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There’s a proverb that says It is darkest before the dawn. After December 21, the light begins its inevitable return, and the days grow longer.  The mid-December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and brings the shortest day – and the longest night – of the year.

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Such precision we have about the solstice these days. No one’s really sure how long ago humans recognized the winter solstice as a turning point – the day that marks the return of the sun. One delightful little book written in 1948, 4,000 Years of Christmas, puts its theory right up in the title. The Mesopotamians were first, it claims, with a 12-day festival of renewal, designed to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for one more year.

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“Shall we liken Christmas to the web in a loom? There are many weavers, who work into the pattern the experience of their lives. When one generation goes, another comes to take up the weft where it has been dropped. The pattern changes as the mind changes, yet never begins quite anew. At first, we are not sure that we discern the pattern, but at last we see that, unknown to the weavers themselves, something has taken shape before our eyes, and that they have made something very beautiful, something which compels our understanding.”

-Earl W. Count, 4,000 Years of Christmas

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Other than the few facts above, and the annual radio/TV/Internet reminder about the winter solstice, I must admit I know little else. That’s why I read the NYT science section and listen to the NPR Science Friday podcast.  The journalists and guests demystify why apples fall down or how echolocation works or what’s with those brain waves, anyway.  The language is clear and they assume the reader/listener knows nothing. (A fine assumption, in my case ~ I am not offended.)

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I’m thinking that I can apply their logical style and storytelling skill to any nonfiction piece, on any topic.  Rachel Carson launched an entire movement with her book, Silent Spring. She wasn’t a writer. She was a marine biologist who could think on the page and was passionate about her subject.  Did you ever notice how scientists who write well start with one narrow fact and lead the reader from there to an understanding of the broader concept?  Think: Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat), Stephen Jay Gould (The Panda’s Thumb), Charles Darwin (Voyage of the Beagle).

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I’m hooked on Nature lit.  I spend lots of time hiking – in national parks and forests, preserves and the woods behind my house.  I revere trees ~  Nature’s way of Delivering Happiness.

Toni

Happiness Song #15  ~ A Personal Favorite

Courtesy of Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters

3 thoughts on “IT IS DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN

  1. Toni–I love your proclamation, I revere trees, and so agree with that sentiment! There was a maple tree my dad planted in our yard on Beach Street to mark my birth and their move to their first (and only!) house. It seemed to take forever for it to grow big enough to sit under on hot summer days. It became the sheltering space for us as we sat and waited for him to die that last summer. The tree had seen it all, survived horrible Goshen winters, and watched us grow. It was our place to cherish and remember our good life. No wonder we should revere trees–they give us so much and ask nothing in return!! M.

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