What Did You Do Today?

cloudy day walk 2What did you do today? Traditionally on this holiday, people dress in colorful clothes, children hunt for dyed eggs, and families have a meal together. I wore dark clothes and walked for an hour enjoying the clouds, the thin mist, the perfect weather, around 60 degrees. I had a different view than the one pictured here, but it’s close enough.

Then I drove to my 90-year-old parents’ home, rang the doorbell with my knuckle since I had some chocolates in one hand and a mini live orchid in the other. We chatted for a couple hours, planned an outing for next week, and I drove home, happy with my perfect, cloudy day.

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What Did You Do New Years Day?

Golden Gate BridgeWhat did you do on this auspicious first day of 2015?

As you can see, I was floating under the Golden Gate Bridge…in a boat, of course. A friend of ours bought a 35 foot motor boat recently and he invited us to join him, his girlfriend, and his experienced sailor friend for the first long trip out of the Berkeley Marina. The weather was cold but clear and the water was calm. At 10:00 a.m. there weren’t any other boats in the bay but ours. Too early for people who celebrated New Years Eve late last night, we guessed. We passed the Polar Bear Club at Aquatic Park and saw a few people who take their annual swim in the cold water on this holiday. We passed Angel Island, Treasure Island, pelicans, sea gulls, and I saw a seal swim in the opposite direction from us, with only his head sticking out of the water.

When we docked back at the marina four hours later, our friend fell in the water when he tried to pull the boat closer to the dock. We worried that he would be squeezed between the boat and the pier, but the sailor friend drove the boat away, and Mitchell helped our friend out of the water. He was fine, laughed, and learned what not to do in the future. With the boat safe in the berth, we had a late lunch and then champagne to celebrate my birthday today. In spite of the cold, I enjoyed every minute.

And, I figured out where the antagonist in my novel is going to hide. You guessed it, on a boat in the Berkeley Marina.

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

winter soltice at stonehenge broader view

Today, December 21, 2014 is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year north of the Equator. Tonight will be the longest night of the year. This year’s winter solstice will begin at 6:03 p.m. EST (3:03 P.M. PST). When the sun is exactly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn tonight, it will happen at 23:03 UTC. From earth, its position makes it seem to stand still. Solstice comes from the Latin word solstitium which means the sun stands still.

One of the most famous celebrations of the winter solstice takes place in the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, England. Thousands of people gather to chant, dance, and sing until sunrise. The all night vigil is to make certain that the sun will rise again at the end of the longest night. Another custom is to burn a Yule log or to bake a yule log-shaped cake. If you have a fireplace, build a fire in it or if you have no fireplace, light a special candle. Since the solstice symbolizes the regeneration of life with the longer days beginning, celebrations with feasting are common. The Caribbean tradition is a street festival and masquerade similar to our Mardi Gras.

Solstice celebrations and traditions would make an interesting backdrop for a short story or a chapter in a novel.

Are you celebrating the winter solstice?  I am lighting candles.