This day starts in the darkness of night, which is fitting, with me in the midst of a midwinter night's dream. This night, I can enjoy many hours of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, for it is the 24-hour period north of the equatorial zone with the most hours of darkness. On this ultimate day of rest, even the mighty Sun stands momentarily still in the sky.
We humans call our species homo sapien, thinking man, but many anthropologists believe that a better choice may have been homo ludens, playing man. Play, or recreation, can cover many facets of our life, including our work, and in doing so, give us new energies and pathways to fulfillment.
The story behind the greatest selling recordings of all time: White Christmas written by Irving Berlin and first recorded by Bing Crosby. The song struck a particular chord to those serving overseas and their loved ones at home.
When Mick Jagger sang the Rolling Stones' hit song Satisfaction, he voiced the feelings of many of my generation who found they could not get satisfaction in their lives despite the plethora of "things" available that were supposed to allow us to reach that state. In Get Satisfied: How Twenty People Like You Found the Satisfaction of Enough editor Carol Holst has compiled a small book of essays written by, as you can guess from the subtitle, twenty individuals giving their firsthand accounts of how they found satisfaction.
Whereas the previous night had been a winter wonderland of light snowflakes dancing in the wind, this night a screaming banshee wind drove stinging, hard ice crystals against all that stood in its path. From inside, I heard the angry chatter of ice pellets racing across the attic roof. And around the corners of the house, the moaning wind sang a sorrowful blues. Blizzards are a time for rest, and who can argue with the wind.
While some winter clothing evolved silently in antiquity, several have histories that sparked my interest as much as they warmed my body. Two were invented of necessity: one by a group of British women during wartime; the other by a Maine lad of fifteen.
The Snowflake: Winter's Secret Beauty can best be described as the beautiful marriage of two sides of nature. The first so ranked because it is the aspect of the book that hits you first is the incredibly beautiful photomicrographs of snow crystals by Patricia Rasmussen. The second is the state-of-the-art accounts of the science behind the snow crystal by Kenneth Libbrecht.
The storms of the past week have long filled in, but the winds of one yet to come push rollers across the high-tide beach. I sit...my jacket rustling in the wind...and I feel a spirit moving through me, rustling my soul in sympathetic response. I have known and still find science and poetry intermingled when my Weather Eyes are looking up. In many ways, shapes and spirits, weather brings to me rapture, wonder, a connectedness with the divine. In essence, Enchantment.
Now that the leaves have fallen and the holiday season approaches, I am again faced with the dilemma of Holiday gift giving, and I am sure that you are feeling the same. We have been caught in the more is better syndrome which defines successful giving more by how long the receiver must take to open all the gifts rather than the satisfaction received from any single gift.
In most of North America, cold and wintery weather are common. Our home is our refuge from the cold outdoors, its basic function to maintain a comfortable thermal environment for those living within. Comfort against the winter cold requires using some energy consumption. But energy consumption is expensive both to our bank account and to the environment. If we can reduce our level of energy consumption without sacrificing comfort, we will not only save ourselves money but also reduce our environmental impact.
Thermal comfort is a very subjective feeling affected by the physical laws of heat transfer. While we cannot strictly define what exact combination of environmental factors will produce comfort for all, we can define what the major contributing factors are and act to alter their influences.
Okay, so your life hasn't yet slowed down as you contemplate the living gently lifestyle. Demands on your time continue to come from all sides, and yet an inner voice, spurred perhaps by recent tragedies, still nags you to "get involved." If the above describes you, then Karen M. Jones may have a solution. Her new book The Difference a Day Makes: 365 Ways to Change Your World in Just 24 Hours offers simple actions you can take that can make that difference with a minimum of time commitment and no cash donation.
A much requested article and a fitting subject for winter gentle living. A world of magic engulfs the practice of reading to a degree even wider than the art of daydreaming. In daydreaming, we are limited by the breadth of our own mind. In reading we can enfold into our universe the minds and dreams of every woman and man who have ever set their pens to paper. Reading allows you to soar with the eagles by removing the restrictions of the physical world from your soul. And that, my friend, is magic.
This is a link to Dr Kathleen Jenks' marvelous page on the Winter Solstice and Winter season as seen through the myths and customs of peoples around the world. The page includes links to the many winter festivals of people around the world. Its illustrations alone are worth the visit and Kathleen's opening essay is most inspiring.
A while back, I had the opportunity to address a group of school teachers. In one presentation, the speaker showed us an overhead presenting an illustration that he felt was ideally designed for his students, but he did not know the illustrator's name. I knew the minute the slide went up, before he had even mentioned its anonymity: it was a work of Eric Sloane., artist, cultural historian and weather artist.
One of the significant differences between winter here on southern Vancouver Island and those other areas of the continent covered by winter ice and snow is its seasonal aroma. The only winter smells I can recall from my years living in the Great Lakes Basin came from human sources. But here in Victoria and surrounding countryside, a variety of winter scents are apparent. The aroma of wet cedar, the smell of the sea.
The North American way of life today is not designed for the slow, natural pace of our bodies. Its fast pace with demands at every turn stresses the body and mind which, if uncontrolled, will eventually lead to a feeling of despair and dis-ease. If not alleviated, stress can cause one or more chronic diseases.
While on a recent walk outside the city, I more fully noticed the changes that were taking place as we approached mid-winter. Here in Victoria, seasonal changes are more subtle than those on the continent, tempered by the surrounding ocean waters. There was no denying that nature had retreated for a time, pulling back from the harvest and activity of autumn, awaiting the coming of spring.
If you have ever trudged through deep winter snows, you can begin to imagine the difficulty of travelling through polar regions with common footgear and I am not talking about shoes versus boots. I was a graduate student when I first tried the specialized winter equipment of skis and snowshoes. I found both interesting methods of exploring the fields and woods near my home in Ontario.
Serendipity is a fun way to improve your knowledge base and your life. I have realized that the processes of formal education have become too structured and misguided, and therefore usually stifle the creative process. Since learning to direct my own education, I have discovered that following the path of serendipity provides the most fun and the greatest and fastest gain in knowledge and wisdom.
Home sprouting can supply a delicious, varied fresh harvest quickly and inexpensively without the environmental disadvantages of commercial agriculture and shipping. Sprouts are easily grown and easily digested, and contain an abundance of vitamins and minerals as well as simple sugars and amino acids.
The snow people, known colloquially as snowmen, have always been silent inhabitants of the winter season, but, like the Sasquatch of the Pacific Coastal Mountains, little is truly known about the race. In particular, we do not know where they go during the warm seasons of the year. Some say they move underground or underwater to avoid the heat; others that they migrate north with the frost line, ultimately hiding within the boreal forests until the cold again spreads southward.
Have you ever dreamed of living to be 100? Have those dreams been tempered by a belief that the majority of those years will be spent in ill health and reduced capacity, eventually ending in a nursing home waiting for death to finally come?
"Money, money, money." There, did I get your attention? I got mine. Now what? My boss says the focus of this article should be money and personal finances. If I knew much about money, this column wouldn't be called Poor Keith's Almanac!