Reaching For the Light

wintersolsticeby Anniel12/28/16
Autumn Equinox overtook us in September before we knew it. We lost light rather quickly in our journey about the sun, then, finally, we could make out stars again, and the moon’s waxing and waning became more visible. The four or five days of Winter Solstice crept s-l-o-w-l-y our way, along with Christmas, the celebration of our Savior’s birth.

Winter Solstice officially ended today, three days after Christmas, we gained our first second of precious light. Now we slog through weeks of only a few seconds a day added to us. Of course this means that where people walk upside down they are headed the other direction, towards darkness. It’s not nearly as much fun as going for the joy of light.

The Northern Lights are very different this year. We are hearing reports of lights in hues that no one, not even 90-year-old village elders, have ever seen before. The sun has been silent. There have been no solar storms or flares to account for the auroras. I saw a photo on spaceweather.com, but it no longer appears on the site. No, I have never seen such auroral colors in my almost 57 years of living here. Everyone is fascinated by them. Mystery auroras indeed. What would cause such pinks and whites to be so very bright and startling? There may be more on this later, or the mystery is solved and I just haven’t heard.

Places north of our home will be adding light even more slowly than we do in Anchorage. The people in Barrow are waiting out their darkness with an old name.The town is now officially called Utqiagvik, its Inupiaq name. The northernmost community in the United States has officially restored its original name. In October, the people of the Alaskan town formerly known as Barrow, on the edge of the Arctic Ocean, voted to restore its indigenous name, Utqiagvik, as of December 1, 2016.

Utqiagvik, “The Place of Clay,” will welcome the sun back on January 22, 2017.
As far as I hear the name change barely passed and it’s no big deal to most of the residents, they interchange the names every day. I have no idea how to properly pronounce it, so I will stick with Barrow. No, I don’t know what color or kind of clay they have, either.

The Polar Bears seem fine, and some glaciers are growing while others are not, as usual. The North Pole is still frozen and wandering around in the cold at the top of the world.

Our biggest export from the Arctic this year is apparently the fairly recently discovered Polar Vortex, again. If you have been on the receiving end of our gift of snow and cold, “You’re welcome,” and we’ll see if we can do it more efficiently next year, since we will have had more practice. So button up your overcoat, there’s still a lot of winter left in 2016 and into the New Year of 2017, arrival expected in a few days, with one extra second included to keep the calendar straight.

Happy New Year! Blessings to you as you consider your resolutions. Remember to thank our Creator God for each new opportunity granted you as we head, once more, for Spring Equinox.

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104 Responses to Reaching For the Light

  1. Anniel says:

    Brad,

    Thanks for the Globe Earth explanation of Equinoxes and Solstices. A big help for the scientifically challenged like me.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Annie, I know this whole “coming of the light” article is really your metaphor from the election of Trump, in disguise. But I won’t hold that against you. 😀

      I’ve had my periods of being a complete couch potato. By doing so, one can easily fall out of vital sync with one of the most familiar cliches: the “rhythms of nature.” But ever since several years ago (over ten years ago) I started hiking and biking again, I’ve become acutely aware of the seasons.

      And that is some doing in the Pacific Northwest where often the seasons are barely noticeable. But still, it does get cold in winter and warm(er) in summer. And the light waxes and the light wanes. And I notice there are sometimes roses blooming deep in December. And sometimes not.

      And I appreciate your focus on this topic because I think nothing has done more harm to appreciating this world than science. And I don’t mean because of the usual atheist/materialist shibboleth that they have “demystified” everything. They have not. They have only shown how marvelous creation is, which is far more remarkable and complex than any previous mystery gave hint to.

      The problem with science is not demystification. It’s that it (as practiced today) turns nature into a bland quantity. But being the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-feeling Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of StubbornThings, I know that only religion, art, and poetry can describe the essence of nature, the things outside of the bland quantities which are mere boring statistics compared to the THAT-ness of things.

      Yes, I’m glad you liked that YouTube video that I adjoined to your article. And it is a nicely scientific/mechanical view of how the solstices and equinoxes work. And this is all well and good. Facts, in the right hands, can only add to our art, poetry, and religious beliefs.

      Unfortunately, these facts are rarely showing up in the right hands these days. But consider how wondrous and remarkable (and certainly unexpected, as if we could have expected anything before the Big Bang), that we live on a globe instead of, say, an infinitely flat surface. Could not things have been built one way instead of another? Almost certainly so. But it remains a mystery.

