Winter Solstice

 

In our Northern Hemisphere winter solstice is usually the 21 or 22 of December. It is also known as the “shortest day” of the year. Continuously the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of the year and has been marked by celebrations and ceremonies with the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun.

 

This Lake City, Colorado Saturday morning was cold. It was close to 0. Central heat doesn’t exist up here. It takes ‘awhile’ for the fireplace to warm up our little 1981, built for seasonal use, home. While procrastinating getting up from under the electric blanket, my mind drifted back to 10 years ago when we visited our son and his wife while they were living in Ireland. During that visit we made a side trip to Newgrange. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.

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Famous Newgrange

 

Newgrange is famous for the rays of sunlight moving through the passage and chamber created by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the winter solstice.

 

At dawn, from December 19 to 23, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the sunbeam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.


The intent of the Stone Age farmers who build Newgrange was surely to mark the beginning of the new year. Too, it may have served as a commanding symbol of the victory of life over death. It is an impressive place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, perhaps not too different from present day cathedrals.

 

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 Beautiful rocks outside the entrance of Newgrange

 

When my family and I visited Newgrange in November 2009, it was is an unexpected feeling to wait in the darkness, as people did 5,000 years ago, for the longest night of the year to end, while our guide shown a light representing the winter solstice sunrise. The accuracy of Newgrange is incredible; especially when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.


I like having all the seasons, as we do in Lake City. I have an understanding of the power of nature. We had an unprecedented amount of snowfall last winter which caused an unprecedented amount of avalanches. Those who don’t live here appear to be unable to comprehend why we would want to live here in the winter. Our house with its lack of a comfortable heat source is unusual and still we love it, it is our choice. Not only is our unique location incredibly amazing but there’s a specialness about this time of the year that I’ve never experienced anywhere else and I’ve lived in numerous different places and circumstances, including other settings in the countryside.

 

Perhaps it is exactly because I’ve lived in different environments, worshiped in different types of churches and have traveled more than most, though a lot less than some – that I know that there is more than ‘my way’ of living and finding joy and contentment.

 

To me, there is a uniquely beautiful and mysterious feeling to winter where we live in the mountains. I feel the bone formation of being one with the mountainside – the awesome loneliness of it, feeling winter’s breath. Something amazing sleeps underneath. There is a comfy retreat about winter which no other season gives you….only in the winter, in the midst of nature, can you have longer, settled down stretches when you can savor being in the right place with yourself.

Our sheltie girl Joy take pleasure in our fireplace

 

Our fireplace is hot now, filling our little living space with warm air. The scent of freshly baked bread calls out for delicious sandwiches to be enjoyed for lunch. My husband, wrapping Christmas presents, delights in the large rolls of gift paper I bought on a recent shopping trip to the nearby town of Gunnison. Live is good – little joys are the best. A wine spritzer or mug of hot chocolate, with or without a good book, in front of the fire – I’m happy.

  

Our nature trail

Today’s sunny blue, blue skies are to go from 2 to 40 – love it! With our dogs we walk the nature trail breathing clean air, no crowds or traffic noises but the soft freezing sounds of the river. We can go into town but we don’t have to live there. Happily we can retreat into our own little sanctuary – our nature trail or home. Idyllic. 

What to you love about where you live? Have you lived any place vastly different than where you live now? Have you always lived in the same place – tell me about it.

 

 

“May you live all the days of your life.”  J. Swift
julie@handsbestrong.com

Living in the Mountains

 

Feeling So Alive

We just walked our first Gold Hill (a ‘low’ mountain called a hill by locals) walk of 2019!!!

This is a favorite walk of ours, especially on the shoulders of the seasons when the visitors haven’t yet arrived; as we have it all to ourselves!! You don’t live up here if you enjoy crowds!

This winter our little mountain village had an unprecedented amount of snow. It’s been very hard to deal with so very much snow. And it keeps snowing several times a week.

 Snow – Snow and more snow – too much frick’en snow

But this morning – it was beyond fabulous & not snowing when my husband & our canine kids waked Gold Hill under an ocean of cobalt blue sky that we had all to ourselves!

