Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thoughts on Winter Solstice

American Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Story and photo by Brian Kelly, Restoration Coordinator

Thousands of years ago, Celtic people built Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland. Incredibly, they were able to orient these structures of massive stones to capture the rays of the rising sun on the Winter Solstice morning. Observance of the Winter Solstice must have captured the imagination of these people and held great importance to them.

Here in the Blue Mountains of Oregon, the Winter Solstice occurs on December 21, 2011 at about 9:30 PM. During the Solstice, the northern part of the earth tilts farther away from the sun than at any other time of the year. So the days grow longer and the nights grow shorter as we head into spring and summer.

Thinking about the earth as a planet that tilts, rotates and revolves around the sun is a reminder that we are all travelling on one planet together. From that perspective, it's apparent we should all be working together to take care of our planet. Protecting and restoring this earth is like taking care of your home and your family and friends. It makes good sense and you feel good by doing it.

During the Winter Solstice, I like to reflect on the seasons that have past and look forward to the seasons yet to come. The natural cycles in the Blue Mountain region are spectacular in their diversity as the seasons unfold. Skiing the powder snow of the Elkhorn Range in winter, gazing at the velvet-green slopes of Hells Canyon in the spring, sitting in the cool shade of a ponderosa pine in the summer heat, and hiking in the red and gold leaves of autumn are all vivid in my memory. We take these seasonal changes for granted. But when you stop to think about it, the intricate web of life that is expressed in each of these seasons is truly incredible.

The Winter Solstice marks an important point during the cycle of seasons. As we travel through the seasons and as we travel through space on our planet, it’s wise for us to keep in touch with the natural rhythms of life on earth. And it’s a graceful life that moves to the rhythm of nature.

I wish you the best of all of the seasons to come.

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