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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Timing is Everything

I love deep winter with its dark crisp mornings and icy star-filled nights. To some, winter means heading south to warmer climes. But that’s not for me, I’m a Midwest girl. I live in anticipation of snowfall armed with the trifecta of protection against the storm – that requisite milk, bread, and eggs.

When I was a girl, winter meant snowball fights, tobogganing, and school closed for snow days. As a teen it meant snowmobiling and skiing. Nowadays winter means slipping into the baggy comfortable clothes and thick floppy socks you wouldn’t be caught dead wearing outside the house. Winter means pots of soup simmering on the stove. It's a time for assembling jigsaw puzzles on the kitchen table with my husband and anyone who stops for a visit.

Snowfall at night always summons that perfect sleep. Come morning, I'm often filled with an aching wonder at how anything could be as lovely as two-hundred year old bur oaks surrounded by an undisturbed blanketing of snow. There are as many shades of blue to snow as there are shades of green in the spring. The artist in me can’t wait.

I just love the shorter days and longer nights of winter. I'm an early riser whose circadian rhythm is fine-tuned from years of living in the country. Since the clocks turned back an hour, I feel like I've actually gained more time in my day. What writer doesn't like that? My bedroom window faces east so my days begin when the first sliver of daylight wakes me. I write on my laptop at the kitchen table where a large window treats me to a half day of ascending sunlight at my back. The living room bay window and backdoor window give me the rest as afternoon inches toward evening. My dogs follow these warm winter sunbeams on the floor like canine sundials. At night, no urban lights disturb the starry sky around my home. When I turn off the lights at night, it’s dark out here. 

Soon we'll face that shortest day of the year with the least amount of daylight -- the winter solstice. The very next day, a new cycle begins in the wheel of the year. Each day gets a little longer until the equinox and shortly after, the summer solstice gives us the longest day of the year. Then we do it all over again. It was so important to know when days would lengthen again, this celestial event was observed and revered around the world, and ways to measure it cut or placed in stone. Complicated stone tunnels and specifically placed boulders of the like found in Stone Henge and Newgrange became prehistoric astronomical observatories to help keep track.  Shafts of solstice sunlight beamed down passages and rose between precisely placed megaliths with perfect timing. Tied to the sun and the growing season as we are, just knowing the sun's full shining face will warm the earth again is reason to celebrate. The solstice was long considered a time of great symbolism and divine power. How could it not be when it's as regular as clockwork? 

The solstice is certainly a day to feel grateful. We live because of the sun. For many cultures, this is the time to celebrate with family and friends and share the spirit of giving. I once read how the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, the festival of light, with parties that lasted thirty days and culminated on the winter solstice. What an excellent idea! I too have reasons to rejoice. This year my husband and I are doing something different for the winter solstice – a twelve-hour drumming event. My drumming friends and family will join us either by stopping by for a time, or drumming the entire twelve hours with us non-stop. If that doesn’t bring the sun back, I don’t know what will.  ;)

But until the sun's return and the first greening of spring,  I’ll enjoy the silent beauty of the first snowfall and make my pots of soup, work my puzzles, and watch my dogs sprawl in the sunbeams on the floor. By the time I’ve surely had enough of winter, the seed catalogs will come in the mail and herald the thaw. Timing is everything.

Do you have any special solstice plans?


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Rose is multi-published, award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and learning interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper mid-west.  

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Sandy said...

I'm a mid-west girl, too, Rose, and I love seeing snow and even ice on the ground and in the trees. Lovely memories spring up of sledding down the hill near my maternal grandparents house.

Cara Marsi said...

Rose, what a beautiful post. I could see everything you described so wonderfully. I like the look of new-fallen snow, a fire in the hearth on cold days, homemade soup. But, all things considered, I'd rather live in the Southwest where the sun shines 300 days a year. I'm East Coast born and bred and love the ocean, but now I want to live in the desert. You make the winter sound wonderful. We have no plans for a Solstice celebration. Sounds like fun, though. The most we'll do is take a day trip to New York City to see the tree at Rockefeller Plaza. said...

Midwest girl here, too, but I'm not so much in love with the winter. Your photo of the snow covered tree and limbs is gorgeous and that is my favorite thing to see in the winter. But living in the big city, the look of snow and ice wears off quickly. But your post is beautifully written, Rose!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Rose. I love living in NJ where we can enjoy all four seasons. First snows are beautiful and enchanting. Nothing like a romance set in a particular season!

Dorothy Thompson said...

Wow. I have to agree, this was a beautiful post. I'm not a midwest gal, I'm an east coast gal and you can have all the snow you want, lol. Seriously though it is beautiful. I am a summer lover and that means when winter comes, we freeze our arses off. I told myself this fall that when winter arrives, I'm going to embrace it and not run from it and not hide from it, but go into it acknowledging all the delights that winter offers. So far I'm doing great with that but we haven't gotten to the hard part yet, lol.

