Midwintering

Happy Belated Solstice! Twas yesterday, that day when the year reaches its extreme. In this hemisphere, it’s the shortest. We’re deep in the dark and cold.

Hoarfrost on my car's side-view mirror. It made the whole car look fuzzy and adorable. This close-crop makes it look silvery-dark and a bit grim.

Hoarfrost on my car’s side-view mirror. It made the whole car look fuzzy and adorable. This close-crop makes it look silvery-dark and a bit grim.

Seattle celebrated early with a bit o’ snow, the day before the darkest day.

Snow-covered fir trees on the ridge behind my house.

Snow-covered fir trees on the ridge behind my house.

That was unexpected, and delightful, considering it didn’t make the roads horrid and yet beautified everything. There was just enough for the kids to make snowpeople with, and for Luna to get severely upset by. B tells me she gave his brother a look like he’d pulled some horrible prank on her, and was rather put out by the whole thing. I love kittens and first snows. You never know how they’ll react. Knowing Luna, she’ll be dashing through it come next snowfall.

This one, alas, didn’t last long – it was already raining by the time I hauled me arse outside for a wander.

A tiny alluvial fan of snow on the rock wall near my home.

A tiny alluvial fan of snow on the rock wall near my home.

Still, got out in it, didn’t I? Had a wander up-drumlin, and looked at all the kitty tracks showing where the neighborhood cats had been through, and the dog-and-people tracks, and all of the other things that tell you how much goes on without you ever knowing until the snow records each event. I enjoy that.

Snow atop the rather pointy dark gray glacial erratic near me house, making it look like a wee snow-capped mountain in the woods.

Snow atop the rather pointy dark gray glacial erratic near me house, making it look like a wee snow-capped mountain in the woods.

And I like the way snow turns all the well-know prosaic items into artsy little delights. I’ve seen this erratic boulder a quintillion times, but I’ve never seen it play mountain range before.

A slightly different angle, showing snow gathered in a dip on the boulder, looking very much like a glacier descending a mountaintop.

A slightly different angle, showing snow gathered in a dip on the boulder, looking very much like a glacier descending a mountaintop.

And some of the trees haven’t yet let their changed leaves go. A few drifted down into the smooth blanket of snow, and they stood out stark and wonderful.

A dark browny-red leaf lying atop the new white snow, covered in drops of water from the falling rain.

A dark browny-red leaf lying atop the new white snow, covered in drops of water from the falling rain.

Some must have fallen with the snow; they’re now half-buried within it.

Another of the same type o' leaf, this one covered with a bit o' snow.

Another of the same type o’ leaf, this one covered with a bit o’ snow.

And if I play with the brightness a bit, I end up with what looks like a white leaf on a lightbox.

Dark red leaf on brilliant white background.

Dark red leaf on brilliant white background.

This is a stark time of year, appropriate for stark sorts of images. This is the time when Misha and I tend to snuggle down, warm together, and laze away those short days with a book or dozen, all communication cut off. But this year, I have other kitty-kin to visit. And while Misha’s old and has seen it all, Luna’s having her first midwinter, and her first encounter with a Christmas tree.

Kirby swats at an ornament on a tiny Christmas tree on the table, while Luna observes closely.

Kirby swats at an ornament on a tiny Christmas tree on the table, while Luna observes closely.

You’ll notice how bare that poor little tree is. Kirby’s been after the ornaments, taking them down and running off to play with them. Luna’s learning how the thing’s done.

Luna takes her turn swatting at the ornament, while Kirby watches.

Luna takes her turn swatting at the ornament, while Kirby watches.

Kirby actually took an entire limb out of the tree at one point. Fortunately, it’s the kind of artificial tree that can withstand two active kitties. You just stick the branch back in the foam core and watch them play with their prize.

 

Kirby and Luna bat their pilfered ornament around on the table beneath the tree.

Kirby and Luna bat their pilfered ornament around on the table beneath the tree.

