In early Roman calendars, the year had either 10 or 12 months, each consisting of 29, 30 or 31 days, for a total of somewhere between 304 and 360 days in the year.
Even then they knew it takes 365 days for the earth to complete one revolution around the sun.
In order to keep the agricultural seasons of spring, summer and fall in their proper places for the planting and harvesting to occur at the right time, they took the leftover days and clumped them all together into an unorganized and inexact “in-between time,” they called “winter,” which belonged neither to the year that just finished nor to the one that was about to begin.
With arrangements having been made prior to suspending all work and deadline-related activities for a week or so, the task of the in-between days, as I saw it, was simply (though it is not always so simple) to get comfortable with the feeling of not having to do anything, or rather, not having to do something — all the time.
Of course, that plan went out the window fairly quickly due to the elaborate and incredibly labor-intensive dinner plans I cooked up (literally), as a way of sharing my heart and passion with friends who would be visiting from around the country and across the sea.
But alas, in our final hours together, with our bodies stiff and our bellies full, from days of feasting and visiting, and staying inside on account of the rain and cold, we (or at rather, I) did finally manage to STOP, long enough to remember: where and when and why we were there, and ARE HERE, and what draws us together and compels our annual reunions.
Maybe I’m giving our ancestors a bit too much credit, but it seems to me that that’s what those old calendar, winter-times were for — slowing down, going inside, literally and figuratively, relaxing and reflecting on where we’re at in our lives; on what’s working and what’s not; what we’re doing or want to do, or would rather not do or what we might do differently; pondering how we spend our time and energy, and on what or whom; assessing what’s important to us, and what’s not; and what’s worth holding on to, and what to get rid of.
In the fast-paced, hi-tech, contemporary world, it’s a time to drill down a bit deeper and rediscover our reasons and core values, and to consider how our habits and routines, our words and behaviors, our choices and reactions and execution stack up or live up to our values.
Going through the process can yield some surprising insights — like for instance, realizing, as I did this past week after we drove out to the western edge of the watershed, and climbed over and through the dunes and out to the blustery beach with its swirling mists and roaring waves, that I am not nearly as curious as I might think myself to be.
I wondered how it was even possible that I had never before been to such a magical, mystical, deeply-refreshing spot given that it is a mere 34 miles from my front door?
I understand why. Considering all else that I choose and feel blessed to be involved with and have in my life and the time and attention it requires, but the problem is that it’s inconsistent with one of my core values: the importance of lifelong learning.
Because one of the keys to lifelong learning is to stay curious.
So for me, one resolution that has come out of this year’s wintertime reflection is to try and keep my curiosity alive.
As for the calendars we use, they help us organize our time and make and keep appointments. But remember, more important than how we count the days is that we make the days count.
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