Welcome to our first winter of the tens. The ‘10s will be the decade we begin a new relationship with the earth.

Last night the north of our planet passed across the winter solstice, emerging again into the time of more light, more life-giving sun. In a week our communities will celebrate a new year, a new decade. Let’s honor these big transitions by resting a moment in between, and actually looking around.

I’ve been sharing more and more conversations with people who are moving from one period of their lives to another – and pausing – hesitating in between, not sure what to do next. They’ve just graduated. They’ve lost their job. They’ve ended a major relationship. These would all be big changes under regular circumstances, take a while to work out. But it feels as though there’s more at stake this time.

I want to say – if you are taking your time figuring out what you want to do next in life – that’s okay. Take your time. Have mercy on yourself. What we do next depends on a lot of things. It depends on the economy. It depends on having a plan, on whose plan it is. It depends on who depends on you, who you depend on. It depends on what the future might bring. And if you’re like me, 2010-2019 feel like scary years from here.

Decades aren’t naturally occurring phenomena of course. They’re human constructs designed to accommodate a constricted perspective of time. We conceive of time in unique ways – as money, as moving in one direction, as lasting a lifetime – and a human life is short next to a tortoise or a sequoia. We are also a young species in the 4.5 billion year lifespan of the planet. Still, if you look back just one decade, to The Year 2000, would you say your life has changed much? Did the world look different back then?

Change is one of the only truths in life. Over the next ten years, certain things will change much faster than we expect. Certain things will barely change at all. The ‘00s were a decade of accelerating change. I expect this will continue.

So it’s easy to get overwhelmed. It’s stunning to see all the different kinds of lives available to humans and reckon your place among the 9 billion on the way. We are just just just beginning to become conscious of the changes that will occur in our lifetimes and in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren, without of course having the slightest comprehension of how things will go. If our mind does take a quick glance at the coming crises, receives maybe a flash of apocalypse…it’s easy to turn away, stop thinking about that, go back about your life. Or become consumed with terror all the time, projecting ruin over the institutions of our days.

We’re all familiar with fear. It saturates our culture and quite often dominates whole elements of our lives. But the fears we relate to on a regular basis are of a different shade from the fear of dwindling access to potable water and reliable food, resource conflicts adding to decades already at war, hundreds of thousands of global climate refugees with uninhabitable homelands, runaway pandemics, mass extinctions of plant and animal species, collapsing structures, systems and ecosystems, and suffering on an unfathomable scale. Those are fears that drop the heart into a much lower part of the body. These things have also already begun, they’re just happening to the global south, to the poorer regions of the world, so we in the developed world ignore them and continue on our privileged lives. Sooner or later, there will come a responsibility for all of us who are alive at this time.

So today, as much as you’re able to, linger just one more moment in this knowledge.

This pain. This despair. This outrage.

This is by no means easy, quick, or fun. It is, however, necessary. The events of the next half-century will catalyze a fundamental shift in the way the world thinks, acts, and lives. The earlier we move towards our fears, get to know them, dance around in them a little, refuse to be numbed out by them – the softer and more pliable they might become. Try to live in light, but be fully present in the dark. It is often these difficult places that teach us the most. The sooner we learn to deal with the despairs that will inevitably come, the greater potential we have for reconnecting, independent of our grief and behind real strategy.

It’s easy, though, to fall into a disaster movie loop. Everything is falling to shit. And to be true, there’s an enormous systemic octopus between us and real change, with bunches of tentacles threatening life on the planet as we know it. It easily feels impossible. Of course, this being the universe, there are also an infinite number of ways things can go – one of the main reasons so many of us are pausing.

This uncertainty – a profound and crucial aspect of our times, is something we’ll need to learn to embrace lest we be paralyzed by it. The hours we spend circling around in insecurity will no doubt increase as well, with the growing bleakness of our situation. Change will come too slowly. There will be many many setbacks. Many horrors. But there will also be extraordinary experiences of joy and connection. If you’re gonna focus obsessively on best/worst case scenarios, there’s an argument to be made for best. And please excuse me for writing as though I know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen this afternoon. I’m (a little uncomfortably) using a prophetic voice in order to direct energy towards these possibilities, rather than continue feeding my always-hungry doubts.

If we’re honest about the enormity of the crisis, it may take many generations before peace prevails and ecosystems rebound. There are lots of lifestyles in the world, plenty of them unsustainable, yet completely compelling to the people living them.

We have trained great masses of people and groups to act solely on their own interests. These people have the dominant system on their side and will cling forever to control and kill to keep in power.

There are a great many of us who remain committed to and controlled by the competitive drives of our Western culture, and it will be difficult for us to give up our attachments.

There are those of us who give our authority over to certain figures or traditions at the deprivation of other points of view, and we fully intend to martyr ourselves to these fundamental truths.

