“Winter is Coming” is the motto of House Stark, one of the Great Houses of Westeros in George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones book series. The meaning behind these words is one of warning and constant vigilance.
Sunday afternoon we got another sure sign that “Winter is Coming” to Mountaintop with snow arriving early Sunday afternoon and falling into evening. I ventured out on my first post hunting season walk and saw no one experiencing the 26° weather on foot or otherwise.
It was probably the coldest day I have walked outside for several years. Dressing in warm layers and donning a warm hat, scarf and gloves kept me comfortable enough for my outing. If I miss a day or two of walking my body calls me out to enjoy whatever season I am in.
Our real winter is coming next week on Wednesday December 21, 2016, 5:44 am EST. On the shortest day of the year we experience the least amount of daylight in 24 hours and longest night of the year. On that “day” we have 9 hours and 11 minutes of daylight here in Mountaintop. The sun rises at 7:26 a. m. and sets at 4:38 p. m. It marks that day that the daylight hours will start to increase. It is only a minute or two a day, but by June 21 and the summer solstice we will be enjoying a 15 hour 7 minute “day” as long as the nights are now.
Also known as the Winter Solstice, the sun’s path has reached its southernmost position in the sky. The earth retains some heat from the summer and fall and a gradual cooling process continues over the next two months and the coldest temperatures will be recorded. The same pattern holds true for the summer solstice in June, as the year’s highest temperatures are recorded later, in July and August.
So “Winter is Coming” now. The cold dark mornings and the short window of strong light between 11 a. m. and 2 p. m. each day is changing next week. I am so thankful to enjoy the bright lights of Christmas for this final week before the days begin to lengthen.
And just to put this week’s frigid snowy days in perspective look back at this same week in 2015. “It is December 13, the temperature is 64 degrees and I am writing this column on my front porch. Sunset will arrive in less than an hour and the holiday lights in my neighborhood will soon brighten up the night. Mountaintop and most of the east coast has just enjoyed the warmest mid December temperatures ever. The grass is still green the spring shrubs are starting to bud and now rifle deer season is over. My woodland hike is now safe again. December 2015 is a gift. I hope the gift keeps on giving,” I wrote in this column last year. Weather is always a surprise.
Christmas Season It is 10 days until Christmas Eve
and many families are shopping, decorating, making cookies and enjoying celebrations of all sizes and with many different friends and groups. Just about every church has some sort of Christmas program and most have special services too. After all the preparation we stop to remember that Christmas is in celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ so long ago in Bethlehem. There is so much war and unrest in the area of the world where Jesus lived and taught his message of love. Our wish for Peace on Earth is never fully realized, for there is always somewhere a place that is suffering.
As we wind down our gift shopping this week, let us be thankful for all that we have, and pass on that thought to everyone in our families. Sometimes it is not a tangible gift that we give, but time and energy to a person in need. A phone call, letter, email—whatever you do to keep in touch with friends, family and neighbors goes a long way in this special season.