Post header for Winter Solstice 2018

Winter Solstice 2018, New Year, and the Color Black

Full Moon and Meteor Shower at Winter Solstice 2018

Winter solstice 2018 in Northern Hemisphere will be at 4:23 PM on Friday, December 21. This is the longest night of the year, and although I typically think of it as a dark night, it won’t be this year.

With a full moon and meteor shower going on, it’s likely to be quite bright outside after the sun goes down.

Solstice Seems to be a better “New Year” Marker

I’ve always wondered why the winter solstice isn’t the marker for a new year. So before starting this blog post, I looked it up. And now that I know, I’m surprised that New Year’s eve is such an accepted celebration in today’s political and religious climate. The reasons for the date makes a lot more sense to me now. You can read more about it at EarthSky.org if you like.

I still like the winter solstice better, though, lol.

And it seems a fitting time of year to stock up on one of my favorite handmade watercolor paint colors: Black. I make the black from wood char, and this year I’m going to make a special batch of black paint from the wood that I burn on Mid-winter’s Day. I’ll call it Winter Solstice 2018.

For Winter Solstice 2018 my musings are about the symbolism of black and the making of a special batch of handmade watercolors.

It’ll look just like the other blacks that I make, though, so the only difference will be the metaphysical.

If you want to read more about how I make the paint, visit my Paleo Paints website.

 

The Color Black from a Physical and Metaphysical Standpoint

Technically, each color is represented by specific wavelengths on a spectrum that ranges from red to violet. Basically, the same colors you see in a rainbow. Black isn’t a ‘color’ because it has no specific wavelength. And neither is white, because it contains all of the visible wavelengths and has no wavelength of its own. (https://education.seattlepi.com/not-list-black-white-colors-physics-3426.html)

White is all of the colors in the visible light wavelengths, and black is the absence of all colors in the visible wavelengths. White contains all colors and black absorbs all colors. It is the metaphysical struggle between these two that give all of life purpose and meaning.

Just as a blank white page contains all the possibilities of what can be, the inky black screen of the resting mind is there to fill that page.

In nature, all living things are in a state of decay. All systems are in a state of decay. And all living things are also in a state of change.

The word ‘decay’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘rotting’, although that is one meaning of it. As I am using it, and even in the unpleasant image of rotting, to decay means to break down to basic components.

Balance and Stasis

Balance is by nature a state of expended energy. When something is in balance, it is being pulled in opposite directions and compensation must be made to stay in balance. One little change can upset the balance if the thing in balance isn’t able to compensate for that change.

White is the complete and total opposite of black, and it represents the active state. All the other colors in between represent the struggle and chaos as the two opposites strive to gain an edge.

All things strive to move toward a state of chaos or randomness (https://www.physlink.com/education/askexperts/ae261.cfm). Without balance, there is chaos. So from a color standpoint, black represents the the resting state. It also represents chaos.

In nature, temperatures ‘want’ to return to extremely cold. Bodies want to be at rest. Light wants to return to darkness. Colors want to meld to black.

Black and White depend upon and feed each other.

It is the Balance of Life that holds it all in play. Once the game is over, it fades to black.

Black represents the beginning, and the end. The alpha and the omega. It is the natural state of existence. Only life pulls out color, warmth, and motion. This is why I say the Universe is a living organism. Once it dies, it all returns to cold, dark, black.

And yet black holds the potential of all possibilities of warmth, light, and colors. Of life. This is because it takes a ‘black body’ to heat up and emit the white light. Again, the two polar opposites cannot exist without each other.

Almost all of the concepts of religion are about the struggle between good and evil, or the balance between light and dark. In psychology there is the struggle between our nature’s ‘good side’ and ‘bad side’, with the supposedly ‘bad’ side being called the ‘shadow’ side, which makes me think of darkness and black, or evil and wrong.

In my worldview, it is not so much right or wrong, good or bad, but the struggle to maintain the balance between opposite pulls. This struggle is evident almost everywhere you look once you start to pay attention to the symbolism.

