It’s Jan. 2, 2019.

Have I already broken my first resolution?

It was a simple one, but it depended upon the weather. More specifically, it depended upon the temperature.

Did I take a First Day hike?

The notion first hit me several years ago, though there are folks who have been doing this for years: Starting the calendar with a hike in nature.

Whoever thought of it had a great idea. It was a way of getting in touch with the natural world, getting away from the couch and the football and all those leftover cookies, and getting in touch with yourself.

I have no memory of why the idea grabbed me, but it did just that.

Though it was brutally cold that first year, I bounded out of bed on Jan. 1 determined to take a hike. And most years since then, I’ve done just that.

Most years, I have gone alone. But Connie has joined me more than once, including last year.

While I enjoy her company — and have since that first encounter more than 50 years ago — a First Day hike is often best as a solitary exercise. It refreshes the soul as well as the body.

Stand by the edge of the pond at the east end of the Loblolly Wetlands Nature Preserve when your tracks are the only ones in the snow and the only sound is the distant buzz of semis on Indiana 18 and the wind is whipping at your face and you tend to get in touch with yourself.

Sit on the battered Leopold bench just above the creek on the trail at the Bibler Preserve and watch the path so often trod by deer and it’s just you and the silence.

Those who know me well know I have a habit of scribbling poems. At least I call them poems. Not sure what others may think.

The nice thing about a poem is that it distills an experience, boils it down, finds new connections and can take the 14 lines of a sonnet to communicate far more than a rambling newspaper column.

So, here for a change to kick off the new year is one of those distillations I wrote a few years back.

It’s titled “January 1” and it goes like this:



A walk on the first day into the Lob,

Red-shouldered hawks glide and arc in welcome.

My steps will be the first in this new snow

And this new year on paths we walked last fall.

Wind bites my neck, my ears, awakening

The blood, sending color to the surface

And shattering benign complacency,

Bestowing the painful kiss imagined

This morning when I woke and understood

How much I wanted to greet the new year

Outside, snow beneath my feet, sky leaden,

No tracks but mine, no song but wind and mind.

I greet the winter wetland, swamp now dead,

Drafting a quiet prayer for paths ahead.

And did I break my first New Year’s resolution? Nope.