There are those of us who explore our own individual passions and gifts, and these drives may or may not lead us into the marketplace, may or may not lead us into a healthier relationship with the earth.

There will also be more and more of us who live in service above all to the earth, devoting our lives to sharing the planet. New sacred and fruitful relationships develop between the earth and her people every day.

There are also many, many souls engaged in the daily struggle for the basic needs of their families, without recourse to affect greater change. We are all where we are on this. Our generation on this planet includes all of us.

And though we can’t know the length of our pregnancy, an Earth Community is being born in each of us. We are finally recognizing ourselves as part of a web of life, a species, on a planet, floating in a universe, a universe who’s continuous creative capacity we humans are able to embody in our lives. You feel it too I bet. There are so many of us today, suddenly conscious of one another, discovering a miraculous solidarity with all these other lives around the world with whom we never could have participated a generation earlier, and joining together to form new movements of transformation. This is happening at a rate none of us could have predicted or controlled, and on a scale that has the potential to radically change human patterns on the earth. We are laying the foundation for something we may not live to see. And it feels like the call of many generations. A movement of movements.

Still, we are currently stuck between something that is ending but hasn’t ended (and won’t without great suffering), and something that has begun but which we can’t yet identify. We are the instant before a hurricane forms, when sky and sea unite, unsure of our composition or position.

I’m 5 years out of college, and I don’t know what I want to do with my life yet. I do work I consider honorable, helpful to my community, and in line with the spirit of the earth. But I don’t make much money at it. I live in our late capitalist society of course, and I expect my children will come up before we’ve established gift giving as our primary method of exchange, so I don’t know how I’m going to pay for all their stuff. But when I consider providing for them – I’m not thinking about the half-million that’ll be necessary for them to attend college in 2035. I’m envisioning a partner and community committed to growing soul-centric and eco-centric individuals, living and raising our children close to the land and in mutually beneficial relationships with our environment, and providing and protecting reliable and sustainable community food, water, and air sources. I expect this will be doable on a local scale, and as part of a global network. We’ll see. It will be a balance.

A lot of our experiences will involve balance. Balancing equanimity in our awareness of each moment with intention towards a future we can only imagine. Balancing the desire to create big change with the necessity of making little changes every day. Balancing the potential benefits of our expanding technology with full attention to all the possible repercussions. Balancing our desire to communicate across borders with the need to move beyond the familiarity bred by our screens, and into genuine shared experience with our cohabitants and natural spaces. Balancing growing the standards of living in developing countries with the recognition that our current population already requires the resources of 1.3 Earths. Balancing the shame of our own culpability with a commitment to new possibilities of justice. Balancing the call to fight with a hold on nonviolence.

We all gotta grow up some time. We are clawing our way out of adolescence and moving into planetary adulthood. It happens on a global and on an individual scale both. At certain points in our lives – it started for me when my father died, and is what I created outsidejosh to explore – there are opportunities to move outside the realms of our own personal stories and concerns, compelling as they may be, and the question becomes “How can I help?”

And you can help all over, at home and around the world. There will be no shortage of people and places who need help. Though “help” is a complicated thing, and you must be on the same page with those you are “helping.” But there will be help needed with things like local organic food systems in your own neighborhood, deforestation in Papua New Guinea, flooding in Bangladesh, wind energy in Appalachia, education for women in Zimbabwe – if you have a passion for some application of justice and compassion (whether you were raised to value this orientation or came to it later), you’re likely to find other people in the world who are committed to similar work. If no one else is doing what you’re into, the mechanisms and resources required to get projects off the ground are becoming more and more available. I’m starting to suspect the universe likes diversity in culture and biodiversity, so I might work to promote those things.

Whenever and wherever you come to it, take your time orienting. It’s hard to get your bearings initially, takes real effort to quiet, but after just a little time, you can feel which direction your inner compass is pointing. This orientation will be necessary when the time comes to speak, but there must also be time to listen. And there are indeed countless new (and old!) voices emerging worth listening to. I hope we learn as much as we can from indigenous earth wisdom traditions, bearing in mind our exploitative and genocidal history with these cultures. And as I said towards the end of WWOOF ‘n Wander, if you want to learn how to help the earth, there’s no better teacher than earth herself. It’s true, the earth has been the voice with whom I most often seek conversation. The times I spend in nature – the wilder the better – have yielded some of the most crucial understandings of my life. Meditation. Bodywork. There are many ways to know your soul and the universe. You begin to trust. This helps you make choices.

And all you have to choose is what you do today. If you only connect for a moment with the earth today, that moment of love makes a difference. We’re not gonna save the earth this week, and we may even have to give up savior complexes sooner or later. But each enfolding moment is an opportunity to learn something, love someone. And we are sharing together in astonishing numbers. It may take a while to learn your own particular note in the symphony of the 21st century, but there’s glorious music to create.