The Bottom of the Year

It’s almost that time of year again, so I thought I’d share this original song for the winter solstice. It may not be a genius composition, but it’s fun to sing around the bonfire with family and friend. Try it! And by all means make up your own lyrics. You can certainly do better than us.

Below you’ll find an audio snippet from our 2015 rendition, to give you an idea of the melody, as well as a copy of the lyrics suitable for printing.

The Bottom of the Year (A Winter Song) by Editor B on Scribd

Glad Midsommar

Flowers to Flame

Just in time for the summer solstice, my article “Flowers to Flame” has been published on Humanistic Paganism. I think this may the best thing I’ve written. If you’ve got a moment, please give it a read; if you’re rushed, just take a look at the pretty pictures, and you’ll get the basic point.

The Yearning Need to Connect with a Larger Whole at the Time of the Winter Solstice

Goodwill $1.99

It was recently revealed that Richard Dawkins, arguably the world’s most prominent atheist, loves to sing carols at Christmas time. But the songs he loves the most are not the modern secular ones. Dawkins writes: “I recoil from such secular carols as ‘White Christmas,’ ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ and the loathsome ‘Jingle Bells,’ but I’m happy to sing real carols.” He prefers the older songs, which tend to have explicitly Christian religious themes.

This makes perfect sense to me. As a child, those old songs were one of my few direct connections to an older time and an older culture. Many of the carols I grew up singing were authored in the 1800s. The lyrics of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” go back to at least 1739. The tune to “Adeste Fideles” may well go back to the 13th century.

It’s not only the music. I was enchanted by the old customs. Bringing a tree inside the house seemed unaccountably weird and magical and very much out of character for my sedate middle-class parents in our standard-issue suburban home. I didn’t understand it — but I liked it.

Something about all this archaic stuff resonated deeply with me as a child. It filled an inner yearning which I could not identify, but which I now recognize as a need to connect to a larger whole: to previous generations of humanity, and to Mother Earth.

That yearning need remains with me as an adult. You can read more about how I’ve come to understand the meaning of this holiday season in an essay, “Solstice Connections,” which is the first installment of a regular column called A Pedagogy of Gaia which I’m writing for Humanistic Paganism.

I offer these intimate and highly personal thoughts with love and respect to people of all faiths and no faith, and hope that they will be received in the same spirit.

Wishing you a Blessed Solstice, a Joyful Yule, and a Happy New Year.

How We Celebrated the Summer Solstice

We went way up to the mountains of northern Alabama, to Monte Sano State Park.

Monte Sano

No elaborate rituals. No goat sacrifice. Just hanging out in the woods. Well, we did make those solstice stones earlier. But mostly we just hung out in the woods.

I don’t think we’ve ever done that, as a family. It was good.

We stayed at a cabin built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. I’m fascinated by stuff built by the CCC and WPA, and I wonder why we don’t implement programs like that now, during this time of economic crisis. Anyhow, the cabin was small and charming. The stone floors are delightfully cool in the summertime.

Weenie Roast

We did our cooking over an open fire. Hot dogs and s’mores. Yum.

Early in the morning of the longest day, Persephone and I made a short hike to a nearby playground.

After horsing around for a while, I tried doing a chin-up. Maybe I should have limbered up first or something, because I pulled a muscle in my shoulder and neck. Ouch! I was practically immobilized for half the day.

Actually I was able to move around and even go an a slightly longer hike later in the day. We hiked out to a firetower only to find it was locked up. But at least we got to see some wild creatures along the way.

Black Snake

For me, anyhow, this was the best way to celebrate one of the most sacred days of the year.

So this is how our summer vacation began. After a couple nights Monte Sano, we made our way up to Indiana.

Forty-Six Months

Gingerbread

Dear Persephone,

It’s the holiday season. But and also (to paraphrase David Foster Wallace) you are 46 months old today.

