As gravitational forces propel our lovely planet on its yearly migration around the sun, I find myself once again welcoming my favorite season. On December 21st, the yearly solstice, we will experience the longest night of the year. In my new home in Bangor, we already have about six inches of snow on the ground. I am living on a pond for the first time in my life, and every morning I wake up and look out the front window. Over the last week, I have been watching the daily cycle of freezing and thawing. Today, it appears that freezing is winning; tomorrow that may change.
Yesterday, on the thin layer of ice, I noticed mink tracks. This confirmed my suspicion that there must be at least one mink on the pond. I was starting to wonder, as I spend long days at my computer facing the pond, alternately typing and watching the mergansers and buffleheads float and fold into the water. I imagined the dark mink with the white chin bold against the snowy pond, her bound exploratory in its loops and turns.
Over the last month, the beavers that live in the cove just down the shoreline have been dropping all of the poplar trees that are about 6 inches in diameter near their lodge. The problem is that all of the good trees are next to the road. I am very careful to avoid the limbs as I make that turn in the morning and I enjoy watching their progress on my daily trip to school. The beaver lodge now has a nice-sized winter food cache out front and fresh mud and shingles on the roof. I imagine them warm in their small chamber and wonder how they know how much food they will need to make it through the months ahead.
In this often frenzied part of the year, the Winter Solstice helps me remember that there are other, bigger, cycles than the cycle of shopping, buying and gift wrapping that consumes more than time. Our celebrations connect to a season before people knew the earth spun around the sun and before food was found on shelves. We do not live in that time anymore but if we listen, we will hear the ducks take flight and the ice crystals align in the growing night of winter. In those moments, we turn on our lights, feast on our food cache and find warmth with the people we love.