Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice 2012

It's the longest night of the year, the night of the winter solstice.  Today was a pretty nice day, with the high temps in the upper 60s and lots of sunshine.  In honor of the solstice I hiked up Squaw Peak this afternoon in my shorts and a tee-shirt, and I was keenly aware that I live in a a singularly fortunate part of the country.  Most of the rest of the country was grappling with a strong winter storm wreaking havoc at airports in the midwest, and moving eastward just in time to screw up the most heavily-traveled weekend of the year.  Me, I was hanging laundry in my backyard and enjoying the view from on top of a mountain.

This evening I'm sitting on my couch at home, all snuggly and warm, a houseful of happy, healthy bunnies, watching my fabulous new television.  I have it very good, and my life is very comfortable and full of riches and blessings.  The winter solstice lends it self to such self-reflection and contemplation.  I think about how many people, in various cultures around the world, over the millenia since mankind first started noticing things like solstices and equinoxes, have taken note of this particular day of the year.

The winter solstice occurs in the dead of winter, when the world seemed the most lifeless, although you would never know it where I live.  In European cultures everything was usually covered with a thick blanket of snow and locked in the icy vise-grip of winter.  The fields were barren and desolate, and the trees devoid of any leaves, looking as if they were dead.  But people also understood that this is the day when light and life would begin to return to the world, for buried deep in the dead of winter are the seeds of spring, and soon enough the world will be blooming and fertile again.

Yes, the days will start to get a little bit longer from now until next June, and six months from now I will be griping and moaning about the horrible, ghastly heat which threatens to kill us all.  But right now, I am very happy to contemplate the cycle of the seasons, and enjoy the chilly weather outside.  As I get older I become more sensitive to the passage of time, and the cold realization that I will not alive on this planet forever.  We only get a limited time to live here, and I realize more and more each day that all of us have a responsibility to live a good a life as possible.  I want to live my life kindly and intelligently, to leave the world in a better shape than when I entered it - a life marked by kindness, empathy, defending the rights of animals in a world where they are so often abused and devalued, and wisely using the resouces this planet provides to us.

That is what I'm thinking about on this night, the longest night of the year.  When my time is over, I want to feel like I have accomplished something, and I have made a little bit of difference in the lives of the people and animals who have graced my life with their presence.

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