Dina L. Relles

writer. editor. curious + common.


Happy New Year.

I love New Year’s, as I love early mornings. For its promise and possibility. For its quiet reflection. For its gift of a blank slate. But I also love it for being a secular holiday we can all enjoy. For inspiring a common greeting we exchange on days like this when we allow our eyes to meet in passing. An acknowledgment, however brief, that we’re on this same earth, that we’re in it together–a shared understanding that we begin something new. A subtle shift in our collective consciousness. I’ve perennially had a personal challenge to offer ‘happy new year’ greetings as long as I can, and at least until February 1. To somehow perpetuate this common language. (I have yet to succeed.)

I’m writing this in the first hushed hours of this brand new year. Beginning with words. The thread that ties together all our days and connects us one to another.

I often take note of the first words spoken in the new year, as I did those spoken to each of my children upon his entry into the world–as if they should carry some significance. As if they should relay some fundamental truth. Invariably, I muck it up with something mundane. But maybe that’s how it should be.

Like this New Year’s. As mundane as they come. Just the three boys and me, home alone. Dance parties in the den as the sun goes down. Acting silly as only we can, and only with each other. Watermelon and chocolate for dessert. Skipped baths and seven books before bed. A late night made later by jet lag. I rest the baby in his crib: “Goodnight, dearest G. I love you. Sweet dreams.” Whispered last words of the year. Except he uncharacteristically cries out, jet-lagged too, and joins us for stories. Three boys vie for a spot on my lap. We read and sing. I put the baby down for bed once more. Tired, I let my “big” boys tuck me in for a change. They flit around my room, exploring stacks of boring papers, drafting a list of activities for the next day, drunk with freedom. Then they climb into bed with me and drift off to sleep.

Maybe the mundane is the most memorable.


I ended last year with my first piece on Literary Mama, exploring Why We Write.

And I begin this new year in one of Jena Schwartz’s wonderful online writing groups, with daily prompts that unlock the thoughts in my head and usher them onto the page.

Come February, I will participate in one of Dani Shapiro’s writing workshops.

And so we begin again. With words. With each other. We break through the silence of this blank page.

Happy New Year.

It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. – Vita Sackville-West

I’m writing in the dark, slow and steady…because my kids are young and underfoot, and that’s how it has to be, for now. – Dana Schwartz

The goal is to allow the written word to connect with your original mind, to write down the first thought you flash on, before the second and third thoughts come in. – Natalie Goldberg

That’s it in a nutshell — wondering, asking “what if”, allowing your mind and imagination to wander. – Lara Anderson

Writing… is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E.L. Doctorow

Writing is saying to no one and to everyone the things it is not possible to say to someone. – Rebecca Solnit

It is the job of the writer to say, look at that. To point. To shine a light. But it isn’t that which is already bright and beckoning that needs our attention. We develop our sensitivity…in order to bear witness to what is. – Dani Shapiro

…writing is a way to stand still and recognize time, a way to find out just when and where I am. – Alisa Brownlow

26 thoughts on “Beginning with Words

  1. zsmc says:

    It will be an amazing year with a start like this! Lovely words, as usual, my friend!

  2. Dana says:

    Thank you so much for including my quote in your absolutely lovely New Year post! I am truly honored, especially considering I’m sandwiched between Vita Sackville-West and Natalie Goldberg, among other writers I so admire 🙂

    Your New Year’s celebration of dance parties and chocolate and many books sounds just about perfect to me. I love how your big boys put you to bed and then snuggled in beside you. That is a tender way to start the new year.

    I’m looking forward to many more of your beautiful and wise words in 2015. So glad to have found another kindred writing spirit.

    And finally – WOW times a thousand for your upcoming Dani Shapiro workshop! I can’t wait to hear all about it, and hope to attend one myself, some day…

    1. Thank YOU, Dana. So glad to have found you, too! I’m looking forward to reading you and getting to know each other over the coming year and beyond…

  3. Yes, yes to promise & possibility — and to keeping that feeling for as long as we can. Because promise & possibility are always there, it’s just so much easier to feel them at the start of a new year. And lovely to hear about your writing workshop plans for the coming months — so exciting!

    1. “Because promise & possibility are always there…” so true. Thank you, Sarah.

  4. George Relles says:

    As we begin our 365 day orbit around the sun, I’m reminded that we are also orbiting each other, and writing is the more entertaining and thoughtful telemetry of our journey.

    1. “we are also orbiting each other”…perfect.

  5. I love this. The mundane is often the most memorable, I find … and your description of a regular day and stories and bedtimes makes me smile. I love all of these words, and can’t wait to hear about your experience with Dani, whom you know I adore, and Jena, another one of my heroes, too! Adored your piece on Literary Mama. xox

    1. Yes, I’m looking forward to sharing my Dani experience with you, especially as you are one of the reasons I found her to begin with. I’m terrified and excited in all the best ways. And thank you, always, for your kind words, dear Lindsey. xo

  6. Laurie Tompkins says:

    Dina- I recognize the beginnings picture from the door of my kids’ school on the side alley by 10th and bainbridge. Am I right?

