The Backside of the Year

Solstice Blessings, everyone! In my hemisphere and time zone, the longest night of the year was last night (Saturday December 21), and the official time of the Winter Solstice was 11:19pm.

This is a very special time of year for me, even beyond just the Solstice itself which I consider very special.

Some years back, when I was living in a cute little trailer in an RV park in south Austin, I started to think of this time of year as “the backside of the year.”

And I meant it in a good way. A time of solitude (most of my neighbors seemed to leave town); a time of unstructured days (most of my clients — I was making my living as a Japanese-to-English translator at the time — tended not to have any work requests for me from late December til early January); a time of long-wave introspection. A fallow time. Doubly so because Facebook was not yet a thing.

It felt like a very RICH fallow time. An incubation phase; a gathering-in of energies to recycle for future use.

For maybe the past couple of years, I have not experienced the “backside of the year” as fully and richly as I have described above. But this year, I’m back to experiencing it again and it is a real treat.

Every time of year is special to me. I’m a particularly great fan of long warm summer nights. And when the days start to noticeably shorten, I go through a brief gear-shift phase where I feel a little hemmed-in and mildly dejected. But that phase passes.

And I really do cherish the “backside of the year.” A time to get small quiet things accomplished; a time to reassess and discard what no longer serves; a time to savor the richness of the dark. It kind of feels to me like I imagine an earthworm in the fertile depths of the compost pile feels.

To be continued shortly …

OK, I’m back! Not unlike many other people, I am prone to the “Facebook Blues,” where I see how much other people are accomplishing (their award-winning films and best-selling books; their eco YouTube channels getting a million hits; their gardens producing insane quantities of fruit; their 6-year-old kid inventing a new molecule, which was just a side activity on his way to a command performance at Carnegie Hall to perform Beethoven’s Umpteenth Symphony in Z minor), and find my own efforts greatly wanting. What am I doing? Why am I doing so little? How can I just spend so much time just sitting around enjoying birds and books and all that kind of thing? Why am I not out there doing more?

The “Backside of the Year,” when Nature herself slows down, when most of the neighborhood seems to be off somewhere at the mall or with their grandkids or in Paris or trekking in the Andes or what have you, and my immediate world seems to get extra quiet, feels like an extra-strong invitation, giving me not only permission but an actual mandate to unhook and slow down and fully be present with whatever I’m doing, without reference to the seemingly much greater things other people are doing.

I remind myself that Facebook is not the world. I use it so much for my work (primarily, spreading the #GrassrootsGreenMobilization by sharing the many shoots of it that are sprouting up all over), that it takes over my entire day if I’m not careful. The Backside of the Year, when nature gets extra dark and quiet, is a precious gift.

Backside of the Year accomplishments for today:

– Listened to the tiny birds that flit around my house; managed to spot one

– Added cover matter to the compost pile

– Installed an old-school pencil sharpener that I inherited from Mom & Dad’s house; it had been sitting around for almost two years, not being very usable because it wasn’t screwed down. Now it is! Hooray! Seriously, this was a big deal, actually getting this done.

– Wrote the first bit of this post as a Facebook post; then decided to write you an expanded version; did that

– Listening to the roar of the ocean! It’s about a 5-min walk from my house to the sea, and I can’t always hear the waves from my house, but at this time of year I often can; maybe it’s to do with some combination of cooler temperature, wind direction, lower humidity

Later plans:

– Go out with my hand-cart and pick up the pieces of an oak tree that someone in my neighborhood chopped down and left at curbside. Their loss is my garden’s gain! Logs are great for landscaping, and for building soil.

– Read book; appreciate the sights and sounds and smells around me

I don’t know if there’s a word for this, but if not, there should be: That feeling you get when you read about how much good someone else is doing, and you start to question not only your own activities and choices, but the very validity of your existence on this planet. It can be a deep dark rabbit-hole.

The thing is, we need all of us. Every person doing what they’re drawn to do according to their best efforts and highest intentions is an essential part of the mix. And, inner accomplishments are an absolutely essential part of that mix, though they don’t look cool in a selfie on Facebook. We live in a physical dimension, but our fundamental journey as humans is a journey of consciousness. An unfolding of awareness; an uncovering of our deepest truest nature, the better to help and serve all of our fellow creatures.

And regarding Facebook, I think that channel has been a boon to environmental movements (and other beneficial movements). Certainly I would not be able to reach nearly as many people without it. Regarding the “Facebook Blues,” I had to ask myself, “Am I just a pill, an envy-riddled sourpuss who can’t take joy in the accomplishments of others?” And the answer is no! But, that said, I think there’s a difference between hearing about someone’s greatness via social media and hearing about it person to person, either face to face or over the phone. On social media, the warmth of a direct social interaction is missing (or at least is way less), and all you get is the glossy postcard of fabulousness. Which probably is just another reminder of what I knew already: that if I’m feeling the Facebook Blues, it’s a sign I should put down the smartphone, walk outside, and go visit someone, or make something good happen.

I also have to say, regarding Facebook, that it has allowed me to connect with geographically distant cousins, and with bits of my extended family’s history that I would otherwise have no way of knowing. Just now I checked in to my feed, and one of my Dad’s cousins had posted pictures of a beautiful church that he and his father and other community members had helped build. St. Michael’s Catholic church in the town of Simpson, Pennsylvania. Both of my parents have passed. But, through the miracle of social media, I can read a post that several different cousins in several different cities chime in on, adding stories that enrich my sense of where I come from. (Growing up in a military family that moved every couple of years, and then, as an adult, taking a career path and personal path that led me to move several times, I always felt very mobile, free, and adaptable, but never had a very strong sense of roots. It’s nice to be able to fill in a few roots.)

Thanks for following along with this meandering post. I hope you found something useful here. And may the Backside of the Year enrich and recharge you!

Further Reading:

Most Accomplishments are Invisible (from David at Raptitude, one of my top favorite spirituality/consciousness blogs)