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Levin: Transition And Hope

Here we are, one day before Christmas, four days past Hanukkah, and three days into winter, with about a week to go before the start of the New Year. It’s a time of transitions, passages, and renewal. This year, three events had profound significance for me.

I lost an old friend to cancer, who died in a hospital gown as her unshaven husband, my friend of fifty-years, held her hand and whispered, “I don’t know how to be me without you.”

A month before her death, my son Casey married Becky Morrow on Colorado's Grand Mesa, standing against a rising backdrop of spruce and yellowing aspen in front of a pristine lake. They exchanged vows under a chuppah of sturdy aspen trunks, sides filigreed with aspen boughs; leaves green and yellow, dancing in the breeze.

Surrounded by friends, family, memories of his mother, rain, hail, a burst of sunshine, tears, love, and still more rain, they were pronounced husband and wife just before an adult bald eagle passed above the lake, head and tail white as snow, and dark brown wings as level as a plowed field, conferring a primal blessing.

The following morning, the newlyweds and the remainder of the wedding party watched a pine marten raid a garbage truck for a breakfast of deer mice. It was only the second uncaged marten I’ve ever seen.

And, early this year, I fell deeply in love once again.

Few years in my life have resonated as strongly as twenty seventeen.

One that did was nineteen sixty-one, with the spellbinding home run race between teammates Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. Several months later, my personal struggle with a suburban Bar Mitzvah followed.

Or nineteen eighty, when I married Linny, mother of Casey and his younger brother Jordan. Or nineteen eighty-seven, the year Casey was born and my first book was published.

Another big year was 1995, when Jordan was born.

One of desolation was the year two thousand, when Linny died of breast cancer.

Politically, two thousand seventeen has been a stormy year as past environmental achievements have been cast adrift, and left rudderless. But despite all, my own path toward happiness grew shorter and brighter.

And today, during this darkest time of the year, festive lights remind me to look forward - and to do so with hope. It’s enough to gild the rim of any cloud.

Ted Levin is a nature writer and photographer. His latest book is America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake, University of Chicago Press, May, 2016.
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