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by Sandy and Cara. I have another question we could have fun with...

Once when I was still teaching, we heard reports of a sever winter storm on the way and schools were closing early. A fellow teacher said she needed to stop off at the store to buy milk bread and eggs. I was thinking the same thing!

For fun, I did a poll and 36 teachers and 4 office support people all said the very same thing with only two variations that added peanut butter to the grocery list. How old and wide spread is that desire to stock up on those three items when bad weather is on the way? Is this your storm talisman too?

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks Jane, Jacqueline, and Dorothy. That tree picture was taken in my yard last winter. I have this narrow window of opportunity to enjoy the transient beauty because my dogs just love zooming crisscross over the snow when it's the loveliest. Even the old dog is compelled to have fun in the snow. I won't describe it after a week. lol

Alicia Dean said...

Beautiful post! I'm almost a Midwest gal, (Southwesterner here, an Okie) and I'm SO ready for winter! Like you, I love it, I love the weather and the shorter days.

Paris said...

What a fabulous way to celebrate! I'll forgo the drumming and give my neighbors some peace but I will have a simmering pot of soup and bake some bread to celebrate:)

Fiona McGier said...

Another Midwesterner here, but I love to camp, so I hate the longer nights. I'm a late riser, unless I'm going to work. I hate when it's dark by 4pm. Even in the fall, when we go camping, we're inevitably setting up or cooking dinner in the dark. I prefer spring and definitely summer. We're too close to Chicago to be able to have the total darkness and great stars that you have. Maybe if I lived in a more remote area, I'd agree more with you. To each their own, eh?

Andrea Cooper said...

Great post. I've wanted to do a drumming session, but haven't been able to yet. One day :)

E. Ayers said...

Someday I'll come visit and you can teach me to drum. Several years ago we had neighbors who had ties to several tribes. They taught their boys to drum. The kids really got into it. She swore it kept her overactive boys out of trouble and that it was such a positive influence on them.

As for snow, I now live in the SE corner of Virginia. We get nailed occasionally and it's pretty much gone in 24 hours. Say snow, and people go into panic mode. Being from "up-north" I never worry about snow. It happens.

I keep a hurricane stock of canned food in the house and plenty of Sterno. I'd be more prone to pick up an extra can of coffee. But enter the grocery stores around here when there's been a threat of snow or hurricane, it's the same stuff that has been bought out of the grocery store shelves. Beer is the first to go! Followed by cans of ravioli, etc. Bread, milk, peanut butter, and eggs go with the canned goods.

A winter storm warning is when I head over to the meats for those drastically reduced deals! If the grocery store loses power, it's a huge loss for them, but for me? Stick that cooler into the snow, weigh down the lid and fire up the grill.

I too, love the snow. I love the winter wonderland effect. I just hunker down and enjoy the lights from the houses as they glint off the snow and send beams across the yards. Light reflected from the moon makes everything lighter and brighter. Snow on the roof and packed around the base of the house seals in the heat and it feels warmer than normal inside.

Winter solstice? I'm not setting stones and crystals out to energize in the moonlight. It's an inward celebration that says it won't be quite as dark tomorrow evening at this time even though the worst of the cold temperatures are ahead. All the seasons have their own special beauty, and around here waiting for the dusting of snow to break the monotony cold, gray, and rainy, is always welcomed by me!

Melissa Keir said...

You made the snow sound beautiful. I like the way it clings to the trees but too often, the snow ends up gray and piled up. It's fun to watch it melt in the spring. There are huge piles in the parking lots and they are often the last to melt.

Drumming is fun and I hope you have a wonderful solstice!

Cara Marsi said...

Rose, to answer your question, yes people around here flock to the supermarkets at the first snow forecast and stock up on milk, bread and eggs. I've never done that. I've always got a large stock of food, and so long as we don't lose electricity, we're good for two weeks of not getting out, not that we've ever been snowbound that long.

Unknown said...

Rose, your post is a love letter to creation. I see your deep appreciation for all that is in every word. Those Romans sure knew how to celebrate! We hosted drumming evenings in our home for many years on the solstices and equinoxes. Drumming is powerful medicine. I feel the bliss and harmony of your daily life, and I thank you for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful post, Rose. I love to watch the changing of the seasons in my part of northern England. We can have cold winters, but nothing like as cold as yours. There's a storm raging at the moment, and I'm actually looking forward to taking my dog out on th e moors. Wild! Thanks for a lovely post

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Lovely post, Rose. I too love the winter and the solstice (hence the reason for its partial theme in my new historical!) - I've had fun choosing images on Pinterest for this time of the year.

Tina Donahue said...

When I was in the Midwest, I loved the first snowfall. Seemed magical and romantic. Of course, the day after New Year's I was looking forward to Spring. :)

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