On this night, the longest night of the year, you are fully expecting Santa to pay us a visit. Santa is tricky for me, as a parent. He reveals certain weaknesses in my ontology. How do we relate to and understand mythical beings? On the one hand, Santa is fun, and a good story. On the other hand, the very way we define “real” vs. “imaginary” in our culture seems a little messed up. It doesn’t leave room for myth and other ways of being that are, perhaps, somewhere in-between, or something else entirely. I’m still thinking through this. Tonight I told you a story, inspired by my old friend Brad Wilhelm, about a man who played Santa and visited a family in need. The point, I think, is that Santa is a spirit we can all enter, a spirit which can enter into any of us. In other words: Thou art Santa.

On a related note: One month ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving. This is a holiday which has troubled me for years, but this time round we offset that by delivering meals to people in need, on behalf of the West Jefferson YMCA. Your mother even got in to the act. I’m not trying to imply that we saved the world, but I do hope we did some good, and I hope we’ve taken a first step toward something more meaningful.

Also on Thanksgiving, you saw the 610 Stompers in the Macy’s parade on television. A few days later you put on a headband and said, “I’m gonna be a Stomper, aren’t you?”

Forthwith, a random sampling of memories from the past month. I’m sorry if this seems a little scattered. It’s the holidays, and my mental fabric inevitably gets frayed.

You had your first taste of mustard. You liked it so much, you swore off ketchup – forever!

Here’s something I never wanted to hear my daughter say: “Dada, can you shave your butt?” That one took me by surprise. “Can you put shaving cream on it?” Upon further investigation, I learned you were repeating something you’d heard on the radio, some morning drive-time shock jockery.

One night you drew a picture for your mama. “These are ornaments for our mind.”

Your friend Lily had fake snow at her fifth birthday party. It was so bizarre to me to see kids (and adults) have to be taught how to make a snow angel. That’s just something I take for granted, having grown up some 800 miles north of here. Kids love snow, and I sometimes feel bad that you will grow up with a snow deficit. Nevertheless on cold days here lately you have said, “I don’t like winter. I can’t wait for summer.” You take after me that way.

You spent a few perplexed minutes one evening trying to look at your teeth without a mirror.

I am reading you The Magician’s Nephew, chapter by chapter, as a bedtime story. I tried The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe about half a year ago, I think, but it was over your head, and we gave up after just one chapter. I wasn’t really sure you were ready for this now, but you seem to understand just enough to stay interested. Now we’re more than halfway through.

You’re almost finished with your Halloween candy. I think your favorites have been Dum-Dum suckers, Sour Patch gummies, and small boxes of Nerds. Your parents are not such big fans of these last, because a lot of them inevitably end up scattered across the floor. Upon eating your last box the other night you offered the following statement: “The Nerds are dancing in my mouth. It’s like there’s a fairy in there. Every Nerd has a fairy inside, and if you drop it on the floor it dies.

And then tonight just before bed you asked: “Dada, can I call you Big Goofy Face?” Uh, OK.

Finally, here is my solstice present to you and your mother and myself — a family portrait from the incredibly weird imagination of Matthew Allison.

Family Monster (color)

Why Solstice Matters

Winter sun through rolling clouds - 1

Warning: What follows is not a well-researched authoritative statement. It’s unfettered speculation. Take it with a grain of salt.

The Oldest Holiday

Surely the winter solstice must be the oldest holiday, or one of the oldest. Early humans noticed that the days would get shorter and longer, and it’s fairly easy to determine the solstice if you’re paying attention. There’s no need for telescopes or advanced astronomical models. Just put a stick in the ground and measure its shadow each day.

I just finished reading Farnham’s Freehold (Heinlein, 1964) for my book club, and though I can’t exactly recommend the book, there is a short scene that illustrates the point. A nuclear blast has transported the characters into a strange version of earth. They are homesteading in a vast wilderness; they don’t know if they are in the distant past, the far future, or some alternate reality. They don’t even know what time of year it is.

