We are down to the dregs of 2009 and I am in that contemplative state that befalls many of us this time of year. I find myself sifting through the last twelve months - What did I accomplish? What took place? - as well as contemplating the next twelve - What will I accomplish? What will happen?
It is appropriate that the first month of our calendar is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus was always represented as having two faces looking in opposite directions. To the Romans, he was the god of gates and doors, doorways, beginnings and endings, and transitions. To me, he is a reminder of the bittersweet nature of my thoughts at this time of year.
2009 brought much good to my life. It was the year of my great garden adventures, of both of my sons making some sweeping lifestyle changes (I believe for the better), of greatly satisfying accomplishments both professionally and as a volunteer, of a rich and full life with Warren, of one amazing Symphony season ended (the 30th) and another one begun that will reach fruition in 2010 (the 31st). It has been an incredible year full of warmth and support and love and friendship and joy, so much so that I would stitch its memories into a quilt if they had tangible form.
And yet I have to temper my assessment of 2009 with the reality of the Great Recession and its impact on family, friends, and community. Holiday cards arrived bearing news of difficult times. Both of my sons are looking for work, having spent much of 2009 unemployed. We saw 168 clients at our community's free Legal Clinic this year, a 83% increase over 2008. Our local United Way last spring had fewer dollars for more needs as job losses took away from the former and increased the latter. (As I write those words, I am already gearing up for the allocation discussions to come this spring.)
So many of us - institutions and individuals alike - did more and more with less and less in 2009.
I expect 2010 to follow suit. I believe the Great Recession will hang on longer at the grassroots level than the pundits and politicians realize or admit. It will change us as a people, as a community, and as individuals, just like the Great Depression did 80 years ago.
And yet I am not soured on this year now ending or the one to come. Scrooge sneeringly denounced the Christmas season as "a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer." I am no Pollyanna - these times are hard and many of us are not only not an hour richer, but many hours poorer to boot - but I am no Scrooge either. I see the year now ending as one which gave me many gifts and responsibilities in these hard times; I see the year about to begin as being endless in opportunities.
I am not one to make New Year's resolutions. If I could not make life changes during the course of the year, why should I think there is any magic to making one now? So I will make no pronouncements here or anywhere as to how much weight I hope to lose or how much I intend to exercise or how many blog posts I hope to write in the year to come.
Instead, I have a sense in my heart of which projects will rise to the top of my list for 2010 and of what I plan on planting in my gardens - literal and figurative - in the months to come. Some of them will undoubtedly make their way to this blog. Time will tell.
Two centuries ago, the sage Hillel said "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for myself only, then what am I? And if not now, when?" Decades ago, I posted that saying on my wall above my desk. I have had it committed to memory for almost as long. I take it out now and hold it up against this time of year, against endings and beginnings, against old and new.
It has served me well all this time. It will guide me again in the year to come.
As I finish these words, it is early Sunday evening. A thick snow, the thickest yet of this winter, is silently scrolling down out of the dark, blanketing the lawn, kissing the outdoor holiday lights. By morning, our neighborhood will be a white slate upon which to write the day.
2010 - a long, clean slate upon which to write the year - is waiting.