Editorial: Darkness and reflection

December 20, 2011

Darkness and reflection

Winter begins on Dec. 21 according to this year's standard desk calendar. That annual date coincides with a more ancient and variable way of marking the beginning of the "time of darkness" in the Western Hemisphere.

At 5:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, this year's true winter solstice will occur. It will last a single, solitary moment marking the point when the axial tilt of the earth's polar hemisphere is farthest away from our sun. The solstice also marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun's daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.

All quite technical in a way, and somewhat distracting from the symbolic importance of the event, which has been recognized by human societies throughout history.

People once marked the day with prayer, ritual or sacrifice - and with good reason. The winter solstice was a time of reckoning - a time when fruits from the labor of the year before would prove either sufficient, or not. Winter was a time of famine, loss and struggle, and people were acutely aware that not all would survive to enjoy the new year.

We, too, can remember the importance of this symbolic moment, reflecting on what we have sown throughout the year and whether those fruits of our labor can carry us and our families through times of darkness.

At 5:31 a.m., we can also be reminded that a new year of ever-lengthening light lies before us, offering us another opportunity to apply ourselves to the hard work of living, loving and caring for others - planning for a bountiful harvest in the year ahead.

Christmas Project

Great response to valued tradition

A strong light shone through the smudged windows at the county fairgrounds Friday afternoon.

The event was the gift basket distribution time for Hood River Christmas Project.

The place, suitably, was the fairgrounds' Community Building.

For this is a prime example of community building.

Many thanks to the Christmas Project board of directors, the many volunteers who loaded, sorted, collected, collated, carried and otherwise had a hand in getting gifts and food to thousands of local residents.

Christmas Project is one of those Hood River traditions that brings people together in a true case of "the spirit of giving."

For many families, the windows of their lives might be smudged, but the food drive and Christmas Project are ways to brighten the season.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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