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The Inland Paddler: All the Leaves are Brown and the Sky is Gray

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Today is the Winter Solstice – well, at exactly 5:44 this morning. That moment where the sun shines at its most southern point, directly over the Tropic of Capricorn. The shortest day of the year, or the longest night, depending on your perspective.

And it is a day during which I rejoice and sing Hallelujah and do a little happy dance!  The days will now start to get longer. And if the days are lengthening, then there is a little sliver of hope that soon, well, soon-ish, I can put the dry suit and the unbearable thicknesses of neoprene away. The leaves will return to the trees, and the grey gloom will be replaced by brilliant sunlight and those gorgeous Carolina Blue skies and warm, warm warm temperatures.

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The End of the Long Dark Teatime of My Soul is coming.

Basking in the Winter Solstice makes the thought of training – of leaving the warm confines of my cozy home or the warm gym for that matter – and heading up to the lake maybe just a little more bearable. I almost want to go. I even want to paddle my prone board. Almost. Still, this is the time when it so easy to hibernate, in one fashion or another. Maybe it’s getting all wrapped up in a down comforter at the end of the day when you should be out paddling…or having one more cup of coffee in the morning in your polartech fleece jammies and blowing off the training plan for the day.  There is, after all, a deep rooted chill now in all of my joints that no amount of applied heat will relieve.

When the daylight is gone by 4:30 in the afternoon, who wants to do anything but get a big bowl of mac and cheese and settle in with Netflix? Oror when it’s still pitch black at 6:00 am  who wants to even get out of bed in the first place? Heck my dog didn’t even want to get up this morning.

And make no mistake, we Tar Heels don’t have it nearly as bad as folks in other parts of the country. (Florida and Hawaii, stop laughing – y’all get your own versions of the Winter Blues, I am sure.)

I have been doing a little better this year, when it comes to handling Winter.  I have relished in the early off-season by resting my body, by returning to the yoga studio (which of course is warm and cozy, and has blankets and is inside) and by facing some fears and opening up my mind to the lessons of the climbing wall. So it hasn’t been all down comforters and cocoa, and that’s good.

And I have watched the way others have embraced the winter, in particular Jeramie Vaine, who has gone from the environs of Southern California to New England and has documented that change on his blog. I am trying to do the same. And it’s been a good, teachable moment of a Winter. But, I have been plotting ways to subvert the paradigm of winter.  Like, oh I don’t know, going on a surf trip to Mexico.

Nonetheless, I am happy to celebrate this slow transition that comes with the solstice.

There are all kinds of traditions, celebrations and mysteries connected to this day – many of them long overshadowed or even assimilated by the Christmas holiday.  Some historians think that Christmas and its proximity to the solstice is not an accident. Many of the things that we do at this time of year come from practices that have more to do with the sun and our traverse around it – for instance, according to a post on nationalgeographic.com:

“Other solstice traditions color today’s winter holiday celebrations. Scandinavians once celebrated Juul, or Yule, a multiday feast marking the sun god’s return. In Britain, Druids observed the solstice by cutting mistletoe.”

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Even the Nazca Lines in Peru – etched by an ancient people – are thought to have an alignment with the Solstice.

Okay, cool.

All I care about is that the days will now start to get longer, and each day, we will be just that much closer to spring and summer.

Can I get another Hallelujah?!?!?

Lisa
Lisa is managing editor of PaddleMonster.com and is an avid paddler of all the things - including sup, SurfSki, outrigger canoe and prone, though she especially enjoys paddle surfing and downwinding. She is a former journalist with more than 30 years experience in print and broadcast journalism and in government communications. She is a six-time Chattajack finisher, racing both sup and OC2. When not paddling, she is an outdoor instructor.

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