I write by candlelight on my back porch. Even though the calendar reads December 21, the evening air is unseasonably warm for upstate New York. Needing only a sweatshirt to keep me warm, I wait patiently to watch the sunrise, hopefully banishing the edginess that cloaks me like a black velvet cape. I straddle the rapidly closing gap between 2023 and 2024, that chasm between what has been and what will be.

2023 has not been kind to me. I still mourn the death of my youngest niece, Pamela, whose brief life ended tragically in May, at age 40. A life taken by gun violence, that ever-present backdrop of American life.

I also mourn losing the rhythm of my own life, altered by the diagnosis of a progressive neuro degenerative disease. I vow to stop the constant looking over my shoulder, checking to see if this “thing” is gaining on me. My new routine is exhausting. Yoga class to relieve stress. Boxing class to improve balance and coordination. Physical therapy to increase upper body strength. Appointments: primary physician, neurologist, and therapist. I look for time to rest and to prepare healthy meals. But where is the time to simply be me? I try to adapt to a different life, one that I never anticipated at the start of 2023.

Now 2024 beckons. Like all of us, I cannot foresee what lies ahead. But I’m resolved to write more in 2024, to find my words and to free them, like a flock of white doves. Free them so they can sing again.


Ron Theel is a freelance writer and visual artist living in Syracuse, New York. His work has appeared in “The RavensPerch,” “Beyond Words,” “O:JAAL,” “Midway Magazine,” and elsewhere.