Shortly after we got here Hugh picked a small tree with a flat boulder due north of it and sawed it off so that it placed a sharp shadow on the boulder at noon. As “Keeper of the Flame” it has been my duty to sit by that boulder from before apparent noon and note the shortest shadow — follow it down, mark the shortest position and date it.

That shadow had been growing longer and the days shorter. A week ago it began to be hard to see any change and I told Hugh. So we watched together and three days ago was the turning point… so that day became December 22nd…

It stands to reason that early humans would have noticed this phenomenon, marked it, and celebrated it. In fact I’d suspect that discovery of the solstice would lead to the idea of the solar year and a calendar resembling our own, thus leading to the very idea of annual recurrence.

Of course there are other factors to consider. In the tropics, the seasonal shifting between day and night is not as pronounced as in the more temperate latitudes. Near the equator the length of day does not vary much if at all, though the solstice can still be observed by the angle of the sun. Other annual events may have been more important in particular regions, such as the flooding of a major river. And calendars were developed around the moon also.

Still, celebrating the solstice must be pretty ancient.

Timeless Resonance

Furthermore, as a global moment, it’s universal to all human cultures on every part of the planet. And, indeed, there have been midwinter festivals in virtually every part of the world throughout human history.

The summer solstice would have been known to early humans as well, but it seems to me that the winter event would have deeper meaning, especially to ancient people.

At this time of year, the days are getting shorter and shorter. Darkness encroaches, and the source of light and warmth is steadily more distant. Marking the time when that changed and the light returns must have been reassuring. The world will not be plunged into endless night. The sun returns, hooray, let’s party.

When we participate in traditions at this time of year, such as exchanging gifts or decorating our dwellings with festive luminous displays, we are repeating age-old observances. There’s a certain resonance in these rituals that echoes down the corridors of time, connecting us to the very dawn of humanity.

Universal and Natural

Most of us don’t explicitly celebrate the solstice any longer. This greeting was embedded in an e-mail I got yesterday.

Inclusive Holiday Greeting

It features Christmas (in four languages), Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. That’s nice. But consider what’s missing. Whatever happened to the Amaterasu celebration? What about the Beiwe Festival? Where is Brumalia, Chawmos, the Deygan Festival, the Dōngzhì Festival, Goru, Hogmanay, Inti Raymi, Junkanoo, Karachun, Koleda, Lá an Dreoilín, Lenæa, Lohri, Makara Sankranti, Maruaroa o Takurua, Midvinterblót, Midwinter, Modranicht, Mummer’s Day, the Perchta ritual, the Rozhanitsa Feast, Sanghamitta Day, the Saturnalia, Şewy Yelda, Sol Invictus, Soyal, We Tripantu, Zagmuk, and Ziemassvētki? To say nothing of Yule! And for the love of Mother Earth, what about the Solstice?

But it hardly matters. The old traditions live on. For most Americans they have been sublimated into the Christmas holiday. The actual date of Jesus’ birth being unknown, the early church probably fixed the day at this time of year to capitalize on an ancient pagan holiday like Sol Invictus. It makes a certain poetic sense, too; there’s a parallel between the rebirth of the Sun and the birth of the Son that extends beyond mere wordplay. The desire to participate in these celebrations is so strong that many completely secular people get into the “Christmas spirit.” Even prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins loves to go caroling. A paradoxical contradiction? Not at all.

Anyhow, I am happy to remember and the solstice and celebrate it explicitly. It’s about as universal and natural a holiday as one could ask for. It’s available to everyone, people of every religion or no religion, everywhere on the planet.

Footnote: Of course in southern hemisphere it’s the summer solstice that’s approaching, but if you’re going to celebrate one solstice you might as well celebrate them both. It’s all good.

Photo Credit: Winter sun through rolling clouds – 1 / Colin Campbell / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Solstice

Tuesday was the Summer Solstice. I got up super early (4AM by my body clock, which was still in the Central Time Zone) and headed down to the beach.

