We have come to the end of another calendar year, and for me, it is a time for evaluation, analysis, and decision making. In the past, I faithfully put pencil to paper, and dreamily made a list of New Year’s resolutions, which I kept no longer than the moments it took to write them down. Not only an exercise in discouragement, but a complete waste of time. Now, methods are different, and results are better.
It is a mental discipline to look back honestly at one’s year, and analyze successes and failures with equal measure. Because I always hold high expectations, especially for myself, I can feel fairly unsettled if I do not meet the standards I set, even if they can be a bit unrealistic, or a lot unrealistic. No matter, at least I am still setting standards, so that alone is a good thing. My upbringing, fortunately being at the tail end of the “children should be seen and not head, spare the rod and spoil the child, pride goes before a stumble” method of parenting, left me with conflicting issues of self-confidence versus humility regarding achievements. So, even if something is well-earned, and an accomplishment satisfying, I wrestle with voices from the past whispering not to be too full of myself, or puffed up. Because those little voices are not necessarily accurate, it can take a little longer to figure out who is saying what; but at the end of the process, and moving forward, the good things can be identified, appreciated and made even better, the errors and failures can be identified, appreciated, corrected or dealt with, and permanently put to rest.
Being a life long goal setter, part of my exercise each new year is to establish and subsequently learn, at the minimum, one new thing. The 2013 goals were achieved with varying degrees of success, in that there were several new things learned; some terrific, some epic fails.
Most of it revolved around dietary changes: learning to cook and eat gluten free vegan foods, with a low glycemic index. Not easy, but definitely doable. I created many delicious recipes, and some that went straight to the garbage disposal. One of my favorite successes was learning to make my own gluten free vegan sushi rolls. That was fun. Mastering Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls was another matter; working with the rice paper was not fun, and every effort resulted in a maddeningly sticky, tasteless mess that making did not bring out the best in me.
Another of this year’s goals was to renew a love of gardening, and try my hand at growing vegetables in a greenhouse. I was excited, and felt confident it would be a total success. It should not have been difficult. I had watched the sunshine in my yard, knew how much rain to expect; trips to the nursery were planned out, and supplies purchased with great care. I was not a novice, and actually felt more than slightly expert as I put the whole plan into motion.
Vegetable gardening had been a big part of my life since early childhood, due to a grandmother whose entire back yard was a garden. We visited her house every Sunday for as long as I can remember, and she believed it was important for children to learn how to grow and preserve fresh wholesome food. I had my own tasks which would help her, and teach me along the way about the good and the bad aspects of growing vegetables.
It was a miracle one particular task did not turn me off to gardening forever. Because she did not believe in using pesticides on her plants, I had to go out each week and pick the tomato worms off her tomato plants. These are the most horrific looking creatures, ever; a chartreuse green segmented worm with spots on its body and little horns on its head. Seriously ugly creatures. And I could not bear to touch them. I devised a way of fulfilling my responsibility, while keeping the yetch factor to a minimum. I would get one of her wooden clothes pins, the kind with the little spring inside, and when I came across one of the ghastly worms, I grabbed it with the pin, and plucked it off the plant. Shuddering with revulsion, and shrieking in horror with each capture were not acceptable reasons to be excused from my weekly chore during growing season. She told me this was gardening, and to get over it. Good advice, but still difficult for a kid with a strong aversion to anything that slithered. And was bright green. And had horns.
My belief was, with a lifetime of gardening experience, my greenhouse was going to be easy work, and above all, lovely. I had red and white containers to hold the plants, spent hours preparing the soil, arranging the containers, and planting a delicious variety of herbs and vegetables that all of us had agreed would be welcome on our table. For a couple weeks it was spectacular. All my training and experiences were paying off, and I was so happy to be growing things again.
Unfortunately, we have a cat who has no respect for the art of gardening, nor the effort put into making it happen. He found the greenhouse roof to be a handy bridge from the neighbor’s fence to our backyard, taking a giant leap from one to the other with all the aplomb of an overweight, Siamese flying squirrel. Still not too bad of a problem until one of our Pacific Northwest storms hit, and left deep, sagging, heavy puddles of rainwater on the plastic roof of the greenhouse. That plus our cat’s considerable weight were too much one morning as he jumped from fence to roof, the momentum spilling him and the entire greenhouse over onto its side. Everything fell over. Everything. Plants, soil, water, cat, greenhouse; all a large, catastrophic mess.
My greenhouse and I never were able to recover, and it was a disappointment of enormous proportion; but I did accomplish the goal I had set. Even though there was no harvest, I felt satisfied I had tried to learn how to garden in a new way, and gave it all I had. And the cat still lives. He is not very bright on a good day, but he was smart enough after the accident to give me a very wide berth for several weeks.
As I move on, successes and failures of 2013 almost a memory, and prepare for 2014, I think most of the joy I experience at its prospect is in the promise of it. Everything for all of us will be fresh, new, no mistakes made yet, and no failures or regrets. Just happy, hopeful plans, taking it a day at time, trusting in our good fortune to have yet another year, and our keen sense of direction; keeping that internal compass pointed north, I am sure we will be prosperous and successful. At least that is what I hold for myself and those I love, and actually wish it for anyone else who wants to live in a brighter, more energized place. Yes, that place is, and will be called today, and it is a gift. A gift of time where the sun will shine and the rain will fall; all of it taken together, creating in each of us patterns, twists, turns, hills and valleys adding day after day to the treasure trove of experiences and memories we know as our journey.