Punch needle tapestry with Celtic Tree of Life theme

Laura’s newest punch needle tapestry with Celtic Tree of Life theme.

2020 was certainly a year. It taught me the value of staying adaptive and of seeking joy in the little everyday moments. It helped me learn to see the opportunity in every challenge and that life can be full and beautiful without leaving the farm for a straight nine months. Transitions made in 2020 garnered virtual connection with people all across the country I might never have met as well as tied us closer together at home.

A new year brings the promise of hope in a new start, a stepping over a threshold into possibility. The new year 2021, however, admittedly cannot shake off the vestiges of 2020 in its dawning, as the deadly pandemic continues to rage, a national leadership mess continues to fester and many of us continue to struggle to hold our lives together in the upheavals and uncertainties of the times.

I remember this time last year, seeing all the parties in 1920s fashion themes, with flapper dresses and martinis. It seems like almost a lifetime ago! Hopefully, this year, the parties were off, and we count ourselves blessed if our family members are not in the ICU. It would be easy to focus on the sorrow and loss of 2020, hoping just to shake it all off like a bad dream as the new year begins, but I find it also helpful to think on the important things that have been brought into focus this year — an awareness I hope we can carry with us through the new year.

The value of nature. No matter how much our man-made operations had to shut down, nature was never canceled. Each morning she arose with her patient beauty, inviting us to join her. Many of us sought solace in nature this year, finding joy and connection with her seasons, plants and animals.

Even in our deepest sorrow there were still the pretty little birds singing, the doe at the edge of the field, the patch of wildflowers or frost covering each branch like diamonds in the morning sun. We watched how transforming our lives allowed nature to heal and flourish, showing that the destructive industrialized human effects on Mother Earth are needless and reversible.

The value of truth. We all know that lying is bad and toxic and that honesty and integrity are good and noble. We also all suffered from lies and manipulation that fuel hatred and mistrust at many levels last year. My hope is that we may shed any motive to do “whatever it takes to get what I want” and choose a path of truth and honesty with ourselves and each other.

The value of adaptability. This is a great lesson from nature and history, as species who are unable to adapt to changing conditions are also unable to thrive or even survive. Adaptability can be physical but is also a mental/emotional ability. Finding new ways to move forward, connect and sustain were a key part of my 2020 experience. I’m certain that these skills will be useful when facing additional challenges in the future. Instead of hoping that 2021 will magically make the situation go away, continue to find ways to adapt, so you can thrive even amidst the turmoil.

The value of learning. Staying curious, trying new things, digging deeper — these are all excellent skills to bring into the new year. Learning something new may mean we have to shed an old perspective (which can admittedly be painful at times), but it also opens new horizons and possibilities. It helps keep mental elasticity (a skill that makes adaptability more possible) and allows us to stay informed during changing times. Knowledge and opinion are different attributes. Do some digging and see what you can learn in the new year.

The value of connectedness. It is a shame that “social distancing” became the phrase of choice in our country, while many other places around the world used “physical distancing” to describe the necessary practice for keeping each other safe during this pandemic. We need not be socially distant, especially with the many ways we can stay connected virtually. As mammals, our social connections are vitally important to our health and wellbeing. Coming into the new year, I am mindful of the value of these connections and continuing to tend them.

What values are you bringing into the new year? What lessons from the old one? This week, make yourself a list or some notes and pin it on the fridge or the mirror or somewhere that you can periodically check in with these thoughts you’ve captured. Do they offer hope for a brighter year, informed by the journey so far?

I wish for you peace and happiness in the new year, and I hope that we can all walk together towards kinder, hopeful times.

See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. She can be reached at 715-462-3453 or www.northstarhomestead.com.