Tag Archive 'winter solstice'

Dec 21 2013

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Winter Solstice

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winter woodsToday is the shortest day. Today winter begins. As someone who loves everything green and growing, not to mention daylight, I find this to be a tough time of year. I am not alone in this.

I believe that the holidays were invented to help us cope with the darkness, and to ease the transition into the cold season. Hope, joy, love, and everything warm and bright indoors – we certainly make the best of things, don’t we? I have lights on my house, a decorated tree in my living room, and holiday cards on full display. Yeah, I too take the Winter Solstice seriously.

The other day I went for a walk in the woods. There was enough snow on the ground to cover up the starkness of the landscape and the snow-laden boughs of conifers were easy on the eye. I was chilled at first but exertion got my blood flowing. After a while I started thinking: “This isn’t so bad.”

Oddly enough, winter is the hardest to take when we are struggling to get from our homes to somewhere else by car or some other mode of fast transportation. On foot, in the woods, it’s not so bad at all.

While sitting at home and listening to weather forecasters, it seems like disaster is imminent. The forest tells another story: temperatures rise, then they fall. Storms come, then the sky breaks open. And the seasons cycle round and round.

Winter is nothing to get all stressed out about. Worst case scenario, stay off the road. There’s plenty to do indoors. And when the walls start closing in, go for a walk. If nothing else, it’ll help you appreciate what your furnace or fireplace provides.

 

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Dec 18 2012

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Darkness and Light

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We spend half our waking hours in the dark this time of year. Not so much an issue when we’re indoors, but outside we sure notice it. So it’s nice to see the colored lights strung everywhere. They’re festive. More importantly, they diminish the impact of darkness in early winter, making it easier to tolerate.

Even though I’m no big fan of Christmas, I put lights on my house. I like seeing them there when I come home from work late at night. They make me smile no matter what kind of day I’ve had.

Pagans dragged trees into their houses and celebrated the Winter Solstice with light long before Christians hijacked the holiday. It makes sense, really. Why not light a candle on the darkest day of the year? No sense sitting in the dark and whining about it.

Winter is just beginning. There’s a month lag between the shortest day of the year and the meteorological middle of this season. Yeah, that means the temperatures drop even as the days lengthen in January. Then it’s another two-month crawl out of winter – here in northern New England, anyhow. That’s a dismal prospect for those of us who neither ski nor snowmobile. Oh sure, I’ve polyurethaned my snowshoes and will break them out when the first big dump of the white stuff occurs. But I do so reluctantly. I much prefer the greener half of the year.

Forget about summertime. The Winter Solstice is upon us. Boil up water for tea or hot chocolate, revel in the indoor warmth and light, and surround your self with friends and loved ones. Plenty of time for dark thoughts later. ‘Tis the season. What the hell, why not take whatever pleasure you can from it?

 

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Dec 20 2011

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The Dark Season

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I can’t help but think of the holiday hoopla as a distraction from the dark season. With the days brutally short, temperatures dropping and all the green gone, this is a tough time of year. So we drag evergreens into our houses, put up colorful lights, then engage in a series of elaborate rituals that keep us busy until we can get used to winter. I do it and I’m not even a Christian. Many of my nature-loving friends aren’t Christians either, yet we exchange greeting cards. Write it off to cultural pressure if you want, but the truth is that we all welcome the distraction. The days surrounding the Winter Solstice are hard to take.

There wasn’t time enough to get into the woods yesterday so my dog Matika and I did the next best thing. We went for a long walk on a nearby section of the Rail Trail. The naked trees clattered in a fierce wind. The ground underfoot was frozen solid, and the endlessly grey sky overhead provided no solace. Yet it felt good to get out and stretch the legs. Properly dressed, the chill wasn’t too bad.

From Ebeneser Scrooge to the Grinch, those who don’t embrace the holidays are held in low regard. And rightly so. It’s hard enough getting through these dark days without the extra negativity. There are frigid months ahead, so break out the sweets, strong spirits and good cheer. Whatever gets us through this darkness is a good thing.

Oh sure, there’s the hyper commercialism of Christmas to criticize, but what’s the difference between December and the rest of the year? Only the intensity. Fact is, we live in a consumer culture. Christmas is merely the grand finale – the climax to an orgy of spending that begins anew every January. Complaining about that is like complaining about sunlight . . . or the lack thereof.

No doubt I’ll be taking more winter walks in the weeks ahead. No doubt I’ll be daydreaming about the greener season while I’m slogging across snow and ice. But I wouldn’t want to live in the southern latitudes where the darkness is much less pronounced. This way I don’t take anything for granted, not even the sun rising.

 

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