Posted by: jeannineatkins | January 2, 2015

Strength in the New Year

Even before I mentioned that the museum stays open until midnight when Amherst College is in session, and offers yoga classes, my friend Jess said the Mead is her favorite local art museum. She likes the gilded baroque frames on yellow walls, the way they change exhibits each semester, how a portrait of Lord Jeffrey Amherst is labeled using the word chemical warfare in reference to his infamous contaminating of blankets belonging to Native Americans, and a room that gives the impression of a centuries-old English great hall.


Two days ago we stood there examining an ornate mantelpiece with four people carved above the hearth. They were called women in the notes, and they did have breasts, but their arms and legs looked beyond those of someone who works out, but shot with testosterone. As Jess mentioned hermaphrodites, I glanced at a mom and her about eight-year-old daughter who silently wandered past us, and recited facts from a pamphlet on a table. Each person was supposed to symbolize something. I remember fortitude and temperance, and the other two words also were weighty and Latinate. None of the sculptures spoke for dance or music, let me tell you. The little girl stopped pretending not to listen to us, dug in her heels, clenched her fists, stiffened and raised her shoulders, and puffed out her cheeks to make a deep frown in imitation of the statues. Jess and I laughed, but her mother, clearly not at the museum to have fun, waved her away.

Those carved women might be emblems of strength, which I’ve chosen as a theme for 2015 – but without all the grimacing. I want the sort of strength I practice in yoga, working on a core that will help my aging back, but also calls for softness and bending in between tree poses and planks. My guess is Fortitude didn’t do yoga. As a writer and person, I want to bend into remembering how crazy-shy I was as a child, as mixed up as any teenager, as determined to find my way as I was during my twenties. As I think about what I want for the new year, I also look back at small cruelties and mistakes I made or bore. I can’t march on from these, but examine, not wallowing or harshly judging, but fostering forgiveness. The new comes not from folding back calendar pages, or striding away from the old, but in the kind of gentle collision that reminds us we can be anyone. Maybe a girl who mimics a wooden statue, and grins, before following her mother to another room.



  1. The way you notice and contemplate those noticings Jeannine is ever interesting and pleasing. In a roundabout way you’ve encapsulated the oft- ignored interactions that make our world so inspirational, at least to me. Best wishes for the new year to you where you can be anyone!

    • Thank you Linda for this and a year’s worth and beyond of faithful comments to me and so many more. You are an inspiration every day! Hoping the best for you in 2015!

  2. Bravo! Well done

  3. Yay! Here’s to Strength for the New Year! Wonderfully written post!

  4. You continue to inspire and amaze with your contemplative posts. Love the image of the girl posing in the museum. Love how you’re constantly making connections, astutely observing every small detail and turning your experiences into lovely grace notes for us all.

    Here’s to strength for the New Year! 🙂

  5. I am completely in awe of your messages and your pen. What a kind and gentle introduction to the new year. Thank you, Jeannine.

  6. Ha, I see in that little girl a younger version of myself–the observant child who stifled church giggles and thus invited stern words and sidelong glances. 🙂

    Thank you for this vignette, and for its gentle openings.

    • It’s good to giggle in museums and churches, yes?

  7. As I wrestle with so many conflicting emotions (the end of one year and the beginning of another always brings on this state of inward angst, it seems) I read your post, especially these words, and I am uplifted:
    “The new comes not from folding back calendar pages, or striding away from the old, but in the kind of gentle collision that reminds us we can be anyone.”
    Thank you for this wise, gentle reminder, my friend. Happy New Year!

    • Happy new year, too, and may you find more routes out of angst. You do so much good in the world, and I always feel uplifted by your words and presence. Thank you!

  8. […] that frame of mind, I wandered over to Jeannine Atkins’ blog this morning, and read her wise post.  These lines stayed with me, and comforted me: The new comes not from folding back calendar […]

  9. Tara picked one of my favorite gems from this post.
    Thanks, as always, for sharing and inspiring, Jeannine – here’s to a good, strong, 2015!

  10. As always, such beautiful wisdom here from you, Jeannine. I was always laughing at the “wrong” times as a child. Now I just don’t call them wrong anymore. 🙂 I love that you shared that moment with the little girl. It allowed for so much more than the “expected” behavior in a museum. What a gift to all.
    And gentle strength. That is your very core, dear Jeannine. Thank you for sharing your heart. Perhaps we’ll meet up and have a good laugh together in 2015! ❤

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