    1. You are! See? The mundane is what stays with us…(oh how I miss that neighborhood!)

  7. bam says:

    this is beautiful. your words — and the community in which they flow — are like discovering, after all these years, a center of gravity. the gravitational pull to dip our cupped hands into the flowing river of our ordinary un-acclaimed lives, and to pause the flow simply by the act of trying to hold that measure of what would otherwise flow by. simply by holding up the saturated moments of love, of courage, of heartbreak, of falling down and getting up again. simply by saying, this is my life, and i am beholding all that it contains so that i — and maybe you, too — can understand, can grasp, that what we live day in and out is the stuff of life, of literature quite honestly, that takes our breath away.

    i LOVE that rebecca solnit line, and doctorow too.

    happy blessed new year. to many more words…..

    1. Grasping the moments as they pass, holding them up, saying “this is my life,” and there is endless beauty in that — yes, yes. This is what I could only *hope* to do with my words, and what you most surely do with yours. Each and every time. Thankful for you, and wishing you the happiest of new beginnings…

  8. Such a beautiful way to start the new year–with your gorgeous words. And the everyday moments we have with our children. I love how you manage to write about these moments and also seem to cherish them. Don’t stop either.

    I simply must read your ‘loving early mornings’ post because I could sleep until noon. Happy New Year, Dina.

    1. Oh thank you, Sarah. Your comments always warm my heart! And I’ll have to write you a whole post on early mornings…I believe the link here is to my “About” page, where I include a brief blurb on my love for them. But I could happily write pages on the matter. 😉 Happy New Year to you, friend.

  9. acb23 says:

    Beginning with words- perfect. Everything you write is like an echo of unformed words in my own head. I love New Year’s, I love new beginnings, I love early mornings. And I can’t believe I never thought to pay attention to the last/first words uttered. Love the idea of that. And I can’t believe you included some of my own words- so thank you. Looking forward to what 2015 brings!

    1. “like an echo of unformed words in my own head” — I love how you put that. And I know that feeling well. Your words have often had the same effect on me. I’m so touched by this comment. Happy, happy new year to you–I look forward to all it has to bring for us both.

  10. Nina Badzin says:

    Finally back home and on my computer to say how much I loved this post. It’s a great start to your blog for the new year. Did you figure out the phone stuff for comments? I’m bad at the tech end of these things or I’d help you!

    1. Thank you so much, Nina! Such pressure for the first post of the year! So sweet of you to make the effort to come back and comment here. Re: WP issues on phone–my hunch is it might have to do with whether you have downloaded the WordPress app to your phone. I have it, and haven’t had the issues others mentioned. It may be the reason I stayed logged in & am not prompted to do so each time I try to comment on someone’s blog (which is where the problems seem to arise). I looked into my site’s admin settings & didn’t see anything amiss. All that said, I also noticed that a recent WP update (earlier this week) mentioned fixing a “bug where some self hosted users were unable to reply to comments.” I wonder if those who were having problems still are? It’s such a shame (and so frustrating) to think of someone trying to comment and facing tech issues. Thanks for checking in! Happy, happy new year to you, Nina.

  11. Mimi says:

    Happy, healthy New Year! Loved this post! I’m taking Jenna’s class in February thanks to yours and Nina’s promotions of it. Look forward to hearing how it goes and can’t wait to hear about the Dani Shapiro Workshop! Great blog to start off the new year! : ) XO

    1. Thank you so much, Mimi! Happy, healthy new year to you too! I’m so thrilled you’ll be in one of Jena’s writing groups next month. I’m nearing the end of my second one with her, and they are just so powerful, evocative, intense. The prompts are beautiful and inspiring and the sharing that takes place in the secret Facebook group is pretty remarkable. I look forward to hearing about your experience! Stay in touch. xo

  12. Dakota says:

    Oh, HAPPY New Year! I love this post and many congratulations on your 2014 accomplishments and 2015 goals. 🙂 I personally love the idea of continuing to wish someone Happy New Year all the way through February.

    1. Thanks so much! Maybe I’ll just get online and wish *you* a HNY on February 1 to finally fulfill my goal. 😉 Wishing you all the best in this new year…xo

  13. What a beautifully written and thought provoking post. Words truly are the key to life, if you ask me. I guess that’s why I became an English teacher.

    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! Throughout high school, I wanted to be an English teacher–in part, because I had an exceptional one, but also because of a lifelong love of words. Somehow it morphed into law, but I so admire that career and the love of language you inspire in others at a young age. Thanks for reading & commenting here!

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