Kirby, like any good teacher, then left his pupil alone to practice.

Luna, by herself now, smacks at an ornament on the tree.

Luna, by herself now, smacks at an ornament on the tree.

She’s not as adept as Kirby, so it’s going to take her some time before she can easily unhook them.

Luna tries removing the ornament with her teeth.

Luna tries removing the ornament with her teeth.

Those are the things that make the absence of the sun barely noticeable. There’s plenty to enjoy.

And with that, it’s time for the cantina’s midwinter break. There are some Mount St. Helens posts scheduled, never fear, and I may pop in time-to-time for a word or picture or two, but it’ll be rather quiet round here for a few weeks while I catch up on reading and email (yegads, the box is filling up…), snuggle kitties, watch the greatest Christmas movie ever (caution – spoilers at the link), and prep for the new year.

See you for the New Year’s party, and in the meantime: may your lives be full of warmth, wonder, and possibly even some wassail. With extra brandy or sherry. Yum. Love you, my darlings!

A Christmas Sermon by Robert Ingersoll

Something tells me that Robert Ingersoll and Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t have gotten along. I like that.

I hope you’re currently surrounded by food, friends, and family (whether by birth or family you chose). For those of you stuck at work, I wish you an easy shift, and thank you! Did everyone get their gift from Karen? Isn’t it lovely?

I’ll see you all tomorrow, unless the cat makes a fool of herself begging dessert from a person she normally shuns, in which case I’ll see you later today. Love to you and yours, my darlings, now and always!

Winter sun on snow. Image courtesy Nomadic Lass on Flickr.

Winter sun on snow. Image courtesy Nomadic Lass on Flickr.

A CHRISTMAS SERMON

by Robert G. Ingersoll

 

THE good part of Christmas is not always Christian—it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural.

Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.

It taught some good things—the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.

And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.

Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshipers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.

I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play. We are too much like the English.

I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasing object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good free days—the more the better.

Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget—a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds—a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.

Christmas Rocks

In more ways than one.  For instance, I’m not at work.  Woot!

By the time you read this, it’ll be Boxing Day, so Happy Boxing Day!  That holiday always confused me as a kid.  I had no idea why there would be a special holiday for beating people up.  Then I found out it was an extra holiday lucky people in Britain and other such countries celebrated that had nothing to do with boxing, and I think this is where my anglophile tendencies began, because who wouldn’t want an extra holiday right after Christmas?  Even if it did have a funny name.

In fact, it seems no one’s quite sure why it’s actually called Boxing Day.  Who cares?  There’s sales on – reason enough to celebrate!

We have rather more luck with Christmas, where the name is obvious and the seasonal celebrations easily traceable.  Hudson Valley Geologist Steve Schimmrich has a good primer up on all that.  And Doctor Science points out that no, in fact, Christ is not the “reason for the season,” as so many fundies like to pretend (h/t).  And it wasn’t a foundational holiday for early Americans, either.  Our own national hero George Washington saw it as a prime time to launch a sneak attack, as the colonists who would become Americans didn’t celebrate Christmas but Germans did.  Isn’t there something in Sun Tzu about taking advantage of enemies’ hangovers?  I’m sure there must be.

Retailers would have us believe it’s all about buying shit, and giving and receiving gifties is awesome, but Doctor Science has some of the other reasons us secular types enjoy a good midwinter celebration:

To have a green tree in the house, filled with light, in the darkest and coldest time of year, as we feel the year turn from old to new — how can that not be numinous? When we decorate with green branches and red berries, this isn’t from Christian iconography –

“I remember hearing,” said Susan distantly, “that the idea of the Hogfather wearing a red and white outfit was invented quite recently.” NO. IT WAS REMEMBERED.

(from Hogfather, by Terry Pratchett). The rising of the sun and the running of the deer, seeing our families and having enough to eat: all of these things are worth celebrating. Such celebrations don’t have to be either secular or religious, in the usual sense: they are pagan in the sense of “rustic, countrified, what the common people do”. Human, in other words. 