What I’ll be Doing to Celebrate a Return of the Light

So Winter Solstice 2018 is going to be a time of dabbling in the dark and welcoming in the light as I make black paint pigments and look forward to new colors going down on my blank white canvases in 2019.

To read about the making and use of my black handmade watercolor paint, read my post over at the Paleo Paints website. You can read my previous Winter Solstice posts too:

Winter Solstice 2015

Winter Solstice 2014

Too Many Irons in the Fire?

Too Many Irons in the Fire

This is a fiery sunset photo taken several years ago and it prompted my idea to write this post about having too many irons in the fire. Dense dark clouds hung low on the horizon, allowing the setting sun to illuminate so brightly as a backdrop giving the appearance of wildfires raging on the distant mountains.

If you’ve ever read any of my flash fiction based on photo prompts, you’ll understand why the image isn’t something you might immediately associate with the topic I’ve connected to today. Images stimulate my imagination in roundabout ways. The connections I make to them aren’t exactly direct, but I think this one is close.

And if you’ve been reading my blog for more than a year, you’ve probably seen this post. Every year I go through the same process at about this time. So to save some time, I took this post out of archives, updated it a little bit, and turned it back out.

Too Many Irons in the Fire

If you have the tendency, like me, to take on too many projects at once then you’ll know exactly why imagery of fire brings this saying to mind. “Too many irons in the fire”.

I’m not sure of the original meaning of this phrase, but when I hear it I think of cattlemen of a decade or so ago, rounding up cows. Branding irons in a fire.

If there’s too many irons piled on the fire, then none of them will heat evenly and the branding of the cattle will be more chaotic. The irons become tangled in that pile.

My Chaotic State of Mind

As it relates to my topic of musing for today, I have a tendency to get too many things going at once. And then all of the projects suffer because it’s not possible to allocate enough time to each all of the time. My tasks become jumbled like the piled on irons in the fire.

As it relates to nature, I think this is a uniquely human condition. I wonder how natural an occurrence among us it is? Does it only happen to a certain type of person, or is it random – afflicting everyone at some point?

I’ve taken a few irons out recently. It’s usually at this time of year when I notice just how many irons are in the fire. Because it’s tax time and tax time means I have to focus on ledgers and tax stuff.

Slipping through the Cracks

Although I’m still managing to get some writing done, other tasks as slipping. I have a piece of art work due by the end of this week and I’ve yet to start on it. It’s one to accompany the Green Dragon I finished last week. That must be remedied today. I’ve been reading up on the tax information for this year and trying to get an understanding of depreciation. That’s the one aspect of filing that keeps sending me to a CPA instead of doing them myself. I want to understand how to do this.

Taxes and art are not exactly occupying the same space in my brain, so switching back and forth from one to the other isn’t easy.

The process of figuring out what needed to be done, which forms needed to be filed, and what expenses could be deducted, and on and on ad nauseum keep me so occupied that very few of the other irons in my fire have received much attention lately.

I’m almost done with the tax headache and we may still end up needing to bring them to an accountant. But at least I have a better understanding of how to keep better records this year because of the struggle I’ve undergone over the past few weeks. (And I say this every year. But it does get better each year, so I’m not considering that a total failure.)

Clearing Out at Least One of the Irons in the Fire

Now that the most demanding iron is nearly out of the fire, I can add some of the other ones back in. And rekindle the flames. This fire of mine is a creative one and each iron is a desire to create. To create an art of the imagination, whether in the form of words in a story or photos arranged as visual art or seed-planting or business-growing.

What desires do you have burning and are you plagued with having too many irons in the fire?

 

Stone Tool – Relic of a Long Bygone Era

I knew when I saw the rounded hand-sized rock that it was more than “just a rock”. It was a stone tool, & probably several thousand years old.

Stone tool of early Native Americans in the Ozarks - a rounded grinding stone.

There is something special about holding a stone I know once was held in another woman’s hand, possibly as long ago as 6000 B.C. (I’ve since found other references that date tools like this one to only about 1500 years ago. so I don’t really know when it was last used, but “a long time ago” seems to suffice, lol.) It’s exciting to find arrowheads and spear points as well, but they don’t carry the same metaphysical connection the women’s tools do.

