It is during these darkest days of the year that I appreciate the light… any light. We have a Christmas tree in the house. We light the Hanukkah candles. We have the luminarias that will go out on the solstice. I went outside in subzero temps to try to see the colorful Geminid meteor showers. I appreciate the soft light of the early mornings and any light that comes over the Bench in the afternoon by the office.
The winter solstice this year comes on Monday, December 21. That is the day in Crested Butte that will see the least amount of light. And while the days start to get longer starting Tuesday it won’t feel like it until well into 2021.
We are in winter. It is cold and it is dark and it is time to be inside—unless of course you are Alpine skiing or ice skating or out on the Nordic tracks. That is one of the beauties of this place. You can sort of do those things in, say, Chicago but not really and not easily and certainly not like here.
It is in this high mountain valley that we can go out the front door and be at a trailhead pretty much within minutes. We can leave the office and be skate skiing around the Poop Loop for an hour at lunch. Or we can catch a bus (with socially distanced seating, of course) and be on the Silver Queen before the guy in Chicago can get out of the subdivision. I see people lacing up their skates and playing pick-up hockey from my office window regularly. There is unique opportunity here.
All light is pretty much a good thing for humans. You know—there is real light and there is figurative light and both are important, especially during these darker days.
I appreciate the light Donald and that Barney Fife of a Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, shined on the 17 weak-spined Republican state attorneys general and more than 100 Republican members of Congress who joined an audacious and nutso lawsuit to try to overturn what many in Donald’s administration (Bill Barr and Chris Krebs, among others) said was a “free and fair” election without any major fraud. One state suing another over how it conducts elections is trying to subvert the U.S. Constitution isn’t it? The Constitution basically is clear that elections will be run by individual states. What was conservative about that lawsuit? It seems to me the light that was turned on this last week showed who is afraid of Donald or simply is so much of a jellyfish they would rather pledge allegiance to a con man rather than defend the democracy in this great country. I get that Donald understands the value of his bluster as he sees literally hundreds of millions of dollars coming in through his play. I get that Paxton wants a pardon since he is under indictment. But the others are just pathetic. Okay—I was starting to go into the darkness. Sorry.
On the truly lighter side where people consider service before self: There is a bright and shining light in the myriad non-profits around our valley. There are literally scores of organizations that are set up to help our neighbors who need it. There are the organizations who help people cope with mental health issues, which is tremendously important this time of year. Other groups focus on food insecurity issues; that need too has jumped with the pandemic. Helping families feed their families is of vital basic importance.
Other non-profits are centered on the arts that bring light to our community, or backcountry safety. We again learned their value this week as some neighbors found themselves in an avalanche on Snodgrass. We are blessed there are so many people stepping up to help their neighbors. That to me is light.
There is light in the people who are stepping up to guide this valley through a once-in-a-century pandemic. We have weathered the storm better than most and if we stay true to ourselves we can continue making progress until we return to normal, whatever normal is anymore. It is not easy dealing with COVID but having a strong local team filled with light and promise is a blessing for us all—residents, second homeowners and tourists.
And while the nights are long, I must admit that the light of the stars is magical up here in a dark valley. To walk outside on a cold winter’s night and see the Milky Way is special. To see actual constellations is not normal for people.
So while it is easy to fall into a hole in these dark times, try to see the light within the darkness. Celebrate the unique opportunities we have here high in the Rocky Mountains. Go stare at the billions of pinpoints of light above you at midnight. Feel the light and the warmth of your neighbors who step up to help one another. Throw a log into the fire pit. Appreciate the knowledge that comes when light is shown on those who choose convenience over duty. Light some candles and stare at the lights on the Christmas tree. It all will help as we begin the long journey toward the longer days—and that journey, believe it or not, begins this Tuesday!