500 Things

No, this is not one of those annoying blog posts that lists a certain number of things, where the blogger just looks stuff up and cuts and pastes. Oops that an opinion, not the start of a post. Anyway, 500 always feels like it’s halfway to somewhere, and it’s popping up for me.

Master Naturalist 500 hour pin.

First, I managed to reach the milestone of doing 500 volunteer hours with the Texas Master Naturalist program. That came faster than expected, thanks to doing the chapter blog, Nature Along the El Camino Real, being secretary substitute, and being president. I won’t make the next 500 so fast, since my iNaturalist observations here at the Hermits’ Rest no longer are acceptable as hours. You aren’t supposed to observe on your own property. Those of us who live on large properties are not thrilled. And with COVID, it’s hard to go many places. But, yay 500 hours. It’s a glass half full, glass half empty deal!

That was fast.

The other 500 achievement was that I got the notice that this blog has 500 followers. Surprise! That came only a little over a month after it hit 400 on December 4. To contrast, it took 7 months to get from 300 to 400 followers. This reminds me of how I track my exercise on my watch. I’m always thrilled when I hit a milestone, even though I’m not competing against anyone other than myself!

I see some sharing algorithms at work, which is fine. I’m just glad for the readers who are real people and who comment and share with me. Getting to know new friends and learning more about old friends is the best part of sharing my journaling online. And MY blog readers, at least, aren’t mean. I get enough of that in other arenas.

The mysterious hallway henge at the winter solstice.

This is a stretch, but I wanted to share this. The solstices are halfway points through the year, ya know, .500. This year, Lee discovered that we had oriented the ranch house to where the morning sun on the winter solstice shines straight through the upstairs hallway!

We didn’t get a picture on December 21, but the above photo was taken by Lee soon after. I remember being blinded by the morning sun blasting my eyes for about a week! Isn’t that cool? Hallway henge at Hermits’ Rest. Future generations will film dorky shows wondering why the builders of this house oriented it this way!

Thanks

Thanks for all the kind thoughts about yesterday’s post about my son. It helped me get through a long, hard day of endless meetings and people expecting me to solve problems that I can’t. It’s a challenging time, and I don’t post all the stuff here, believe it or not.

I thought y’all might enjoy some positive news today. There’s more to come. I’m doing lots to keep an upbeat focus and do what I can to improve life. What little things are you doing?

Warmest Solstice Greetings

Last night, as the official solstice occurred, I went out and looked at the Jupiter and Saturn confluence (or whatever it’s called), humming “Star of Wonder, Star of Light” to myself. It was a welcome getaway from the people in the house once again discussing why they don’t like my stovetop (this is said with a laugh).

A doe in Illinois, not Texas. Photo from: @castlemandesign via Twenty20

The morning dawned frosty and silvery, with the sun practically rising in the south, it seemed to me. I was given the gift of watching a herd of deer bounding across one of the nearby fields, with the buck turning briefly to look at me. That’s enough to warm my heart for the rest of the day.

In my office, which is a bit of a mess while I await my new glass shelves, I lit all the available fake and real candles, and of course have a roaring fire in the fake fireplace. Sitting here in the darkened room gives me plenty of time to reflect on all that’s transpired since last Yule, when Lee and I were happily preparing for our supposedly solo trip to Bandera.

Don’t these look pretty?

This evening, I plan to light all the candles in the house and pretend I have a Yule log in the fireplace (unless I can convince someone to light a fire). This year, especially, the longest night of the year provides time to finish mourning the losses in the past months and look for the glimmer of light that’s approaching. I’m glad there are now vaccines for essential workers.

Solstices Past

I haven’t done a memoir in a little while, so I’ll share how my family used to celebrate the solstice. It was a lot of fun when the boys were young. As they got old enough to understand, we explained to them what the winter solstice meant, and how it was celebrated in the past.

These are all the cheap fake candles that still work after a year.

We had a tradition of having a fire, lighting all the candles in the house (and I had lots back then, since the kids’ dad was not deathly opposed to scented candles), doing a little ceremony where we shared the best thing from the past year and the worst thing (these were often pretty funny), then selecting ONE present from under the Christmas tree to open before Christmas (we also celebrated Christmas!).

Continue reading “Warmest Solstice Greetings”

Bring on the Light!

This is me sending you peace and kindness at the solstice. Have a cool Yule!

Yule greetings to all you blog readers! Thank you for being there, and for brightening my life with your likes and comments. I wanted to send you a personal Yule greeting, since my work commitments didn’t allow me to write cards or anything.

This time of year always makes me feel closer to the rhythms of the seasons and to the wonders that the Earth keeps showing us. As the morning sun came into my east-facing window today, I marveled at how far the sun moves between the seasons. And then I thought of my southern hemisphere friends who have the same marvel, only on their longest daylight of the year.

Our small but bright portable tree makes the dime-store bows sparkle merrily.

This year in particular I have really appreciated all the holiday lights around homes and businesses. They honor the ancient traditions of burning special fires (Yule logs, outdoor trees with candles) to make the dark days cheery and bright. I have my pop-up tree here at the rental house, but I know my solar lights at the ranch are greeting passers-by, and our sleigh of trees cheers up the Austin house.

Anita and I drove around our Austin neighorhood last week and oohed and aahed just like when we were kids riding around with our parents. I remember that my mother really loved to ride around Gainesville, Florida to look at lights way back in the 60s. No innflatable Star Wars characters or projected lights on houses back then, but w did enjoy silver trees in people’s windows, and lots of huge electric lights. (I will share Fredericksburg lights, and I hope lights from Johnson City later this week!)

I’m captivated by the shiny highlights in the flowers on the poinsettia. As all us fans of botany know, those white things are leaves.

Even in winter, there is much beauty to be seen, so I am wishing you the time to take a look around you and savor the changing seasons with your own family, friends, and communities.

PS: I have a whole bunch of subjects I want to share, so get ready!