This grinding stone is fatter on one end to fit comfortably in the palm.
Fatter on one end to fit comfortably in the palm.

Stone Tool

The shape insisted that it be held with the fatter side against the skin of my palm.  I know this because my fingers only felt “right” in certain spots. There are barely perceptible indentations in the stone, just perfect for my fingers. The weight and balance makes the holding of it uncomfortable in any other position and it just feels *right* in the one instinctive grip.

My fingers curled over toward the rounded edges of the more narrow side. I knew, with no reservations at all, this was exactly where another woman’s fingers gripped this very same rock thousands of years before. Thousands of years. Consider the enormity of that statement. I know you’ve run your hands over antiques before, perhaps those your grandparents left behind when they passed from this world. I love how that feels, to make that physical contact with something we know a loved one also touched at some point.

This rock wasn’t held by one of my ancestors in blood, but she knew intimately this land I now call home. We are connected also by right of genetics in that we are both women and both know the desire to make food or medicine. My desire to do this is manifest in other ways, usually, like going to the grocery store or by growing vegetables in my garden or harvesting the medicinal plants that grow here. The urge and drive to provide food  for loved ones or self is the same. I wrote a post about this a few years ago and have reposted it here, if you’d like to read it. It’s called Hunt Food, Gather Firewood.

rounded grinding stone 3  rounded grinding stone 4

It’s a pestle rock that likely originally had a matching bowl used as mortar, but the bowl was nowhere to be seen. This was a tool used day after day to crack soft nuts or acorns and grind meal. Most likely it was also used to grind herbs and roots for medicines. It could also have been used to sand and smooth the shafts of arrows or limbs of a bow. If this one had been used often in this way, though, there would be deep grooves from passing the rock over the same shaped item over and over. The rock is made of sandstone. I’m not sure whether it was originally made of clay and sandstone and then fired, or if it was shaped in some other way to become the pleasing offset-rounded shape that it is now.

Here’s a link to a text on the Ozark Bluff Dwellers. It’s fascinating to read about the people who lived in this same area so long ago: https://archive.org/stream/ozarkbluffdwel00harr/ozarkbluffdwel00harr_djvu.txt.

One of the side effects of using sandstone tools like this was grit in the food. This likely caused havoc on the teeth, as suggested by this study: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/2985353/posts.

I’ll bring it with me when I set up my booth this year during the market so other people can hold and feel this connection to a bygone era of many years past. It’s a connection, a very strong connection, to our human nature and to a time when people lived with no separation at all between themselves and Nature.

Here’s another stone tool I found in almost the same place on the driveway. This one also has one way to hold it. There’s a dimple in the top where my thumb desires to press. I think this one was used also for cracking nuts but perhaps it was used as well to break the bonds in hides so it would become soft and pliable during tanning. This rock is not made of the same material. It’s very smooth on the surface.

An elongated stone tool of the early Native Americans of the Ozarks.

 

 

Some websites for more information:

http://associations.missouristate.edu/mas/macquest/archoverview/ArchOverview.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mano_(stone)

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/2985353/posts

https://archive.org/stream/ozarkbluffdwel00harr/ozarkbluffdwel00harr_djvu.txt

What is Humanity’s Role in Nature?

Humanity’s Role in Nature

Have you ever thought about humanity’s role in nature? Our various mythologies and religious origin stories offer some ideas that are generally accepted by many, but those are conflicting and I still wonder. Are we here to rule? To support and steward? Or perhaps to destroy?

Our current political, economical, and sociological situations have me wondering about humanity’s role in nature, in general.

Humanity's role in nature - what exactly is it?
The beauty of nature often awes me.

Beauty and Awe

So often I am awed by the beauty of nature. And then I am intrigued by the capacity of humans to experience that beauty, by the impulse to ponder. I feel most human, most in communion with the Divine, when I am witness to the extraordinary normalcy of Nature’s glory.

