On the 21st of December my youngest sister will call, as she does every year, to remind me that the days are getting longer. The call is in mock homage to my father, who every year insisted on spoiling an otherwise wonderful early summer picnic dinner by announcing that the days were getting shorter. We’d all groan - the corn wasn’t even out! - but he considered it his duty to remind us, in the middle of our hopeful June high, that winter would return. We hated it, but it did make the warm evening seem more precious.
My sister’s call is a gift reminding me that even as the days get darker and the nights colder, the turning wheel of the cosmos will soon bring us back to sunshine, warmth, and renewal. Cycles are nature’s way. Humans often forget this, particularly those in charge of making business projections. Give us two data points and we’ll extrapolate an arrow pointing ever upward. Or down. But even hurtling comets yield to the pull of gravity. They circle as they flame, retracing their orbits across the millennia, just as our lives, our businesses, and our relationships hurtle through their own seasons and cycles.
Seven years ago a meteor shower of cataclysmic power blasted my world. At work it came in the form of betrayal, arrests, and law suits. Then the bottom fell out of the economy and the greed-is-good fairytale blew up, and the fallout destroyed many good people. Collateral damage. Closer to home, my mother - my rock, my most loyal fan, my supporter, my confidant, my confessor, my role model, and my coach - began to fail.
These were my dark years. But even in the gloom of despair, unbeknown to me as I was consumed with fighting to save my business and my sanity, the seeds of a new beginning were sown.
At Walker the pain of those years was hard. The company shrunk, withered by the chill of the assault and the icy economy. But even in the grip of that wintry aftermath, we found our way toward a new spring. We learned from the pain. The lull gave us an opportunity to re-imagine who we wanted to be as a company, as a social enterprise, and as a community. Since then, we have grown anew in size and maturity. Now we are stronger, happier, and healthier than ever. The excitement is palpable. Innovative ideas and enthusiasm are popping up like crocus in spring.
We even discovered a silver lining in the economic collapse. People in large numbers began to recognize that businesses without accountability to society or a purpose beyond profits are a threat to all of us and to our planet. Social enterprise as a movement began to pick up momentum and reSET, as an organization dedicated to promoting a new way of doing business in Connecticut, found fertile soil in which to grow.
Hardest of all was losing mom. But she left on her own terms, at home, surrounded by her kids and grandkids, using even her parting as a gift, teaching us in her dying just as she had when she was alive. She died in late December of 2011. She had stopped her medications in October not wanting to prolong the inevitable - she understood cycles and seasons. In November, toward the end, there was an unseasonably warm if overcast day. She was weak, but up for a slow walk down into the field where we’d walked so many times over the years. It was a gift as we knew the cold was coming. It was our last walk. But just the other day I learned that this spring will herald in the next generation - children of her grandchildren. She would be ecstatic.
I love the message of the solstices: That to each of us there are seasons and cycles. That even in the darkest cold, the seeds for a warmer season are readying. And to always be on the lookout for a warm day, the miracle of friendship and the opportunity for a walk, as these too shall pass.