Today began with buckets of rain cascading down the steep slope of our street in Ithaca. It didn't have quite the same melody as last spring's thunderstorms, pounding on the canvas overhead in our lobby tent. At this time of year we are well into our off-season hibernation (a.k.a. working from home), and while cozy with holiday cheer, the woods still pull me into their fold. Rain or shine, I have taken to walking in the trails behind our house when the morning sun finally shows her face. Though my Wild Foraging Hikes don't have the same promise of fruit, the thorny, periwinkle stems of late summer's black cap raspberries still burst from the muddied foliage and rain-washed moss. They are a site to behold.

Today is the Winter Solstice, the promise of warmth and light returning to a cold, dark world as the days stretch into night again. Deena Wade wrote in Mother Earth Living, "Creating a meaningful celebration of winter solstice, either in place of or in addition to other holiday activities, can help us cultivate a deeper connection to nature and family and all the things that matter most to us." Winter Solstice is a universal celebration of light; it's no coincidence that Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and other religious holidays take place this time of year. But Winter Solstice rarely sees the same attention. And so sometimes, Mother Nature demands it.

This early afternoon, as if on cue, the sun suddenly flooded my kitchen. The rain had completely vanished and blue skies framed the bare maples outside the window. I felt a mad, primal dash to be outside, echoed by my friend Katie who scooped me up on foot en route to the trail. She shared a story with me from COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, where world leaders recently converged to discuss how we could unite around our planet's health for present and future generations.

Naomi Klein, an award-winning journalist and climate change advocate, reported from the heart of COP21 that the people's slogan was "we are nature defending itself." This awareness that humankind is not responsible for defending nature, but actually part of the system that needs defending, seems so simple ... and yet, in our modern world, reminders are essential.  The solstice is one such opportunity to tune in. We are the woods around us. We are the food we eat. We are the glowing embers. We are nature. 

So today, as the sun returns to our wintry corner of the world, I am feeling grateful for living in the Finger Lakes - a region ripe with abundance; for living in a community that supports the eco-inspired projects of dreamers like me and Bobby; for the nature-curious or already-devoted visitors we've welcomed into our tents this past year; for the butter-bathed sweet potatoes on my plate; for the clean water in my cup; for the red-tailed hawk that circled above today; and especially, for being one day closer to the return of our ever-burning campfires!

Happy Solstice!

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