Gifts and promises

By David Parkinson

Not much going on but the cover crop (hairy vetch)

Nothing much happening but the cover crop (hairy vetch)

Happy New Year! Having passed through the Christmas downtime, around the inflection point of the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year!) and back onto the upslope, we’re now at the traditional point of looking backward and looking forward. Early winter in our culture is a time of reckoning in two important ways: we reward one another (and ourselves) with gifts for past behaviour and many of us go through the annual ritual of setting goals for the coming year. Pundits and cultural commentators waste a lot of ink and pixels on their ‘best-of’ lists for the year gone by, and the ones who feel like sticking their neck out do their best to predict what the coming months will bring.

Plenty of people asked me, while I was away visiting my family, what I was up to and how my year went. And I found myself oddly unable to come up with a coherent story about any of that. Maybe I just don’t think naturally in terms of year-long chunks terminating neatly in a clever narrative and a few year-end lists (the best books I read, the finest wines I drank, and so on). The year certainly had some highlights, among them:

There were some lowlights too, but the less said the better. At least they all came with a lesson I think I learned.

The more interesting and exciting things that happened in 2009 were mostly ones that I challenged myself to do for the first time. And in most of these cases I stumbled through them, not knowing what I was doing but doing it anyway. This appears to be my standard modus operandi these days; in my previous work life I was able to do more or less the same things day after day, but lately I have to invent my work as I go and fling myself into activities with no clear idea of how to do them or what to expect. It’s occasionally frustrating and difficult but certainly not boring. That’s how life should be.

I won’t subject myself or you to a rundown of my resolutions for 2010; although feel free to leave your resolutions in a comment to this post. I’m always fascinated to read other people’s attempts to put order into their lives. But I hope that 2010 will bring an increase in positive community organization in the region and elsewhere — and I hope that this positive action will increase faster than the negative forces out there in the economy and social atmosphere. Things are looking fairly dark and I have no hope that our elected and self-appointed leaders and wise heads can get out ahead of these forces. But I do think that committed and honest groups of citizens reclaiming their right to self-determination can do more to cushion the landing than any number of bombastic pronouncements or grandiose government programs.

I expect 2010 to be challenging for many of our friends and neighbours. If we can make only one resolution, let it be that we do what we can, starting from where we are and accepting our human limits, to start creating real solutions to the many problems facing us. And having found one solution, to spread the word, to draw more people in, and to keep moving onward.

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Post facto

January 2010
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