Where to celebrate the solstice in DFW and see the best light displays, along with tips for natural decorating and green gifts.
Dec. 16, 2014
By Amy Martin
For thousands of years, we lived by nature’s rhythms, stirring in the spring, expanding in the summer, gathering in the fall and resting in winter. You might say it’s in our DNA. Modern life may replace that cyclic rhythm of orbits and axial tilts with the constant rat-a-tat of clock time and calendars, but our bodies remember. The contrast leaves us all out of sorts.
Winter Solstice approaches. For three days, Dec. 20 to 22, the Sun will rise and set at the same northerly place on the horizon. Solstice means “Sun stands still.” The calendar designates the middle date as Winter Solstice, but really it’s all three. Around the world, millions will gather on these longest nights of the year, enacting ancient rituals that resonate in our cells. Even more will observe in their way at home with friends and family.
Think of Winter Solstice as the pause at the bottom of the breath, a moment that holds pure potential. It is the time of great turning, the slippery line between the light and dark halves of the yin-yang symbol. The long, dark nights of Winter Solstice ask that we let go of needing to know and have faith in the absence of
belief. Take this time to step into the winter stillness. Release into darkness all
expectation and attachment to outcome. Be in the void. In the fertile darkness, plant the seed of a renewed human being. Breathe the awareness, be present, be ready to be reborn. For on these darkest of nights, there is but one word, one answer: yes.
Above, photo shows the Sun’s path during Winter Solstice 2007. During the December Solstice in the northern latitudes, the Sun will make its lowest arc through the sky along the southern horizon, resulting in the shortest length of time between sunrise and sunset and fewest hours of daylight. Courtesy of APOD.NASA.gov.
WINTER SOLSTICE CELEBRATIONS
Dallas’ annual Winter SolstiCelebration, which once marked seasonal events in North Texas, ended in 2012 after a 20-year run. Several new ones arose, but none evoke the early days of the event as much as the Winter Solstice Celebration. It’s hosted by the Labyrinth Walk Coffeehouse and Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff on Saturday, Dec. 20.
The outdoors is honored with a huge Yule Log burning, an Earth Prayer Loom and final Spiral Dance with Drums Not Guns. A stage inside presents performances by Rahim Quazi and more. Other warm and cozy activities include an indoor labyrinth, storytellers Gene and Peggy Helmick-Richardson, and eclectic seers, plus plenty of children’s activities. Bring canned/boxed food for the drive and donations for performers.
Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center at Cedar Hill observes the longest nights with Stars & S’mores on Saturday, Dec. 20. Enjoy stargazing with telescopes, and night hikes at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (RSVP for these). Then warm up at the bonfire with hot chocolate and, of course, s’mores. There are even last-minute nature gifts (and heat!) in the center’s store.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park near Denton delights with activities on Saturday, Dec. 20. The Johnson Branch Unit is Dreaming of a Wild Christmas with storytelling by the bonfire, making popcorn in Dutch ovens and creating presents and decorations from natural materials. Make a night of it by camping and decorating your site. You might even win a prize. It all ends with a drive-through to tour the artistry. The Isle Du Bois Unit will host Campfire Caroling at the Deer Ridge amphitheater along with campsite decorating.
More old-fashioned campfire fun in a Homestead Christmas at Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area on Saturday, Dec. 20. Enjoy Americana music while you craft cornhusk dolls and ornaments, churn butter and dip candles. Learn to bake gingerbread in a Dutch oven and then enjoy it with hot cider. It all happens around the 1869 Minor-Porter Log House.
For the Winter Solstices centuries past, evergreen boughs and berries were brought in to adorn homes and keep the green gift of nature going through the winter. It brought hope on long nights and gray days. Find some natural decoration inspiration in this article from Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.
Are you a big fan of Caprock Canyons State Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park or Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site? Those are featured in this year’s Texas State Parks ornaments.
NATURE DECKED IN LIGHTS
Seasonal lights need not be an energy-intensive affair with LEDs. Plus they’re lightweight and cool, enabling more extensive use on trees and shrubbery. Areas known for lighting up large magnificent trees include Highland Park, Kessler Park in Oak Cliff and Forest Hills in east Dallas. Directions and details in this Dallas Morning News article.
Above, The 12-acre Vitruvian Park features more than 550 illuminated trees. Courtesy of Dallas Morning News.
No place celebrates trees better than Vitruvian Lights in Addison. Dozens of trees around a small lake light up in jewel tones that reflect in the water. Amble along paved walkways that loop the lake and even venture onto small islands. Special event with entertainment and children’s activities occurs on Saturday, Dec. 20.
Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney hosts their Holiday Trail of Lights on Dec. 19 and 20. A half-mile nature trail is ablaze with lights and synchronized displays. Live music and strolling carolers. Get your picture taken with photo taken with Father Christmas and Mother Nature. Be sure to RSVP.
Enjoy trails and tram rides to see flocks of overwintering waterfowl at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Foundation. Then shop their wonderful store Nature Nook with unique, artistic and interesting items for kids and adults. Top notch prints from Ducks Unlimited.
Bring a little wildlife into someone’s life and do a good deed with gift cards for tours at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.
The wall calendar offered by In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Educational Center features astounding photos of their big cats, including the new baby lion Lambert. In Sync also offers gift packages for admission and special tours.
Amy Martin, a journalist and writer for more than 30 years, is currently senior comedy critic for TheaterJones, North Texas Wild columnist for GreenSource DFW and Texas Faith panelist at the Dallas Morning News. She was contributing editor for the national magazine Garbage (recycling and features), and has written for Dallas Morning News (recycling), Dallas Observer (music), and Dallas Times Herald (performing arts). For a dozen years, Martin also operated a popular alternative news service called Moonlady News, earning her the nickname Moonlady. A leader in Earth-centered and unaffiliated spirituality, Martin was director of Earth Rhythms and creator of the acclaimed Winter SolstiCelebrations. She may be reached through www.Moonlady.com.