Darkness and reflection
Winter begins on Dec. 21 according to this year's standard desk calendar. That annual date coincides with a more ancient and variable way of marking the beginning of the "time of darkness" in the Western Hemisphere.
At 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, this year's true winter solstice will occur. It will last a single, solitary moment marking the point when the axial tilt of the earth's polar hemisphere is farthest away from our sun. The solstice also marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.
All quite technical in a way, and somewhat distracting from the symbolic importance of the event, which has been recognized by human societies throughout history.
People once marked the day with prayer, ritual or sacrifice - and with good reason. The winter solstice was a time of reckoning - a time when fruits from the labor of the year before would prove either sufficient, or not. Winter was a time of famine, loss and struggle, and people were acutely aware that not all would survive to enjoy the new year.
We, too, can remember the importance of this symbolic moment, reflecting on what we have sown throughout the year and whether those fruits of our labor can carry us and our families through times of darkness.
At 5:31 a.m., we can also be reminded that a new year of ever-lengthening light lies before us, offering us another opportunity to apply ourselves to the hard work of living, loving and caring for others - planning for a bountiful harvest in the year ahead.
Great response to valued tradition
A strong light shone through the smudged windows at the county fairgrounds Friday afternoon.
The event was the gift basket distribution time for Hood River Christmas Project.
The place, suitably, was the fairgrounds' Community Building.
For this is a prime example of community building.
Many thanks to the Christmas Project board of directors, the many volunteers who loaded, sorted, collected, collated, carried and otherwise had a hand in getting gifts and food to thousands of local residents.
Christmas Project is one of those Hood River traditions that brings people together in a true case of "the spirit of giving."
For many families, the windows of their lives might be smudged, but the food drive and Christmas Project are ways to brighten the season.