Joy

In the early morning this fall, I often read Michael McCarthy’s “The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy,” and knew I wanted to write about it at the winter solstice.

McCarthy’s book acknowledges the dire environmental straits we find ourselves in – and issues a plea to our emotions – feelings we have had toward nature for all of our history. For McCarthy “We may have left the natural world, but the natural world has not left us.” It seems a slim hope in this political climate, but he hopes by reconnecting with this part of ourselves, we might be more invested in repairing the damage.

In the first part of the book, McCarthy blends his personal story of loss with the earth’s man-made damage, and it’s painful. But then, in rich chapters, he points out the love and joy we can feel for the natural world, describing human interactions with creatures from butterflies and moths to megafauna.

He tells how he’s found “Joy in the Beauty of the Earth” and “Joy in the Calendar,” the latter through experiencing seasons, migrations, and blossomings – including importantly – the miracle of winter solstice. “The moment when the days stop shortening and start getting longer again, celebrated for millennia.” The words he uses – joy, wonder, love, beauty – are the words we associate with all this season’s celebrations.

In a short, early December trip to Downtown Abbey in climate-changed Anchorage (48° with rain-slicked ice underfoot), Baby Brother charmed me anew. He moves lickety-split on all fours around the house, stops to burst out his big smile, or to pull himself upright to explore more. He has many words, and learned to say “Kay-tee” in the most endearing way.

We got a full-size tree for the living room, and a tiny one for Lady Baby’s bedroom. We cut out and decorated cookies shaped like stars, gingerbread people, and hearts, and read “Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree.” Lady Baby demonstrated her new skating skills, flying with speed and strength across the ice at the school’s hockey rink. She was making a menorah with her class, and told me about celebrating all the holidays: “the Jesus one, the Santa one, and Winter Solstice.”

Winter solstice is a calculable moment. It occurs this year on Thursday the 21st of December at 2:23 p.m. – a perfect time to pay attention and rejoice, as we turn toward the light!

6 thoughts on “Joy

  1. I love the winter solstice for many reasons. I have fond memories of snow falling on that day at our little red house in Connecticut where I grew up. This book sounds so good. It’s too bad the people who really should be reading it probably won’t. Thanks for another wonderful book recommendation. And a lovely almost-solstice post.

    • Well that little red house in the snow inspired our Anchorage red house (even more often in snow) – and now another red house! It’s fun to think about that. You are right about the book, it’s two years old, and things are worse yet. Still, I loved his writing about the easily observable wonders of nature, making me pay more attention – the rain and wind today, birds after the last huckleberries – and in two days – the solstice!

  2. Such charming traditions you have established with your dear family, Katy. And I will always cherish the memories of Solstice Tea. May you have the merriest of Christmases, and a blessed New Year. Surely by the end of it there will be some good news we can celebrate.

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