Tuesday, December 27, 2022

In the Deep Midwinter

 As the year of 2022 comes to a close, I feel a wisp of melancholy seeping into me.  Nothing in the world is any better than it was last year.  In fact, things are just continuing to get worse.

I know it's partly the effect of the short days, long nights, and gloomy weather.  I admit I do have SAD ( seasonal Affective Disorder) so I try to sit under my full spectrum light as much as I can.

But some things are not like they used to be.  Just as an example, our winter this year arrived on November 1, which is technically the middle of fall.  The ancient festival of Samhain, which we celebrate as Halloween, marks the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox.  Odds are that our winter here will last until nearly May 1, which some still celebrate as May Day.  It's the outgrowth of an ancient festival, Beltane, which marks the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.  The result is our winters up here in northern Montana can last 6 months, from Samhain to Beltane.  Not complaining, just telling the truth as I see it here.  I think the Celtic peoples had it right.  They called Samhain the last day of autumn, and Beltane the first say of spring. Sure fits here.

 Sometimes friends tease me and say, "What happened to Global Warming?  I remember when Climate Change used to be called Global Warming.  A lot of people in the southeastern US this year are probably wondering why they have broken all kinds of cold temperature records. We have actually broken cold temperature records here in Montana, too.  At least half the US has been crippled by what is being called "The Blizzard of the Century."  I hate to say this, but more extremes in weather patterns are one of the effects of Climate Change.  Some places will receive extreme cold or heat.  The "usual" storms like blizzards and hurricanes will become more intense as our earth's atmosphere tries to adjust to the changes in temperatures of our bodies of water, especially the oceans.  Sorry to say this, but the next "Blizzard of the Century" may happen well before we reach the 22nd century.

Many people claim there is no such thing as Climate Change because they don't want the status quo of our energy systems or their pocketbooks and stock market investments to change.  But no matter whether people believe it or not, these storms, droughts, and potential famines are going to continue.  Maybe all this isn't caused by human activities, but change is coming one way or another.  And there's nothing we can do about it, except perhaps try to control our carbon dioxide emissions, and be more prepared for extreme and unusual weather.  For example, I think the South needs to take this as a wakeup call. 

I often wonder if becoming a snowbird would help me with these long winter blues I tend to get. My hubby and I have investigated various possible places to go, but none of them feel right so far. (Last March we went to southern Utah and northern Arizona, only to encounter cold weather and snow there, too.) And after this huge Christmas storm, I think I'd rather stay here up north, where we are prepared for this type of weather.

At any rate, I'm considering joining my cat.  With the record cold, she started spending her days sequestered in my stuffed closet, hiding under my overhanging clothes, and other piles of stuff I've accumulated in there.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Wishing You All a Most Blessed Christmas!

This fall has left me behind.  When we got home from Britain the end of September, I had a cold (or something) which set me back.  October slipped by and winter arrived early on November 1.  Yikes.  So I haven't been writing much as I try to get all my ducks in a row.  I have good ideas for blogs but they never seem to make it to my computer.  Sorry.  Here's a joint project by Paul, me, and our cat, Josie.

Greetings from Montana!                                                                               Christmas 2022

I (Paul) just returned from a hike with a Thursday group called Over the Hill Gang.  It was a lovely sunny day and a cold start at 8 degrees.  It was a good time to think about this year’s Christmas letter as we hiked to a fire lookout overlooking Glacier National Park, The thought hit me on the way down after sharing the trip Frances and I took in September. We traveled to the British Isles after two years being postponed due to Covid restrictions. We flew to London and were met outside the terminal and led by hand to our hotel. It was so nice to let the tour director take it from there.  Twenty two days on land tour, 17 hotels and 3600 miles covered throughout England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Okay, so what has this to do with our annual Christmas message? Well, as part of the tour we were entitled to having a porter bring our baggage to our room and upon leaving pick it up outside our door in the morning.  Our pastor recently preached a series talking about the baggage we all carry around with us.  What did he mean about baggage?  The baggage of past mistakes, failures, fighting, revenge, gossip, just everyday mean thoughts or dislikes we carry with us.  In other words, our sinful nature.  Okay it’s another one of Paul’s sermons but please hang on.  You see Christ Jesus came to earth to carry our baggage of sin. He carried it to the cross for us.  We could do nothing on our own, as this baggage is much too heavy and bulky to carry ourselves. That’s it, all I have to say! Christ is the reason for our Christmas season. His birth and resurrection is for all who believe. We pray you recognize his love and grace for you.  Thank Him for carrying the load.  Merry Christmas, and God’s blessings in the New Year!

Okay, it’s my turn now.  Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Josie, the Erler’s cat for the past 4 years.  I came from the Humane Society as a very well-fed stray, over 20 pounds.  I want to make clear that Paul and Frances aren’t my owners. They’re my staff, being sure I’m fed twice a day, petted & cuddled often, and cleaned up after. My main activities are eating and sleeping. I also like it when Frances’ piano students come to pet me and say hello. I think there are 9 students right now. Most of the time I recline beside my scratching pole in the sunshine by the sliding door. I don’t like to go outside, and don’t catch any mice.  When they travel, I have to go to Emilie’s house on the other side of town. I hate riding in the car, and spend most of my time there hiding under Emilie’s bed. Mike, her boyfriend, pets me and calls me “Fat Cat.” I spent ten days there last spring during Spring Break, another two weeks in July when they went camping with dear friends the Sundbergs and Hazelbakers in Idaho, and a whole month when they went on that trip to the British Isles. And they never brought me any presents! () Emilie got some, though. By the way, they did see that pile of ancient rocks called Stonehenge. I also enjoyed getting acquainted with Frances’ brother Dan when he came in August.

As Paul already told you, he still hikes about once a week, Frances tries to get walks and Tai Chi classes in at the health club.  Both are singing in choirs again. They’re happy Covid restrictions are over—for now. Frances still writes books.  Her next one, “Lauren’s Dark Passage” is coming out in April 2023, and one more is in the publisher’s hands, too, probably for 2024. She’s kept busy with her Christian Women’s Club and a new Christian Writers’ Group called Footprints. Oh yeah, she’s also started acrylic painting, and even sold a couple of pictures. Paul still creates wall d├ęcor with upcycled piano parts. He is running out of parts, though, so if anyone has an old piano to take apart, he would love to have the keys. This year they were accepted for a juried arts and crafts show at the Kalispell Fairgrounds over Thanksgiving weekend. Frances puts photos of the products on her Facebook page: “Frances Erler” or you can email mferler@peaksandbeyond.com

Emilie and Jon are still teaching, though that job gets more challenging every year. I’m told Emilie is in her 16th year of teaching kindergarten here in Montana. Jon teaches Middle School Social Studies in Washington State. I never go to school, since I’m just a cat. But I’d rather sleep in the sun, anyway. Emilie goes hiking a lot, once or twice a week. Jon likes to camp and hike in the Washington Cascades, too. He and his roommate, Adam, have started gardening—flowers and vegetables—in pots on their patio. Emilie also gardens in pots on her deck. I don’t think Paul and Frances are much into gardening anymore. Visitors are always welcome here at my house. I may even jump on your bed.