It was still pretty dark, but even at that early hour the eastern sky held a faint glow which grew stronger slowly, slowly, as I watched and waited. There was also plenty of light from a gorgeous half-moon directly overhead.

After a while the horizon was positively rosy. There seemed to be a few clouds there. I figured they might obscure the solar disk, and this gentle rosy glow would be the full extent of the drama.

Pre Dawn Panorama

I was wrong about that. Soon I spotted a planet. I’m not set up for celestial photography, but you can see the planet in this shot if you look really close.

Planet

So I thought that was it. Not that I was disappointed. It was quite beautiful. I prepared to head back to our room, when a woman passed by walking her dog. There weren’t many people out on the beach at that time, and I suppose there’s a certain presumption of familiarity, if not fraternity, with other early risers. Anyway, she said to me, in a tone that suggested we were old friends, “Just fifteen more minutes.”

“Hm? Until what?”

“‘Til sunrise!”

Blow me down. I thought I’d been watching the sunrise. I knew the precise time of dawn, as I’d checked on the net, but I didn’t have a timepiece on me.

So I stuck around a little longer, and a good thing too. When the sun finally did pop up over the horizon, it was glorious. Majestic. Awe-inspiring.

Red Dawn

Definitely worth getting up for.

Every year I learn a little bit more about astronomy and other aspects of these celestial events. Most of us know (if we’re aware of it at all) that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year. I always assumed that meant the earliest dawn and the latest sunset of the year as well. Makes sense, right? Stands to reason. But in fact the earliest dawn came about a week before the solstice, and the latest sunset about a week after. Weird, huh? I also learned that idea I have had in my head of the earth tilting back and forth on its axis is not correct. The axis is indeed tilted with respect to the plane of earth’s orbit around the sun, but it stays tilted in the same direction all year round. It’s just that as it revolves around the sun, that tilt means that one hemisphere and then the other gets more direct solar rays. It’s easy to find illustrations of this concept all over the web.

I really wanted to do something special to celebrate the solstice. I got a book on the topic, The Summer Solstice by Ellen Jackson. This book provides a kid-friendly explication of the summer solstice from diverse world traditions and the scientific perspective as well. Includes a story from Hawaii and hands-on activities. If there’s another book like this I haven’t found it yet. (Actually this is one in a series of four books by Ellen Jackson on the solstices and equinoxes, but I don’t know of any other book or series for kids that addresses the topic from a global perspective.) I read this to Persephone a couple times, and my father-in-law did too. She understands the basic concept, I think, and certainly understood this was a special day. She was especially excited to make a wreath in the Bohemian style, which I thought would be especially appropriate given her heritage, but on the day before our departure from New Orleans I realized I should have been drying out weeds, reeds and grasses a week or two ahead of time. I felt bad about having screwed that up. Having a bonfire wasn’t really an option for us. Another cool ritual I came across somewhere was the idea of launching candles on paper boats, but I don’t think that would work too well on the Atlantic Ocean. Maybe next year, if we’re in New Orleans, we could do that on the bayou.

So our celebrations in Vero were less ambitious. Persephone and I spent the latter part of the morning building a big sand sculpture. It wasn’t particularly artistic — just a big circular trench surrounded by towers. It was a solar symbol, at least in my mind. I didn’t take my camera down to the beach while we played in the sand, so I don’t have a photo of that captures the full glory of it, but I did pass by later and take a picture after the water had washed most of it away.

Washing Away

I actually started work on this project before the sun came up.

Sun Circle

Later in the day we made the obligatory visit to McKee Botanical Garden. This place was established by the same eccentric Hoosier who created the Driftwood, the infamous Waldo Sexton. More about him later. Soon we were standing again in the Hall of Giants, marveling at the world’s largest mahogany table and other wonders.

Hall of Giants

Spanish Kitchen

Bamboo

Unfortunately it was blazing hot. In fact our whole trip seems to have been in the middle of a heat wave. When we visited this garden four years ago, the high was 86ºF. This day the high was 93ºF but we were melting like it was over a hundred. I’m sure with the heat index it was.

