Back to Nature (Published on - Dec. 9, 2005)
Look beyond the horizon during the winter solstice
Photo by Rick Tremmel
May the season bring warmth and happiness.
Thoughts offered a decade ago by Robert Mulluk, an Inupiat Eskimo from Northwest Alaska:

“This is what we have to do. We have to look beyond the horizon because when you look into the horizon, you think that is the end – but it is not. You walk to that horizon again and there is another horizon. You can go all the way around the world in this manner. If we can look at it in that way, we will be better off. Otherwise, we will get too caught up in one simple thing, or one matter, or one problem. We have got to look at it from all angles.”

It is cool this morning and going to get cooler, the weatherman reports.

A much needed rain swathed the area for two days last week painting everything greener than green. The ferns are happy, as are the bromeliads. Oranges, lemons and key limes are bursting with juice.

The lane is littered with thousands of acorns while the squirrels pitch and fuss over just one. The sun is coming up in chartreuse liner shafts across the lawn while sprinklers burst on spraying arcs of diamonds in the rising sun, swaying from side to side like dancers in crinolines and sequins. The morning newspaper is begging to be fetched at the end of the lane, but I’m content with cat in my lap to sit at the picture window – a voyeur gazing upon an unfinished painting.

Art is nature in progress.

An elderly man in a red flannel shirt drags a large plastic container of garbage to the street as his dog runs circles under and around his feet. A pickup truck pauses to turn at the corner bedecked with large red bow on the sleek silver grill. Icicle lights glitter from dangling lines clipped to the fascia of my neighbor’s home across the street, while two doors down an oversized, inflatable snowman lays wilted upon damp grass.

The periwinkles raise their pretty pink heads toward the filtered light while the blue plumbago blossoms wait patiently for the warmth of daytime to officially arrive. The winter sun is slower than usual to rise, but quicker to escape at the end of the day.

We are less than 20 days from the winter solstice, the shortest day of our year. While others north of us are outfitted in the latest technical, wind stopper jackets and gloves, making snowmen out of real snow, shoveling ice from the driveways and spraying de-icer on car door locks, we are shivering in the 50s and wearing heavy sweatshirts at the mention of temperatures in the 40s.

Memory takes me back to a morning around this same time of year while living in an old farm house out on the middle of the Canadian prairies. It was cold. How cold was it? We kept our meat frozen in layers outside in containers. If you walked from the house to the barn it was necessary to cover your face to protect against frost bite.

My dinged up, country road, purple, AMC Concord, needed its engine plugged in when sitting idle to prevent it from cracking. The well camouflaged, white and tan barn owl sat like a sentinel upon the top of a 7-foot fence post which was barely peaking out of a 6-foot snow drift.

He like us, was very aware of his surroundings. His, as our lives depended upon it. It was winter, beautiful, but also a potentially dangerous time of the year. A green wreath hung on the big, white, farmhouse door festooned with burgundy bow.

There was a need to look beyond the horizon to understand the significance of the season. There was a communal need for the celebrations of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

A green wreath hangs on my sunny front door, festooned with burgundy bow. The malls are crowded with busy shoppers and tired cranky children. There’s noise, carols and cheerful Muzac. The scents of cinnamon pinecones, hot coffee and slices of pizza hang heavy in the air.

We are commercially driven to join the multitudes and swarm in festivities celebrated for various cultural premises at this time of year – a CD of carols for Pam, the lighting of eight candles for Alan, or the gifting of handmade cloth for Rose.

It’s all relative, but do we understand within and beyond our own horizon? Whether or not it is warm or cold outside, green or white, we are beings that seek shelter, warmth and camaraderie at this darkest hour. Humankind has been wandering this planet for the very least of five million years, yet we all seek the loving arms of family and the warmth of a fire when the days grow shorter.

It is our nature to be loved and return love. It is our nature to give and receive. It is our nature to celebrate light during darkness. Look beyond the horizon and take a moment to tell someone you love them at this special time of the year back to nature.

Karen can be reached at

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