Maybe not effortlessly, but seemingly without thought and pre-planning, the cycle of life continues. One phase leads to the next without fail. The Great Mother marches onward without a glance back to see who’s lagging behind, who’s keeping up.

Vicious and Horrific

Harsh? Yes. But that precision march is what keeps chaos from ruling. The illusion that we are able to control Nature is the reason we most often refuse to keep up with the cycles and why we so often fail to observe and work in concert with the cycles. Instead we try to create our own rule of order.

And yet, life and death still happens. In spite of the flinches we experience when death strikes too close to home, still the world turns without a hitch.

No Pretense, No Propriety

Everything in nature carries on without questioning whether what they say, think, or do is wrong or right, or whether it will make someone smile or frown, draw toward or repulse in horror.

Nature extends to that which is both beautiful and horrific in its reach.

It is not existence without consequence. Some might say selfish. But that’s not true. In nature, everything plays a role, everything works together.

The humans who left this evidence lived much closer in proximity to humanity's role in nature - but I still can't clearly see what it was.
The humans who left this evidence lived much closer in proximity to humanity’s role in nature – but I still can’t clearly see what it was.

Nature directs the entire orchestra, not just the individuals. Only when all the voices are heard will the symphony be harmonic.

Everything *is* or *isn’t*. No pretense, no propriety.

In our man-made constructs of home and hearth, we either try to keep up or deny the progression as Nature marches past. Nothing is immune.

Whether we like it or not, admit it or not, humanity reflects the nature of Nature – both beautiful and horrific in its reach.

That’s why I love it here near the wilds. It makes it easier to see the human realm within the natural realm and, to me, the perspective is comforting.

fungi in the wilds at Wild Ozark
We have so many beautiful fungi out here. This is one of my favorite photos.

I often wonder about humanity’s role in Nature. On a Universal scale. Are we builders or the decomposers? Or are we perhaps a mixture of both?

Are humans just another form of decomposers?

There are many decomposers at work in the ecosystems of our planet. If you look at smaller and smaller systems, you’ll find repetitions in scale of the same kind of work. Oxidizers work on the molecular level, breaking down and scavenging any electrons it can wrest from unsecure bonds. Mushrooms are at work on the everyday realm, breaking down just about anything that once lived a vital life.

What if humans are decomposers on a planetary scale? And if so, why is this not simply part of Nature, just like the fungi and the molecular reducers?

chickweed with orange fungi

Just as there are checks and balances in action on the molecular scale, with the reducers balancing out the oxidizers and the fungi activity resisted by immune activity of living things, so too there must be equal and opposing forces to the destructive habits of humans.

Perhaps such is found in the form of other humans inclined to equal or opposite behaviors.

Duality exists on so many levels in nature: predator and prey, night and day, life and death, male and female… Just as some bacteria cause illness and some also maintain health, maybe the nature of humanity is dual.

Perhaps it is our nature to tear down and also build up.

Maybe we are the terraformers of the Universe.

If this is our nature, then we are not acting unnaturally in our destructive tendencies. Nor in our conservative and protective efforts. Maybe it just is what it is, and we are both destructive and creative, horrific and beautiful, just as Nature intended.


 

This topic on the natural-ness of man was sparked by a conversation I had with my youngest son one day a couple of years ago. I can’t remember the exact subject of the conversation but it had to do with birds being natural building nests of things they find in nature, why are human’s houses considered any less natural than the bird’s nest just because we went through extra measures, enabled by our more complex natures, to procure the building supplies?

Random Nature Connection – Old Things and A Force to Be Reckoned

Is Nature a force to be reckoned with and hopefully conquered? This post is a prompt to think about our relationship with nature. Join us!

old ford tractor

I won’t have an essay today, just a few thoughts about this photo and the connection it represents to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts, too. If you blog, feel free to link to your post about this photo or topic in the comments below. This is the 5th Random Nature Connection post in my series.

A Force to Be Reckoned

This old tractor is one of my favorite photo subjects. It looks pretty no matter what the season out here. But it’s an “old thing” and it rarely sees much activity anymore. Back in the day when my grandfather used this tractor to cultivate his fields I doubt the people thought much about reconnecting to nature. Nature was still very much a part of everyday life, and I imagine that connection wasn’t looked upon with fondness most of the time.