Hope, our border collie was blissfully flying from mountain peak to mountain peak

Joy, our sheltie was contented to find puddles of snow to make puppy dog snow angels

This walk, in these surroundings, under this blue, blue sky – just makes us feel so alive!! So happy to be alive ~

Crystal Peak


Making snow puppy angels

Living in Nature with Dogs

When I wake up every morning, I smile and say, ‘Thank you.’ Because out of my window I can see the mountains, then go hiking with my dog and share her bounding joy in the world.  – Carole King

Exactly – getting to live in the mountains is somewhat like being on vacation all the time & getting to live with our dogs up here is joyful & spontaneous. Our dogs aren’t just part of the furniture; they are closely connected to us.

Living inside nature gives me a sense of peacefulness and joy. I raise the shade in our window seat this morning and I delight in seeing the curl of the moon & Venus over our snowy valley.

Our dogs Joy (Sheltie) & Hope (Border collie) wag good morning.  They know that soon we will go for a walk in the mountains – how delightful! It’s a scientific finding that both nature & dogs are big time antidotes to stress – so we must be hitting the jackpot living in nature with dogs!!!

Just stepping outside is a spontaneous adventure with our dogs – walking our nature trail, our border collie Hope sees geese on the opposite side of the river. Crouching, she moves catlike & then pounces forward, delighting in the geese taking flight. Joy throws herself into a mound of snow & rolls around in childlike glee.

Most days have an underlying spontaneity to them because we live within nature – I pass Blue Mesa usually twice a week. I’ve seen a fox crossing the area, ice fishermen in action, sailboats floating on sunlit sparkles, ice skaters and sometimes I just have to get out of the car & take pictures – the beauty makes my eyes fill & my heart beat faster – it’s exciting & always feels new.

What are your positive experiences with nature & dogs?

Thank you.

I wish you peace, julie

Walking The River In Winter

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress”. Barack Obama

Keep moving…keep moving physically and keep moving in the direction of what’s important to you. Walking feels good and is beneficial to maintaining our health, and too, we have a border collie and a sheltie, so we walk…walk…walk…

We live up in the mountains and this time of the year it is hard to find a place that is safe or viable for walking; so we walk our nature trail. We walk our nature trail the way the way we would walked around the block when we lived in suburbia.  Our nature trail runs along the back side of our cabin, along the river and through a wooded area. In the frigid winter the river freezes, with dollops of whip cream looking snow on top, which gives off the essence of a fairy tale.

The reason for winter according to the abbreviated version of Greek mythology: Zeus, the king of all the gods, had a lovely niece, Persephone. 

Hades, king of the underworld, was an ominous fellow who fell in love with Persephone. Before anyone could stop him, Hades grabbed Persephone and dove deep into the darkest depths of the Underworld.

Hades locked Persephone in a beautifully decorated room. He brought her all kinds of delicious food. Persephone refused to eat. She had heard if you ate anything in Hades, you could never leave. She had every intention of leaving as soon as she could figure a way out.

Time went by. Finally, in desperate hunger, Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds. She promptly burst into tears.

A deal was worked out: If Persephone would marry Hades, she would live as queen of the Underworld for six months each winter. In the spring, Persephone would return to earth and live there for six months.

Every spring, the earth comes to life with flowers blooming and crops growing and the fields are green. Every fall, Persephone returns to the underworld and Lake City gets colder and colder.…

Maybe Persephone was late returning to Hades this season because our spectacular autumn lasted and lasted making it an Indian summer that we were captivated with for an unusually long time…and the price seems to be that our really cold season started off long before it was officially winter. The frosty bitter cold we don’t usually experience until mid January began to poke us with its bony, icy fingers in October and became more and more brazen with countless mornings starting out below 0 and our days never climbing near the freezing mark of 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

I delight in the change of seasons and the peacefulness that envelopes us when our thousands of visitors leave but really – so very many days of temperatures starting at 0 and below…darn – over a few seeds – really – rather reminiscent of that bite of apple…darn those harsh consequences of old age and death and the unrelenting cold.

And yet…there is that charming view of Crystal Peak right in front of me. She looks like a heap of gingerbread with powdered sugar on top. The morning sunshine has finally reached our valley and with the nature trail calling for a walk…