Have you managed to adjust to the shortened daylight hours? In our family, we have our own tradition of a solstice fire on Dec. 21. It is a time to reflect on the past year, burn away the old and make wishes for the new. Starting last January, we began the brush pile with our old Christmas tree. Throughout the months, we added fallen trees and cuttings. Ordinarily we would invite friends for dinner and in the lighting of the solstice bonfire, we would send our wishes for a good year ahead into the dark sky. Unfortunately 2020 didn’t live up to our expectations. This time of year lends itself to reflecting on the past year’s events, both positive and negative.

It was a little more than a year ago that I wrote a private “rant,” shared only with family and sympathetic friends, about the need for change in our systems and our priorities as a society. Little did I realize that two months after I wrote that rant, the world would be turned upside down and many of the things I was thinking about were beginning to shift. People were calling for equity, justice, access to adequate health care and guaranteed annual income. Families and neighbours were forming supportive bubbles, people were buying less, reusing, gardening and cooking their own meals. It felt like we were back to our hippie days.

So what have I learned from the last nine months? What am I planning to maintain from the new perspectives I’ve gained? I recognize that I’m fortunate to be retired, with time and adequate income to meet my needs. Here’s what I’m committing to in the year ahead:

Maintaining connections
My siblings are scattered throughout Canada and the U.S. We range in age from 65 to 80 years old. Since COVID, we’ve connected more regularly by videoconference, phone and letter, and grown closer as a result. We’ve shared happy and sad stories of life as second-generation immigrant kids in Regina. Like many who have moved to the Yukon, our friends have become our adopted Yukon family. We’ve hiked, camped, cooked outdoor meals, and swapped books and puzzles in our social bubble. Thankfully my husband, son and I have learned to live together with all of our flaws and quirky personalities. Concentrated time together is draining, but, on the whole, we’ve managed to tolerate each other’s good and bad days. We’ve also provided support when needed.
I am still able to maintain connections with my in-person, physically-distanced book club, my video-conferenced writing groups and church, by way of Facebook live. I also reach out regularly to older church members and friends living outside Yukon through traditioal letters and phone calls.

Focused use of time
Prior to COVID, I was making the 30-minute drive to town about four or five times a week, sometimes making two trips in one day, to attend fitness and Tai chi classes, meetings, or community activities. Since COVID, my driving time and, coincidentally, consumption of gas has been greatly reduced to about two or three times a week. I’m choosing to do more physical activities at home and am selective about what I participate in. Phone meetings and gatherings using video or audio conferencing have become alternatives to face-to-face. I feel more relaxed and focused on the things of most importance to me, including being active outdoors, reading, writing, advocating for improved healthcare, spending family time, watercolour painting, or dreaming of gardening.

Buying only what’s necessary
I’m able to choose between what is a “want” and what is a “need.” Do I really need that new pair of pants, or book, or cellphone? I think twice about purchasing new. Instead, I look for used clothing or books. I borrow a book from the library, or friends. I recycle a cell phone, or computer from e-waste. This completely aligns with our family’s values of reducing waste and making do.

It is worthwhile to take time to reflect and shed new light on relationships with my family, friends, community and the world. How can I use my resources to support a kinder and more caring world? May the new year ahead bring you hope, peace, love and light!

Something’s missing, but I don’t know what