Nature was a force to be reckoned with and hopefully conquered. But it was also something that people worked with, knowing there were limitations on what could or could not be expected to yield in the battle for dominance.

Join Me!

Use this photo or another and link your blog post in the comments below. Here’s a tweet you can use to invite others:

Join me for ! https://www.wildozark.com/a-force-to-be-reckoned/

Random Nature Connection – Resistance to Change

When I see the ice lifting tiny rocks and forming into shards and columns in this way, it reminds me of the rune Isa and causes me to reflect on how resistant all of nature is to change.

This is a Random Nature Connection post

If you’d like to join in and blog an essay on this topic, please do! You can join now or retroactively
by blogging on the previous topics and continue with us in the future.

ice shards ice lifting rock

Resistance is Natural

By “we”, as I used it in the introduction to this post, I mean all citizens of this natural world, not just humans and not just animals.

Humans are notoriously resistant to change. But animals are too. In fact, it seems that everything consisting of weight and mass are quite resistant. I know from experience that rocks are some of the most resistant things of all. This resistance to change is so ubiquitous it must be a totally natural phenomenon.

Yes, I know there is physics involved in the rock’s resistance, but that’s purely natural too. The entire Universe obeys the laws of physics, it’s just our understanding of it that changes. And that, too, only happens after great resistance from the scientific community.

Is Air Resistant to Change?

At first you’d think that things like air, water, fluids, and fluff are not resistant very much at all. They flow, ebb and tide, and float in what seems complete ease. But try to change the course of water as it flows where it desires. Not so easy after all. The same applies to wind, fluids and fluff. If you’ve ever dropped an egg or spilled oil on the floor, you’ll see an example of a fluid that resists. Its natural inclination is to spread and it resists your efforts to contain it.

Our bodies obviously resist change – losing weight or building muscle is sometimes extremely difficult because of that.

My Resistant Mind

The mind is like the wind and flows easily. Mine is fairly scattered right now as I’m trying to round up my thoughts into a cohesive structure. Stray ideas keep popping up like maverick calves breaking away from the herd.

It isn’t until we try to stop the chatter, or channel our thinking into certain patterns that it becomes resistant. Then once those patterns are established, changing them is difficult. As children, we learn to think in certain ways. These ways are either hindrances or helpful to us as we age. Trying to “undo” thought patterns established during childhood is a great illustration of the resistance offered by the mind.

Meditation is a way of channeling the mind, and yet this practice seems to make it more pliable and free-flowing – less resistant.

Isa

There is a rune that symbolizes this resistance to change. It’s called Isa. Learning about the meaning of this rune has given me another perspective, an understanding of the benefits of stillness at times where such qualities are needed.

Formula for Change

For those desiring to enact change in their lives, there is a formula for this and it’s pretty interesting. It’s called The Formula for Change and it was first developed by David Gleicher in the early 60’s. You might find it an interesting read, too.

Summary

Resistance to change is natural. It is part of Nature itself. Change is a natural occurrence. The key is knowing when one or the other is beneficial and how and when to bring about the desired state.

Ice surrounding branch

Your Thoughts?

I’d love to hear your perspective on this topic. Chime in either through a post of your own or a comment below!

 

 

 

First Thoughts

What is the first thought that enters your mind on waking? Are you savoring vestiges of pleasant dreams, or do you wake up already planning the day…or is there a sense of ‘oh no, not again” ?

Sometimes the first thing I do is glance to see if the sun is up yet. Depending on the visual cue, my first thought after that is usually something along the lines of “What time is it?” which leads into either wondering if the coffee is done yet or cold already.

I’m feeling contemplative this morning. Just curious what kinds of things are on the minds of everyone else. Usually, my first thoughts fall into the first category I mentioned of savoring vestiges of pleasant dreams, but they quickly lead into the coffee contemplations. I rarely wake up in a bad mood.

photo of sunbeams