of observation and portrayal of art in the everyday.

    • I did live in a very interesting neighborhood, Mr. Draco — but haven’t missed it one bit since we moved almost a year ago. And HELL NO, I did not eat that meatball! (I was tempted to microwave it and finish cooking it because I hate wasting food, but ultimately decided it wasn’t worth the risk of getting food poisoning.) Thank you so much for stopping by and catching up!

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