As I begin this post the kitchen clock reads 6:42 AM … this year’s winter solstice occurred at 11:12 UTC or approximately 6:15 AM eastern standard time. Forgive me for being 27 minutes late in extending to you my wish for an enjoyable Solstice. Will you recognize the Solstice … is it part of your tradition to do so? The sun will set today at 4:45 PM translating into 9 hours, 18 minutes, and 1 second of day length. Our days will begin to lengthen … by fully three seconds tomorrow. Spending the day without electric lights is a simple way we recognize and express appreciation for light itself. Joanna scours the pantry for heels of bread, odd ends of sleeves of crackers, and stale cereals. The refrigerator can usually be counted upon to yield a good variety of both gone-bys and left-overs. We collect these and parade them to what the girls proclaimed, many years ago, to be The Animal Tree. We wedge, hang, balance, and otherwise fix our offerings to limbs, branchlets, and twigs. We spend the remainder of the day watching as a variety of birds and four-legged creatures depart from their routine to come out of hiding to investigate and to partake. This is a simple way we recognize and express appreciation for animals which we raise and for those which are otherwise part of this rural life we lead. We collect greens from which to produce wreaths for the doors and sprays for the windows. At the end of the day we take a few moments to write, on to small squares of paper, thoughts, feelings, or concerns that we care not to bring with us into the new year. Each of us folds these carefully and we then take turns tossing them into the fire of the wood stove. This is a simple way we recognize and express our need and desire to move forward and focus on the positive. It is now 10:13 AM and we have had our traditional Solstice breakfast, sticky buns, accompanied by stockings (the traditional holiday sort filled with treats, edible and otherwise (Joanna tends toward Crackers, a British tradition)). We will light oil lamps after 4 PM, prepare our evening meal, and turn in early. The Solstice is a day we allow, as much as possible, to be driven by the day itself. Have you ever stopped to consider that without the radiant energies of the sun none of this would be possible? Unlike fossil fuels and water the radiant energies of the sun are a limitless, renewable, resource. The Sun forms the center of our solar system and will shine on (for several billions more years) until its hydrogen stores are depleted. On such a time scale our individual human lives mean very little, if anything at all. On the scale of these individual lifetimes however we, each of us, mean quite a lot. Although I cannot encourage you to go out and hug the sun today (as I might entreat you to hug a tree on Arbor day), and if you do not celebrate this shortest-day-of-the-year, please recognize the importance of these radiant energies (both solar and human) to all that we have become and all that we hope to be in the future.