Winter solstice traditionally commemorates the end of the growing season – the year’s shortest day and longest night – and return of living things to the soil. As the days begin to lengthen once again, it’s a time of quieting down, introspection, and regeneration for the coming year.
This time of year is always poignant for me, when I remember how special my parents made the holiday seasons – no matter what difficulties were in their lives. My feelings are particularly acute when thinking of my mother, suffering from schizophrenia and raising me largely on her own after my parents’ divorce, yet always making the effort to fill our home with the warmth of delicious holiday foods and love.
After the terrifying Sonoma County wildfires, many resources shared good tips on preventing mass sedimentation and runoff of fire-scarred and ash-rich soil; strategic planting to withstand and survive fire; the sustainable use of compost in restoring fire-damaged land and forests; . Now comes surprisingly good news on the resilient recovery of our landscapes: in the Laguna de Santa Rosa, a huge local watershed, seeds and acorns were spotted soon after the fires, ready to be planted and propagated in preparation for what should be a spectacular wildflower and grass bloom in these fire-adapted areas. Perhaps most astonishing, in the spectacular Pepperwood Preserve, which suffered massive fire damage, animals were observed in camera footage quickly returning to fire-ravaged spots; and the preserve – a mecca for conservation science – will be a major research center in the increasingly important field of fire ecology.
Just as the land needs precious time to restore its energies for the next growing season, so do we humans need this time for our physical and mental health. This year especially – after multiple and constant manmade and natural disasters – we need to observe this period of remembrance, and of gratitude.