Fortunately things were much more pleasant by the time we got ready for our evening meal. We decided to dine al fresco on one of the tables by the ocean.

Picnic by the Sea

We used one of the gas grills to cook our food. This was also a nice place to meet some of our fellow guests. I discovered a lot of people were from inland Florida. Many of them had been coming to the Driftwood for years.

Grill

We’d stopped at a BBQ restaurant on the way home and picked up a couple pints of sauce.

Here’s a picture of grandma and granddaughter waiting for their dinner. I love their expressions in this photo. I also love this funky triangular table.

S&P

The chicken and roasted asparagus were delicious.

Afterward we went for a walk on the beach. A great end to the longest day of the year.

Forty Months

Midsummer

Dear Persephone,

I meant to take notes on all the crazy things you’ve said over the last few weeks. But time got away from me. I remember you said “Trust me!” when we were playing Alphabet Farm. I wrote it down, because it seemed remarkable, but now I can’t remember anything more about it, except that I’d never heard you say that before, and somehow that seemed profound.

One morning when the car wouldn’t start I carried you across the street to Tommie’s shop. After I explained the situation to Tommie, including how you mother got to work that morning, you had one question: “What’s a damn cab?”

I don’t remember a whole lot more, but in my defense you were gone with your mother for roughly a quarter of the time since I last wrote. You spent a week at a friend’s cabin outside Fishville, Louisiana. When you came back I swear you looked and acted bigger. Just like last year.

Just before that we had the countdown to your last days of daycare ever. But I already told you about that. Since then you and your mother have been on summer vacation. I continue to work, but I get a vicarious sense of leisure from you two.

Maybe this would be a good time to mention something you said a couple months ago, which I never recorded. While I was putting you to bed one night, the topic of human mortality came up somehow, and you said, “But I don’t want to die!” I’ve never tried to hide the concept of death from you, the idea that all living things pass away, but I felt for you right then, and deeply. You sounded genuinely afraid. That old fear of death is a universal, and it’s been a mighty emotional force in my life. In fact the only thing that’s taken the edge off that fear, for me, has been you. After your birth, death and dying has seemed a little less scary to me. But that’s hardly something I’d expect you to understand at your tender age. So I said to you, “It’s OK, baby. Nobody wants to die. But it’s not anything you need to worry about for a long time.” I hope that was a good thing to say.

We made a return trip to Vero, Florida, with your maternal grandparents. I can’t begin to describe how magical it seemed to play in the surf with you. There’s something pure and purifying about the action of the waves. So many other distractions are forgotten, and we’re challenged to be most fully present, when a surge of ocean water is threatening to knock you down and wash you away. Actually you still get distracted and you’d have washed out to sea if left to your own devices. But I tried to get you to pay attention when a big wave was bearing down. Seemed like a valuable life lesson.

You were excited to celebrate the summer solstice, which we did today. I was thrilled that you seem to understand the idea of the solstice. “It’s the longest day of the year!” I’d promised we’d make a wreath, Bohemian-style, but travel and lack of planning on my part put that idea on hold. Instead, we frolicked on the beach and constructed a giant sun symbol in the sand, which the rising tide soon washed away. So that was sort of poetic.

Happy Midsummer, baby.

Happy Solstice

Ready

We exchanged presents to celebrate the Solstice. But when, exactly, does one celebrate? Is the Solstice a day or discrete moment? It’s both, I guess. This year the Solstice took place at 5:38 PM, Central Time. But that’s a matter of celestial mechanics. In terms of real human experience, it’s not a moment but a day, the shortest day, and the longest night of the year. So it seemed to make sense to me that we’d begin our celebrations this evening. We each opened a present. Tomorrow morning, we’ll open the rest and start preparing for our northward journey.

