Thursday, December 22, 2011

Our second Solstice

Our Second Solstice
Since the Solstice arrived here, technically speaking, at 11:30 pm last night, we celebrated both days. We went out today and decorated a Solstice tree in the woods at dusk. T made ice candles and used a cookie cutter to fashion bread into edible decorations for the creatures. The new snow brought a wintry chill, and the candles were a welcome reminder that at least the days will start getting longer now.

Solstice swirl at Olbrich Botanical gardens -- taking the garden kaleidoscope for a spin

Yesterday we stopped at Olbrich Botanical Gardens for a late afternoon walk before heading over to the Solstice bonfire across the street. We gave the garden kaleidoscope a spin, which was a treat, since it's usually snowbound this time of year. The swirling patterns looked as if someone were spinning a bowl of holiday hard candy..

2011 Winter Solstice at Olbrich Park

In the Midwest, the astronomical time for this year's Winter Solstice is right on the cusp -- 11:30pm CST -- between Dec. 21 and 22, so we decided to celebrate on both days. The beautiful communal ritual in Olbrich Park on the 21st, and our little family ritual on the 22nd in which we leave food for the creatures and ice candles (if they don't melt) for Mother Nature at sunset.

2011 Winter Solstice Bonfire in Olbrich ParkIt was great huddling together with a circle of people as the light faded over the lake to the west, waiting for the ritual lighting of the Solstice bonfire. "For ten years now, we have burned the Solstice fire, and the sun has returned. It will return again. We know our science." Loved that line about the "science" of making the sun return. A wonderful annual communal event by the Lake Monona shoreline on Madison's east side put on by the Friends of Starkweather Creek.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December thaw on Lake Wingra

December Thaw
Earlier this month Lake Wingra, Madison's smallest lake, froze over with a thin coating of ice. Then it warmed up, and the ice disappeared (this photo was taken last Friday). Now there's a thin coating of ice again. But who knows? Maybe it will melt again. It's a weird year. In contrast, in 2009 there were already ice fishers on the lake on Nov. 28.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just in time for the holidays, Monona Terrace has a deceptive little brush with winter

Monona Terrace Exterior
Winter toyed with us over the weekend, and brushed the Monona Terrace with a light dusting of snow.

Monona Terrace InteriorA cold front swept in Friday night, and Saturday morning we had our first shovelable snow of the season -- although you could probably have used a big broom just as well as a shovel. The slightly snowy exterior was a gray and wintry contrast to the bright colors inside, where the Monona Terrace was all dressed up for the holidays, complete with giant snowflakes projected on the ceiling.

The snow was deceptive. Now it's just as gray outside, and almost all the snow has already melted. They're forecasting sprinkles, not snowflakes, followed by sunny weather from Thursday through Tuesday. A white Christmas doesn't seem to be in the picture this year. (Something that's not all that rare in Wisconsin, though it's been five years since it last happened.)