The Winter Solstice in Santa Cruz, California, will occur at 2:22 p.m. PST on Friday, December 21, 2018. The shortest day of the year, the solstice always marks the end of the year for me, and the day after marks the start of a new one with the coming of longer days. I love all seasons, but Winter is especially meaningful for its depth of reflection, stillness, and gratitude.
Winter bird migrants are also showing up in all kinds of places. A rare Leucistic Dark-Eyed Junco has been frequenting my backyard bird-feeder for the last few months; here is a video of it. At night, Ron and I are blessed with the resonant hoots of Great-Horned Owls in the neighborhood, high up in Douglas Fir and Redwood trees. Nature is beautiful every time of year, but Winter is a quieter season for wildlife viewing for we humans. Thus, every observance is celebrated, from deer in the meadows to birds in the trees.
It’s also the only time of year to enjoy one of my favorite fun activities: snowboarding! Our season at Kirkwood started off strong with a super-pow weekend in early December, outdoing any living memory I have going back some twenty-five years. There is a magical element to that place, and I have a Pavlovian response to its favorable snow forecasts. Though each year varies, a bad day at Kirkwood is almost always better than a good day off-mountain.
Sandy-trail mountain biking is ideal right now! Ron and I have been riding our usual spot, which has only gotten tackier with the rains. My hip and groin injury is improving, and we’ve been shuttling some days to rest it. We are also eagerly awaiting the arrival of mushrooms in this magical forest, where entire swaths of hillsides pop with color like candy. While we don’t forage or touch them ourselves, we enjoy spotting them and enjoying their ethereal, unique beauty. It’s pretty dreamy to be riding down a trail with mushrooms in the stands alongside you.
However you enjoy this time of year, I wish you serenity, joy, and warmth of loved ones. What does Winter mean to you? Whatever it may be, live it up and be grateful for what you have.
As this year comes to a close, I wanted to share a poem about what Winter means to me. May we all have a Happy Holiday, and here’s to a fantastic new year in 2019!
The Mirror Pond
by Katrin Deetz
Deep within a fragrant wood,
Past the trail markers and boisterous sound of footsteps,
Lies the Mirror Pond
Its name as clear as glass,
A surface tension so taut
One might ponder walking on its waters
The Mirror Pond commands attention
Humbling all eyes cast upon it
For at once they see
A reflection, undeniable,
The ripples of distraction dissipated on the horizon
Voices quieted within the head,
Only what is now, no conditional ifs, ands, or buts
In absolute stillness lies the truth
Sitting with my own reflection
Places I’ve been, faces I’ve seen
Some dreams lived, some washed downstream
Every year the same thing appears
In the alpenglow of the Mirror Pond,
As the mind unwinds from the day’s activity
Majestic mountains replete with trails to explore
Clear, pristine lakes to nourish and refresh,
Colorful strokes of life bring meaning to the picture
Smiling faces beaming from hearts of gold,
Pillars like fire in the dark night
Irreplaceable loved ones, our rocks of stability
The Mirror Pond is a catalyst for gratitude
For all that’s come before you, and all that is today
Every person you’ve been lucky to share a memory with
For all that excites your heart,
Gives you forward momentum,
And warms your faith like a yule log
While nature guides us all to it every Winter,
It’s always within us
Giving clarity and perspective when we need it