I wish I could say we lit a candle or something of that nature, but we didn’t. I was feeling a little out of sorts. I’d walked too much during the day, pushing Persephone to daycare in the stroller, and apparently that was too much exertion after my surgery Friday. We ended up joining Sue and Steve and friends for their weekly pizza throwdown at Theo’s. I brought a globe and gave a little talk to the kiddies about the North Pole (think Santa) and basically explained the Solstice concept, and we had a little toast.

But exchanging presents is a fine way to celebrate. I’d like to brag about the original artwork which I commissioned for the occasion, but that will have to wait until I can take a photo that does it justice.

Thirty-Four Months

Carousel

Dear Persephone,

You’re thirty-four months old today, but there’s a lot of other things going on as well. For one, there was a full lunar eclipse last night. I explained how the moon would fall into the shadow of the earth, and you’d seemed to understand. I even got you out of bed for it and we looked at the moon briefly, but given that it was around 3:00AM you were a little groggy. You wanted a flashlight — I’m still not sure why.

And this evening it’s the solstice. We each opened one present tonight, and tomorrow morning we’re opening the rest. I spent some time today assembling an easel for you but you haven’t seen it yet. You’ve seen the presents accumulating under the tree, and you’re excited about them, but in no way impatient. I suppose that might be different in years to come.

A month ago we were waiting for my parents to arrive for a Thanksgiving visit. As we sat on the front porch, acorns fell from the oak tree in front of our house. That led you to exclaim: “We need to put them back up!”

I think you enjoyed hanging out with your grandparents. Just after they left you seemed to experience one of those linguistic growth spurts. Suddenly you were formulating complex sentences, such as “When you go fast, it makes me cold.” (That was on our morning bike ride.) I suspect it’s typical for little kids to develop quickly after holidays, when having more prolonged and intensive interaction with adults.

More recently we attended your first dance recital. You’ve been taking lessons in ballet and tap dance for a few months now. At the event they served beer, wine and turkey gumbo. You made it almost all the way through the your age-group’s performance before you lost interest.

Speaking of dancing, one day you started drumming on the toilet seat and singing. You commanded me to dance, and I complied. That was one of those moments I would forget completely if I didn’t write it down. But I want to remember it.

Broadcast television seems increasingly anachronistic, but we still tune in. We watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with you, muting the commercials. It was really perfect for your age. The look of pure joy on your face made me feel like I was seeing the program for the first time.

You also watch cartoons on Saturday mornings via broadcast. Your favorite show is Busytown Mysteries. Unfortunately we do not mute those commercials, and I was alarmed to note you’ve memorized many of them.

Your favorite activity these days seems to be hiding. One day your mother used a sheet to make the dining room table into a fort, and you’ve been hooked on the idea of hiding under that table ever since. Or under another table. Or just about anywhere, actually. Sometimes I’ll run upstairs to get something and when I return you’re still sitting on the couch where I left you, but with your hands over your eyes. You think if you can’t see me, then I can’t see you.

For months stories about “Sephie and Roger” have been part of your bedtime routine. But just recently you’ve lost interest in those two. Now you just want to hear tales of “Dada’s school.” I usually just relate the details of my day at work, but on the weekends and holidays I have to get creative.

One night you surprised me by saying, as I tucked you in: “I love my butterfly quilt. I love butterflies and cats and trees and parks and houses and rocks and people and everything!” I thought that was just about the sweetest thing I ever heard.

Happy Solstice, baby.

Eclipse + Solstice

An interesting pair of celestial events is in the offing. In addition to the solstice (Tuesday 5:38PM central) there’s a full lunar eclipse which should be visible in North America all night after midnight tonight — weather permitting. Unfortunately, here in New Orleans we’ve got a good chance of cloud cover all night. But it’s the first full lunar eclipse in three years, and the first coincidence with the solstice in something like half a millennium.