      Some might fixate on the winter solstice as a mere phenomenon of geometry, the earth tilted on its axis, etc. And certainly geometry plays a part. But we forget about the light. We’re joyful of the light, a little bit afraid of the dark, but we make do with both. Something tells us that we must have both. Our planet is dancing, as it were, in the light and shadows and we live on this big ball and see this poetry in motion…if we dare to look and to describe it.

      Few do. But we do. We can. We must. Winter is a time of rest, although it was historically perhaps more of a time of hardship. But we live such active lives full of leisure and plenty that, at least for me, I no longer mind the coming of the shorter days. It helps me to appreciate the light when it comes and stays longer. And the dark has its own wonders and charm, none of which are described in any formula or fact.

      • Anniel says:

        Here I was, secure in my metaphorical heart, pondering the coming of Trump, and dagnabbit, you caught me again.

        I do have what I would call a “Trump Challenge” coming up, but I can’t do it until after his inauguration. We’ll see then if he’s what I think he might be.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Light is justifiably a good metaphor for the coming of life, truth, and salvation. And I hope Trump brings more light than heat. I hope he enacts the necessary reforms, despite his outer package.

          I would have no problem saying “I was wrong” because what dolt puts his Snowflake emotionalism and psychological freaky identity projections above the good of his country? And the reservations regarding Trump during the campaign were amply justified by the erratic and often bizarre behavior of Trump himself. Not to mention the loads of really stupid things he said. If he turns out not to be the lunatic that he appeared to be, then great. Wonderful. What’s not to like?

          But there are those on both sides who are deep in the throngs of derangement syndrome of one type of another. Thomas Lifson at American Thinker can’t even let the sad passing of Debbie Reynolds go by without trying to use her death as a truncheon to beat “never trumpers” over the head. A sad case, and a once thoughtful web site that his fallen to its own sort of derangement.

          I trust any words you have to say on the subject will be fair, thoughtful, and objective. But you can say what you want to say. If the light is filtered, so be it.

    • Stuart Whitman Stuart Whitman says:

      Yes but how do those people walk upside down?

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    We did have a severe cold snap from the polar vortex, though little snow. We then had a warm spell over Christmas, which was fortunate because I forgot my jacket when I went to pick up Elizabeth in Lexington. (It was an appropriate start to what I call Murphy Weekend.)

  3. Lucia says:

    Over the past few days I’ve been thinking of you up in the north country, wondering how you handle the long darkness and the deep cold. Do you stay indoors most of the time? Do you suffer from cabin fever? or insomnia? Does cold weather affect your health?

    I’m an active person most of the year but when temperatures reach the freezing mark I must stay indoors because I’m so prone to sinus infections. I try to stay busy but find the physical inactivity difficult to endure. I can hardly wait for the false spring in February when I can work outside again. I wouldn’t do well in Alaska.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Ditto. Although I make peace with the shorter days at latitude 47.5, that is a mild challenge compared to those who live much further north.

      Here on the Left Coast, in the Pacific Northwest, in particular, we are by no means a hardy breed. In fact, despite the rarity of snow here, this is obviously a land that produces Snowflakes.

      That said, because there is so much darkness and gloom (produced primarily by clouds and drizzle — suspended and falling particles of water off all kinds), we have special skin cells (sort of like the second set of eyelids that cats have) that allow us to run out into wintertime weather in shorts and short-sleeves when a crystal-clear sun-drenched day suddenly breaks through the gloom.

      Cold is relative. Light is wonderful — unless one gets too much light as Mr. Spock did in the Star Trek episode, Operation — Annihilate! Any good thing taken to an extreme can be harmful.

      • Lucia says:

        I hunted with our hounds every winter for 20 years and suffered with sick headaches and sinus pain after every outing. Finding predator tracks was easier in snow, but floundering around in the snow covered brush wasn’t easy at all. Once our hounds died away I wised up and stopped exposing my poor sinuses to all that cold air except for short jaunts, like bringing up a load of firewood from the shed, or walking the dog. I was reluctant to defend myself against seeming like a snowflake because I didn’t want to sound like a whiner, but then I realized that you don’t know me, Brad, except for what I share with you.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I could handle cold weather much better when I was young. Of course, these days I can’t handle much of anything, but at the hotel we’re in now, there will be occasional errands — and the door goes outside, not to an inner corridor.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          but then I realized that you don’t know me, Brad, except for what I share with you.

          I’m sensing a few Jack Londonesque stories in you, Lucia. Anyone sending the hounds out to hunt the predators in the cold of winter must have a tale or two to tell…tall or otherwise.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            Or maybe Robert Service. “But the strangest they ever did see/Was the night on the marge of Lake LeBarge/I cremated Sam McGee.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              The hounds of winter
              Chasing the tracks in the snow
              Run for the brush, fox

              • Lucia says:

                I gave a book of Robert Service poems to my 13 year old grandson in hopes he would be drawn to the wilds. Sam McGee was a favorite as well as The Quitter, a soldiers poem that I memorized when I was 9 or 10 years old because it reminded me of my father’s courage.

