Contributed by RL I know that we still have a few weeks until the winter solstice but with the weather turning cold and snow in the forecast I thought we could talk about winter. Winter brings to mind icycles hanging off roofs, horse-drawn wagons heading into the fields bearing hay to feed the livestock, the scraping of ice off car windows, seeing your breath in the air, the squeaky crunch of snow in the early morning hours on a really cold day. Mittens being lost or finding two left hand gloves, kids sliding on the ice in the street, hot chocolate in a huge mug topped with marshmallows, the taste of fresh homemade cookies, a warm fire, a blanket and a good book to read. And yet winter is so much more; skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, snow angels, tubing, the shoveling of the snow to clear a path from the front door to the mail box and the ever present snowman in front yards blessing the season. Rosy-red faces with smiles aglow, hot soup, friends, twinkling of lights, the smell of fresh bread baking and a warm hug from someone you love. No, the winter solstice does not start all of these events; it's just our attitude towards winter and if we want to be up and about that bring these things to past. The Winter Solstice does not actually happen this year until 21 December 2018. So that will be the shortest day of the year or the least amount of daylight of any given day this year. From there on it starts to get a bit lighter each day but as you know you cannot tell the difference for a little while as that it takes so long to notice the change. ( But each of us takes notice of the darkness creeping in as fall turns to winter. Not that winter is here yet, it is just letting us know it is around the corner. And with that the temperatures start to grow cooler each day as the old earth begins to cool while the sun heads for its southernmost point in the sky. There is a rumor that the Celtics came up with the winter solstice idea and that is why they built Stonehenge all those years ago. But, alas, no one really knows why they built it but it makes for great entertainment while we try to figure out why they built the darn thing. Generally the stones appear to correspond with both solstices and maybe other solar and lunar astronomical events in some kind of fashion. ( No matter what, we find ways of making this winter experience fun by engaging in outdoor activities. When our children were young we used to take them cross-country skiing up in the hills near by. They looked forward to this adventure in the wilds of seeing the snow covered fir trees and often stood in wonder at how different each area looked with the snow than it did in the summer when the wild flowers in all their glory were adding color and vitality to the mountains. Of course, during these little escapades there was always a snowball exchange. Funny thing of it was none of us ever realized how deep the snow actually was until we undid those cross-country skis and stepped into the snow going knee deep oft times and wondering how we were going to get those skis back on. We had the same sensation a few times in the deep snow when we would be racing one another down a slope and would crash with one of the skis removing itself a distance from us which always turned out to be fun in retrieving the way-ward skis. ( All of us were always wet and tired when we got home but the wood stove was ready to warm and hot chocolate plus a snack was ready to greet us when we got home. After the noise of telling our adventures had died my wife would record the events in her journal for us to review later in life. ( The Winter Solstice of course is only a reference point that means that old Sol will be heading back our way from the Tropic of Capricorn ( and ever so slowly the warmer temperatures will be heading our way as well. Until then lets enjoy this winter wonderland and accept its challenges of power outages, frozen water pipes and closed roads. Because if we are prepared we will not fear. And a snow day will be just that, a time to play in the snow, just like our children who look forward to them on those long ago monotonous school days. So while we head out the door to either cross-country ski, snow machine, snowboard, ski or just plain to ride an inner-tube down a mountain slope, let's remember to always carry an emergency kit in our cars and some of those Mountain-House meals or MRE's when we venture into the snow laden mountains. Maybe we could throw some of those hand warmers that Rainy Day Foods has on hand in our backpacks to warm our hands and feet if we stay out to long. Or if like me when our gloves get soaked while making that one of a kind snowman to keep us going until our master piece is done. 'Til next time RL