Returning: The Winter Solstice is here!

I wrote the following to read at a winter solstice party yesterday…..I thought I would share it.  Solstice time is as good a time as any to take note……

The sky remains grey, black of night giving way to the unfolding morning. At 7:20 the morning is well underway, the day moves forward but the morning light reminds me to pause, let the morning unfold.  Embrace the day. This is our solstice day.  Tonight at 11:19 pm on December 21, it’s the official solstice time in Asheville.

Today we’re close to the sun but we lean away…..tilting at 23.4 degrees off center, travelling along the imaginary Tropic of Capricorn.  Those below that line embrace a day of maximum sunlight, their solstice parties likely have an outdoor feel!

Today I have 1 second less of sunlight relative to yesterday, tomorrow I’ll have 2 additional seconds relative to today.   And the next day, 3 additional seconds.  What will I do with my additional daylight?  When will I actually notice that my 6:30 am coffee is not in the early morning darkness? I hope I’m so awake and alive that I am tuned into the smallest of change.

In the days ahead the sun appears to stand still in the sky, as the return journey across the equator, northward begins.  Interesting fact:  The word solstice “derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means “sun” and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning to make stand”.

Sunlight will continue to grow as we journey around the sun.  Short days, as we think of them, grow longer as sunlight returns.  We hardly notice the precious seconds of sunlight in the coming weeks..  By mid-Jan we are earning back 1 minute per day….by mid Feb we have 2 minutes per day.  Then, we accelerate, a consistent turnover of 2 and a quarter minutes per day throughout March before we begin an April slow down edging towards the next summer solstice in June. To be clear, the days are not any longer. We still have 24 hours to rush through while doing some stuff and avoiding other stuff……but we do have more light with which to operate!

The patterns, the consistency, the natural rhythms.  We all live and feel it with great anticipation.  I wonder…..of what importance has the solstice been to others……after all, the sun has been around a long time, no?

The importance of solstice dates in great civilizations is well known. To some ancient cultures, the winter solstice was considered a time of death and rebirth, with solstice celebrations held to welcome the beginning of longer days.  I seem to recall that mysteries of Stonehenge are aligned to the solstice.

Surely the Romans and Greeks messed around on solstices………as it happens, the Romans celebrated something called REVERSALS at the midwinter festival of Saturnalia

“This began as a festival to honor the agricultural god Saturn, was held to commemorate the dedication of his temple in 497 BCE. It quickly became a time of widespread revelry and debauchery in which societal roles were overturned, with masters serving their slaves and servants being allowed to insult their masters. Mask-wearing and play-acting were also part of Saturnalia’s reversals, with each household electing a King of Misrule. Saturnalia was gradually replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire, but many of its customs survive as Christmas traditions.”

Sounds like a time of great roman partying!!!  Leave it to a Roman celebration to end up as debauchery……

With so little sun and so much night time in darkness surely there have been concerns about dark Spirits on dark nights, around the mysterious Solstice.


“The Iranian festival of Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year. In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness. Zoroastrian lore holds that evil spirits wander the Earth and the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night. People are encouraged to stay up most of the night in the company of one another, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, in order to avoid any brushes with dark entities. Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night are also echoed in Celtic and Germanic folklore”

For those interested, I found this information at:

I was taught to cite my sources…..though admittedly I likely haven’t cited it correctly.

Anyway, while the summer solstice seems to get all the good publicity, with the good times that all summer vacations bring….………we should gratefully celebrate and appreciate, as we are this evening, this natural phenomena, the winter solstice.  While I do not feel the need to stay up most of the solstice night in order to avoid brushes with dark entities, I celebrate and mark this moment where the sun stands low in the sky, seemingly frozen, with gratitude and humbled gratefulness for my good fortune.  I celebrate with optimism for the next year…, especially for November 2020, and with excitement for a new decade….and with deep  personal reflection from the last one.  Grateful for family, friends, health (including my much improved (since retiring) jump shot), and of most importance, a strong marriage. I, for one, will seek to take closer note of, and pay more attention to, the incremental growth in sunlight that will grace my life in the coming days, weeks, and months.









Returning: Autumn & Thanksgiving in the US

The door is closing on autumn in Asheville. In a pure reminder of the autumn season, I’ve raked and bagged thousands of fallen oak and maple leaves over the weeks.

October 2



nov 5




Our front yard maple treated us to a classic display, changing colors from the crown through the lower branches over the weeks. It now stands on winter duty – naked, stripped of leaves, it’s a bony sentry overlooking our home. I look at our maple a bit differently having just finished the novel Overstory for our neighborhood book club.

Nov 10

This morning, dark and chilly at 7:00 am, I emptied the final scraps from Thanksgiving into our green plastic city-issued garbage bin and set it out curbside for the normal Wednesday pickup. The 17 pound turkey – raised free range, organic, hormone free, purchased from a local farm sounded fitting for this special gathering.  Indeed we maximized 5 days of leftovers. (I think we miscalculated the size we needed)  This morning it was time to part ways with the final scraps!  I have to admit, as Thanksgiving turkey experiences go, it was an exceptional bird!


So, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Another return from abroad milestone.  For months we anticipated our first Thanksgiving in America. As a family, we haven’t been together for thanksgiving since 2004. In recent years, we talked about this opportunity as a benefit of returning to the US.  Being together for a few days did not disappoint.  Enjoying our company with good laughter, good food, and good times. We feel blessed, no doubt.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday.  I had no idea that this trio existed.  Of course I knew of Black Friday sales though I’ve never actually faced a shopping crowd at an outlet mall on such a day. Nor did I venture out last Friday!  I’ll tuck that potential experience away for a future date. Christmas decorations are starting to go up.  Our Halloween pumpkin that sat on our porch for weeks is finally ready to be composted, and we’ve had a few snow flurries, a winter tease.  December has arrived and more holiday landmarks await in coming weeks.

We continue to investigate, explore, and burrow into our new lives, nesting in a new home, in a new city, at a new age.  Asheville has much to offer, there’s no shortage of possibilities. I’ve never been part of a book group.  Now I’m in two.  I can play pick up basketball multiple times a week at the Y,  the hiking is awesome, the city is friendly, etc etc

We feel lucky. Almost every day Rhona and I fall back on the reminder “What a beautiful and unique day, I’ve never seen this one before”.   I really like that expression and that reminder.  By the way, that was my 4th piece of advice to the Grade 12 students at last May’s HS graduation.  These were my nuggets of advice:

  1. Buy duct tape – essential and useful in adulthood
  2. Build a diverse toolbox – If you only have a hammer, you treat everything as a nail.
  3. Don’t water the rocks – don’t waste time on trying to nurture growth in others when it’s obviously a waste of time!
  4. Appreciate the grace and beauty of each day. “What a beautiful day, I’ve never seen this one before”.

Anyway, more later…..I look forward to hearing from folks.  AND…..we’ve had so many wonderful visitors already!!!