                Yes, Brad, I have already written several hunting stories and saw them published in a hound hunters magazine, which publishes anything about hunting, true or false. We still have the last hound of our pack, who is 12 years old. He amuses me daily.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                My knowledge of Service is confined to “The Shooting of Sam McGee”, which we read in 9th grade (and my geometry teacher next year was a big fan and once recited it it to us n class) and “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” (which I encountered somewhere — and the only reason I know it was by Service is that Wikipedia mentioned it). I rather liked the humorous ending of the former, of course. It’s no wonder it was included in a section of humorous works in our text.

              • Lucia says:

                When I first started hunting deer with my husband I would cheer for the deer until I realized we needed the meat.

                Foxes outsmart their pursuers more than you might think.

                A bio of Robert Service on WikiLeaks was pleasantly surprising. No limp wristed poet was he.

    • Anniel says:

      When I first moved to Alaska someone from my family telephoned me, before cheap calls, and asked how I was doing living where it was so cold. My answer then, and still is, “There’s a big difference depending on whether you’re coming down, or warming up.” Zero is cold going down, downright balmy when you’re going up.

  4. Glenn Fairman says:

    You have that coveted storytelling gene that can make just about anything interesting. Thank you for your solstice offering. Happy New Year!

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    While it is true that snowflakes are unique in their own way, by nature they clump together in faceless uniformity, are cold to the touch, and melt under the mildest provocation.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      It occurs to me that warnings against eating the yellow snow fit here.

      • Anniel says:

        This Haiku is one of my Japanese speaking daughter’s favorites:

        Pissing in the snow
        outside my door –
        it makes a very straight hole.
        Kobayashi Issa (English translation by Robert Hass)

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          Can I ask your age Anniel, or would that be rude?

          • Anniel says:

            I am, at the moment, 76 Years of age. I have been fortunate enough to remain younger looking and not acting my age. For whatever that’s worth. I also dislike the word “pissing”, unless it makes me laugh.

            By the way, I was almost 46 when my youngest daughter, Cate, was born. My youngest son, when he was about two, had told me that God said he would send him a little sister. I said God had neglected to tell me. So I was shocked to learn when I was pregnant. I had many long conversations with God about the matter. One night He told me that Bear and I were the people she had to come to and I needed the faith to believe Him.

            More than you asked, but all true.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Oh my goodness. I didn’t notice that Haiku until Glenn pointed it out. Sounds like you’re begging for some friendly competition. We’ve done limericks. Let’s do Haiku!

          Colors of nature
          Pink as the soft rose
          Beware amber in the cold

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          Deana shared this one on FB:

          Bluish can of steel
          What promise do you hold?
          Salty flesh so ripe

          Twist, pull the sharp lid
          Jerks and cuts me deeply but
          Spam, aah, my poultice

          Silent former pig
          One communal awareness
          Myriad pink bricks

  6. Glenn Fairman says:

    I had the impression that you were much younger, and I wondered how such a person could gather up that much good sense in so short a time. I am still wondering. PS, I thought the haiku was charmingly funny, and I plan on using it somewhere, sometime.

    • Anniel says:

      Glenn,

      Sometimes I’m not sure about my Finnish Sisu, but, so far I don’t have the wrinkled Finn skin, although my siblings all got it. BTW, Robert Hass is considered the best of Haiku translators. Japanese humor is subtle, and very charming, too.

  7. Gibblet says:

    writing Haiku poems
    use five five seven
    or is it five seven five

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Properly speaking, it goes 5-7-5 syllables according to Elizabeth.

      • Gibblet says:

        Hi Timothy, thanks
        Tell Elizabeth “Hello”
        Happy New Year, too!

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Nice. And in a studio hotel room, there was no difficulty telling Elizabeth immediately. She liked it, too.

          • Anniel says:

            Cate says it is properly 5-7-5, too, but sometimes to accommodate English it can be 5-5-7, as the Hass translation goes above. Too bad we don’t all speak Japanese.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              I’ve read that Japanese is a more syllabic tongue than English, thus making haiku easier to craft there. Elizabeth confirms thks.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Poetic language
                Unfair Haiku advantage
                We have limericks

              • Anniel says:

                Brad,

                You are just some sort of poetic genius,, among your other talents.

