Week of December 24, 2023 – December 30, 2023

Elizabeth Suzedell staff member and Environmental Educator

by Elizabeth Suzedell, Environmental Educator

It’s officially wintertime! While my first thoughts about that aren’t always pleasant, like the bitter cold, short days, or the (seemingly) lifeless forest, the solstice on Thursday reminded me that there is plenty of magic to be found in nature this season. That night, I had the opportunity to co-lead our annual Winter Solstice Hike, when we celebrate Earth’s natural beginning to the new year with a silent night-hike through the forest.

The winter solstice is actually the moment in time when earth’s north pole is tilted the furthest away from the sun. This year, it occurred at 10:27pm on Thursday (Dec. 21st). The solstice is our shortest day of the year (about 9 hours of daylight here in Marcellus), but after that, the days begin to lengthen again. Sunshine is something that we really seem to lack during the fall and winter seasons in Central New York, but the day of the solstice this year was full of it. The skies were completely blue, without a cloud in sight. The birds and squirrels were taking advantage of it, and people were in a good mood too. I noticed the crystal clear skies continuing into the evening as I was getting ready for the hike, which filled me with optimism and excitement. After greeting everyone and handing out the kerosene lanterns to light the way, we headed off into the woods.

The air was 20°F, but it was the still and crisp kind of cold that refreshes you in a way. As we entered the forest, I began to find the magic. Stars were sparkling through the bare trees like ornaments, and the waxing gibbous moonlight created a soft glow over the snow, which looked like it was dusted with glitter. Long shadows of the tall trees made the valley seem as deep as a canyon and the hills as tall as mountains. Every so often, we stopped and stood as still and quiet as possible. The silence echoed through the forest, and any sound we did hear was amplified by the stillness. The flowing water of the stream, with the coloration of an opal under the moon, was as loud as a waterfall. During this hour-long excursion, we didn’t hear any animals, but I knew they were all around us somewhere, hiding or resting. Even though we weren’t talking and many of us didn’t know each other well, there was an overwhelming sense of togetherness as each of us reflected and recognized our own connections to Earth.

This holiday season, I wish you peace, hope, and many magical discoveries in nature!