new year, new tree.

January 4, 2021
olive tree | reading my tea leaves

James gave me an olive tree for Christmas. A peace offering, maybe. Or an assurance that despite the wreck of a year that we’ve had, we can care for something together and watch it grow. Not that we are wanting for things to care for or togetherness. In a few days we’ll have ourselves a four-year-old. A month later, our baby will turn one. The tooth fairy placed a 50-cent piece underneath the pillow of our six-year-old last night, the second she’s received in less than a month.

olive tree | reading my tea leaves
olive tree | reading my tea leaves

With a tree, thank goodness, the stakes are quite low. Dare I say, it feels especially agreeable to care for a living thing that doesn’t hum or bounce or bellow or make any demands at all. A tree is a still and quiet charge that can be neglected most of the time and still turn out more or less okay.

I’ve been reluctant to write anything at all about the end of the last year and the start of this new one. There’s too much to say and I’m still so much fumbling around in the thick of it. But I revisited the piece that I wrote at this time last year and against all odds it gave me some measure of comfort. As prophesied, I have plodded along. I have walked on my knees. I did not know even a fraction of what was in store for me then and I have no more certainty about anything but the plodding now, but here I am. You, too.

With any luck, we’ll make our way through this year, watered, and fed, and cared for, bellowing, bouncing demands and all.

olive tree | reading my tea leaves
olive tree | reading my tea leaves

Other things:

+ The tree is an Arbequina Olive Tree; the terracotta pot is from a favorite local shop, GRDN.

+ Our Perpetual Calendar is made by Tait Design Co. in Detroit. I’m currently waiting on the arrival of a plantable wildflower moon calendar, Here’s to ephemeral beauty of all kinds.

+ The sparkly prism was a gift from a longtime reader. It is delightful in every possible way.

This post includes affiliate links for some of the products mentioned. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links.

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  • Reply Sarah January 4, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    Thanks for pointing me back in the direction of last year’s writing. Today is the 1-year anniversary of my brother’s death. When 2020 began I had absolutely no idea what was in store. I suspect I’ll look back on 2021 and feel the same. However, the reminder that falling, picking oneself back up, and understanding that we will have both the good and the bad (almost certainly, in deed) is somehow soothing on this gray January day. Onward.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 4, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      Sending so much love your way.

  • Reply Rebekah January 4, 2021 at 4:01 pm

    I’m starting a new/additional job tomorrow after three years of unpaid labor at home with my children. I have no immediate childcare plan while weaning and supporting a virtual learner. My new employer is very aware of our world’s realities for families, and so they remain supportive of me. But I’m scared, anxious, and the work I’m starting is actually connected to structures I’m committed to dismantling, but hey, someone’s gotta be on the inside I guess? Anyway, those of us who are survivors – we’ll be alright. And we keep going.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 4, 2021 at 4:11 pm

      You’re going to be great! And it’s going to be hard! And you will survive!

  • Reply Liz January 4, 2021 at 4:15 pm

    Perfect words for this weird but new year.

  • Reply Judith A Ross January 4, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    Ahh, I just reread your piece from last year as well. Optimism is a superpower we all must harness. It will help us move forward. Also, my mantra for this year: Find your joy, and not just in your offspring, but also in yourself. Speaking of offspring, my Brooklyn granddaughter and her parents will be moving to a bigger place soon. The calendar looks like a perfect house warming gift. So thank you for that …. and for your glorious optimism as we all slog on.

  • Reply Meredith January 4, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing this perspective. Your blog posts often feel like writing prompts to me, because they so often make me pause and reflect on my own experience (and make me want to capture it in words as beautifully as you). Among my many reflections this year is a sense of awe and respect for how folks have managed to plod through this year in the face of tremendous hardship (especially BIPOC people, families with young children, people who cannot work, people living alone, and city dwellers in small apartments without access to the normal respites). Here’s hoping that this year is less of a plod and more of a walk!

  • Reply Colleen January 4, 2021 at 4:41 pm

    I was also reluctant to ring in the new year. We lost three pregnancies in 2020 and I feel so sad to “leave them behind”. Praying this is our year.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 4, 2021 at 4:43 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear this and so hopeful that is your year!

  • Reply Mackenzie January 4, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Your words continue to resonate with me Erin. Your blog is always a safe space to stop in from the proverbial cold 🙂

  • Reply Jessica Brown January 4, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    I’m still plodding too. Work and kids, kids and work. Occasional moments of fun and joy. Keep plodding…

  • Reply Jenna January 4, 2021 at 8:32 pm

    I am hopeful that 2021 allows me to follow my true passions, as I am already feeling beat down from my job… Here’s to following my heart this year!
    Jenna ♥

  • Reply Rachel January 5, 2021 at 8:56 am

    I have 2 kiddliwinks, and I love gardening. I find it such relaxing therapy to water, plant, prune, watch and be surrounded by quiet growing greenery. We live in an apartment in Western Australia, which is not very usual here for families, many of our friends have yards with trampolines, pools, trees, swings and chooks. My plants are all in pots but they are abundant and I’m thankful to have balcony space and a home to call our own. Outside the front of our building is a single olive tree, planted in a little square in the sidewalk. We have watched it grow from the size of your tree, to twice as tall as me now. My 5 yr old daughter swings, hanging upsidedown on one of its branches. It has supported her since she could climb – which was before she could walk. She arranges little fairies, mermaids and painted pebbles beneath it, with a few shells and flowers. My 8yr old son loves to ride around the caldesac on his bike and stop beside me, beneath the olive shade for cool drinks and snacks while I watch them grow and swing, sway and play, listening for the sound of their dad’s engine coming home from work. Who knows what may come, but I am thankful for what we have in this little corner of the world, and for the connection we have. Thank you for sharing your corner with us and being such an inspiration and fellow plodder each year. It’s been such a joy watching and growing with you. xx

  • Reply Holly January 6, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    Yes – here’s to plodding, and eventually something better.

    By the way, I recently got your book out from the library and am looking forward to reading it.

  • Reply Carley Winter January 8, 2021 at 1:26 pm

    I am always so impressed how you balance positivity with reality. This post gives me hope but doesn’t sugar coat the future or the past. What a year it has been. I also had a child just weeks after you and I can relate how there is just too much to say about 2020. There was so much beauty, so much sadness, and there is still so much unrest. I know good things will continue for you and your family – thank God for that new apartment! May we all keep hope for the year ahead.

    Sending you strength, love, and a pinch of resolve.

  • Reply Marit January 11, 2021 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for your thoughts…gentle and realistic and hopefull as ever.
    As for the tree: sadly olives don’t thrive well inside. So maybe you can bring him outside in spring? We lost 4 olive trees despite TLC before we tried bringing the lucky fifth one outside in early (free of frost) spring and let him sit in the patio or windowsill until the first frosty nights in late fall. He suffers from the three or four months inside but with open windows and as much sun as possible we bring him through the winter (sometimes without much leaves but nonetheless, he lives for 5 years a ours now).
    Remember: those trees don’t stand in shady forrests, instead they love to be in full sun in the sunniest areas of southern europe. We especially learned that they need wind and rain also to feel good and to thrive and stay alive.
    Good luck! (for you am James, and the little ones AND the tree)

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