                Actually that Haiku is rather ingenious and right on the mark. I’m sure Elizabeth approves of both you and Gibblet. Kudos to both of you, again.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                I hand the crown to Gibblet and Deane. They’ve got what it takes. I just pick up the crumbs here and there left behind.

                Annie from the North
                No chill wind in her warm praise
                Blood rushes to head

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Yes, Annie, Elizabeth appreciated both of the haiku. I’m afraid my creativity isn’t up to par, especially given my circumstances.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another interesting angle regarding the Summer Solstice also intersects with the idea of the metaphor of light. The light coming through the windows today is bright but not particularly warm. It is lacking warmth because it must travel through a thicker layer of atmosphere because of the angle (not directly overhead, that is).

    How much of our society is organized that way? There is much “light” that lacks warmth if only because it must first travel through a thick layer of BS.

    • Anniel says:

      Today that is a mighty thick layer.

      But we need to keep the light in mind, if only for sanity’s sake. Laughter is still the best medicine for keeping warm at night.

  9. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Annie,

    I can only recall seeing the Northern Lights once. That was while I was at 35,000 feet flying back to Asia from the U.S. via Alaska. This must be 25 or 30 years ago. I saw several colors, not just the bright greens. I distinctly recall reds. It was very beautiful and impressive.

    • Anniel says:

      I’m still hearing how “different” these new ones are, but no new postings with photos on them. My eyes are still open though. There seems to be no accounting for their appearance when the sun was silent.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        I wonder if seeing them while I was flying so high made any difference in the colors I saw?

        • Anniel says:

          Bear says not when he’s seen them. The only time I saw them from a plane they weren’t very colorful. What’s fun is to watch a big lightning storm from a plane. Wowee!

  10. Anniel says:

    I’ve decided to try my hand at Haiku because the ice fog has been building up for several days now. Haiku in Japan is supposed to identify a season, indirectly, along with a message. I’ll ask about rhyme scheme, if there are any rules.

    Hoar frost at morning
    Eyes seep astonished wetness
    Trees change perspective

    So there is my offering.

  11. Gibblet says:

    ice trail down driveway
    neighbor’s broken water line
    can’t dig frozen dirt

  12. Anniel says:

    Let’s all head for the Haiku Competition in Japan! Would they think we’re great or what? BTW, no rhyming rules, do what you will.

  13. Gibblet says:

    Tropical warm breeze
    I’m floating in the ocean
    Please don’t wake me up

  14. Glenn Fairman says:

    I don’t have the haiku gene, sorry

  15. Gibblet says:

    white cacoon of ice
    just the sound of rushing air
    waiting in the car…

    why do I wait here
    contributing body heat?
    doors are frozen shut

  16. Anniel says:

    The problem with Haiku is that one becomes accustomed to truncated thoughts. I have to let my brain out freely for awhile. Or it could be possible that truncating my thoughts is a good thinking skill. It’s too early in the morning to tell.

    • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

      As your daughter will know, the Japanese love word-play. As I recall, much, if not most, of Japanese humor is built around this.

      The very brevity of Haiku allows for a person to come up with a number of different interpretations. It seems to me that much of Asian poetic and philosophical thought is like this, i.e. it is not explicit. Perhaps this is in reaction to the extreme regimentation of actual daily life which one finds in Asian society, or at least used to find.

  17. Anniel says:

    This whole thing has been so much fun to me. I’ll have to consider extreme regimentation. My much loved Taiwanese neighbor fits that description though.

  18. Anniel says:

    days of bright sunshine
    frost still gleams on twig and branch
    But north wind rises

    • Anniel says:

      I think I have to let you know that the hoar frost and snow kept building up on the trees, on everything, even the mailbox, until last night when the promised wind finally arrived and blew it all away. Now we can start building frost and snow up again. It truly is beautiful. Daylight lasts now until about 4:35 P.M. But the temperature is dropping down to about -5F to -15F. The wind chill drops things way down. Texas sounds very warm KFZ.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Compared to Alaska, things here have been absolutely tropical. The high in my area today was the low 50’s and it has been raining.
        Overnight it will be in the mid-40’s. Two days from now it is forecast to reach 70.

        I’ll take that over below zero any day.

        Keep bundled up.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          We’ve had a relatively warm January here in Kentucky, with many highs in the 50s (including yesterday), and some even in the 60s. This was also true around Christmas, which was convenient because I forgot my jacket when I visited Elizabeth in Lexington (it was very hectic getting everything out for the trip0.

      • Lucia says:

        It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
        The snow is a-blowin’
        The rivers are flowin’
        The ice is all sheer.
        It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

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