Phases of the Moon

Persephone is very much into the moon. It’s one of those aspects of the natural world we can appreciate even though we’re in the city. She knows all the phases, more or less, and considers the moon her sister. I’ve explained to her the concept of an eclipse, though I’m not sure she understood. So, if the weather cooperates, and if the eclipsed moon looks interesting enough, I may rouse her out of be in the middle of the night to take a peek.

Partial eclipse starts at 12:32 AM (Central Time), with the total eclipse beginning at 1:41 AM. The total eclipse will last 72 minutes, until 2:53 AM. Or so I extrapolate.

The Solstice & the Tipping Point

Today’s the northern solstice, the longest night of the year and the shortest day. Tomorrow the days will start to get longer again. In the fiction of Ursula K. le Guin, this day is known as Sun-Return. Out of darkness, light.

I’m always surprised how many people are completely unaware of the solstice. You could argue it’s the most significant day of the calendar for us earthlings, cosmically speaking. It’s the reason we have all these celebrations around this time of year.

It seems New Orleans could use some solstice magic right about now. I’ve heard a number people, from personal friends to the Mayor, express the thought that a “tipping point” is right around the corner, that our collective efforts will finally get some traction, and the recovery finally accelerate.

I wish I shared that optimism. But even though I’m skeptical, I can sincerely say that’s my solstice wish: That we as a city, as a people, can see our way through this dark night together.

Northern Solstice

Today is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere. It’s also the shortest day on the other side of the equator. For this reason some people favor calling it the Northern Solstice or the June Solstice. After all, it’s not summer in the southern half of the world.

Every year I learn a little bit more about solstices and equinoxes.

For example, I was taught that the summer solstice marks the first day of summer. But Midsummer is celebrated at the end of June, just after the solstice. That doesn’t seem to make sense. How can the middle of summer come at the beginning. I’ve been confused about that for years. Do solstices and equinoxes mark the beginnings or the midpoints of the seasons? Both, as it turns out. Some cultures do it one way, some do it another.

I wish we did more to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes. As it is, all my holiday energy gets absorbed by other days and all I never do anything special on a day like today. Homan’s got the right idea; maybe I’ll eat eggs until I puke.

A Solstice Miracle

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. We’ve been getting up before dawn since Xy started back to school. Without electricity, that’s kind of a pain. The first thing I do in the morning is light an oil lamp. So I’ve been looking forward to the days getting longer.

This morning was extra fun because Lucy’s got diarrhea. Nothing beats stepping barefoot in a cold puddle of stinking feline fecal matter in the dark.

I would have taken Lucy into the vet, but they couldn’t take her until tomorrow. So, after dropping Xy off at school and getting some breakfast, I was puttering around the house and not feeling very productive. I was cold. I wanted to take a hot bath.

I noticed someone working on a neighboring house. I figured if I took a hot bath, they’d find some reason to knock on our door.

I took a hot bath anyway. Sure enough, a knock came within minutes.

I hopped out of the tub, wrapped a towel around myself and dripped my way to the front door. To my utter amazement, it was an Entergy guy come to hook up our electricity. He was only two days late instead of two weeks!

A good thing I’d been home after all. Our electric meter is behind a locked gate. If I hadn’t been there to unlock it, who knows how long we’d be set back.

He disconnected our generator (to prevent potentially fatal “backfeed”) and removed some plastic sheathes from inside the meter. Then he took a great long telescoping rod and flipped a transformer shut atop a nearby utility pole.

Now we have power. I danced and sang and generally acted a fool. It’s been almost four months, but we’re back on the grid.

I plugged in our holiday lights. Normally I call them Christmas lights, but this year I’m calling them holidays lights to annoy Bill O’Reilly.

Xmas: Meaning and Origins

MAD’s posted a great rant about the True Meaning of Christmas. I’ve long subscribed to the notion that the particular date for the celebration of Christmas was chosen because of pre-existing solstice festivals, but Wikipedia suggests a number of other theories. (Thanks to Anne for recommending the article. I turned her on to Wikipedia in the first place; apparently she printed out this particular article and posted it at the prison where she works.)