Living in Society

Winter Solstice 2022

Apple Trees in Winter

At the moment of winter solstice, I hope to be returning home for my day trip. About an hour or so later, the first local snow of the coming winter storm is expected to fall. After arriving home, I’ll bunker in for the duration. It is forecast to be a typical Iowa blizzard. Let’s hope it is that.

Solstice is in the pantheon of end of year family holidays that began last Sunday with our wedding anniversary. Following today, there is Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, a birthday, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Normally the holiday season would extend to Super Bowl Sunday, yet I no longer pay attention to the sporting event. January 1 is the end of the holidays.

We more note the passing days than celebrate them. After our child left Iowa in 2007, we haven’t often spent Christmas together. We settled for visits during this extended holiday season when they were able to come.

Before I started school, ours was a religious home. I lived with Mother and Father and with or near my maternal grandmother. She brought devotion to the Catholic Church along from her native Minnesota. Although she is reputed to have been excommunicated over her second marriage, Christmas, and more particularly Easter, remained important.

Father was not a religious man. He left a King James Bible with his name embossed on it. He presumably got it in his youth. Inside there is a hand-written note of uncertain authorship that begins: “America’s Stake in the Christian Home is a Stake in Christ.” There is also a note saying, “98% of truly Christian homes never broken by divorce.” If he believed that, it would have complicated the close relationship between members of our three-generational home during the 1950s.

He began to get religion after graduating from the Palmer College of Chiropractic. If he began a practice, he would need clients. Joining the Catholic Church, where Mother and Grandmother were already well-embedded, was a way to network among the faithful. When I discussed conversion at age 40 with him, it was a utilitarian matter. He hoped to identify people with needs for chiropractic adjustments. Father didn’t live long enough to join the Catholic Church or pass the state boards and begin a practice. The parish pastor noted his intentions toward conversion during the eulogy at his funeral Mass.

I don’t recall an exact moment when I lost the Catholic religion. I remained reasonably faithful through graduation from a Catholic high school. While my church attendance was less frequent at university, my faith was there. The bishop accepted me for study for the priesthood after graduation. I did not pursue it. While serving in the U.S. Army I attended church when we were on field maneuvers. After my discharge, I recall attending Mass in the church where I was baptized and by then the divide had grown too wide to bridge.

From the time of the Roman Empire through today, people celebrated Winter Solstice in difference cultures. Parts of Saturnalia fit right in with the Western idea of December holidays. As mentioned, I note the day and hope for a safe return from today’s trip.

There will be a lot to consider during the blizzard. I’m ready with gasoline for the generator, an extra stock of water, and plenty of food.

Religion is more on my mind in December than in other months. In a conversation with the local Catholic priest during a random meeting on the state park trail, I asked about reconciliation. Based on our conversation, it will not be possible. I’m okay with that.

For today, there is the winter solstice.

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