Good reasons all.  And I’m not fussed about what our midwinter celebrations are called.  “Christmas” is a decent enough shorthand for all those midwinter celebrations.  But next year, I might start popping off with “Happy Boxing Day!” just to see how many Americans have no idea what I’m talking about.

But all of that’s just a long lead-up to what we’re really here for: the presents!  And thanks to our geobloggers, Christmas this year rocks!

Follow me after the jump for ye delights.

Let’s start with a sing-song, shall we?  Chris Rowan at Highly Allochthonous was kind enough not to actually sing the 12 Geological Days of Christmas, but he’s got the lyrics and we can carry the tune:

The words below are sung to the obvious tune, and (mostly) just about scans – although my festive gift to you is not to post anything resembling audio of me trying to sing it myself.

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:
an APWP

On the 2nd day of Christmas, my true love sent to me:
2 concordant zircons
…and an APWP.

Enjoy all twelve!

And here’s another traditional carol, courtesy of Lockwood: “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie:”



Now we’ve got the music going, we can haz gifties!

Silver Fox sends us Xmas Greetings from Nevada:



Many more pretty pitchoors where that came from, o’ course!

Garry Hayes sends us a postcard from the edge!  The Christmas Gift: Storm Passes in the Grand Canyon.


 
Mmmm, home!  Love the stormlight in Arizona.  Love love love!

Erik Klemetti gave us his gift early.  Dr. Adam Kent answers your questions about Mt. Hood (and more):

Afters months of waiting, I have finally been able to get my act together enough to post the answers to questions you posed to Dr. Adam Kent. If you remember back to the beginning of the fall, Dr. Kent and his colleagues published a paper in Nature Geosciences about the nature of magma mixing and eruptions at Mt. Hood in Oregon. You sent in questions and now you get some answers. Enjoy!

Suvrat Kher has Recommended Holiday Reading:

A passage from Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa, The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 -

(And yes, I’m gonna be mean and make you go to the link for your giftie!  Those of you who haven’t read the book yet may want to reconsider after reading it – I had no idea Krakatoa had so much to offer, and I’ve been eyeballing it for years now!  Might be getting meself a little Boxing Day giftie, in fact…)

Finally, we come to the huge package that’s been looming under the tree.  You know, the one that screams ZOMG OPEN MEEE!!! but everybody’s made you save for last because it’s that freakin’ awesome.  Callan Bentley went out and got us a fantastic Serpentite and Melange!

That is an AMAZING thing to see — tectonically-rounded blocks of serpentinite, surrounded by a sheared-out, foliated paste of crushed serpentinite. That is a serpentinite mélange. Look at the way the foliation wraps around these lone survivors, like native prairie grasses swishing around the last two bison in South Dakota:



There are so many drop-dead gorgeous photos in there, so much astounding geology, I didn’t even know what to filch.  Twas the bison simile that did it!  ZOMG, Callan, thankyouthankyouTHANKYOU!

And thank all of you: my wonderful geobloggers, my science and political and melange bloggers, my Tweeps, my friends, family, and cat, and you, my dear, my cherished, my raison d’etre readers!  I love you all to pieces.  Happy hollydaze to you!

I’ll Be Goofing Off for Christmas

Substantial political snark will return to this blog after I’m done playing around the intertoobz. For now, I’m playing Santarina and bringing you the gift of awesomely silly Christmas weirdness.

This shall take its place among the most politically incorrect Christmas stories ever: A Joe Camel Christmas.

Have you ever wondered how monks under a vow of silence could put on a Christmas concert? Firedoglake has the side-splitting answer:

Did you know there’s a War on Solstice? Man your battlestations!

And finally, a Public Service Announcement from Santa Claus:


Whatever holiday you celebrate, have a wonderful one!