This time of year means many things to different people.  Different religions have many celebrations during this time that bring family and friends together. For many animals, it is a time of hibernation and rest.  For humans, it has become the busiest time of year from traveling, to shopping, to eating, and also it is stressful for many. Around Grand County we think of profitable business season and increased occupancy.

It is also a profound change in the earth as winter solstice marks its return to the Tropic of Capricorn.   The summer is sent to the southern hemisphere where they are busy growing food, and other activities. This time period is a reminder that we are living on the amazing planet earth, tilted on an axis because the moon hit us billions of years ago.  This week we also get to enjoy the full moon that will light the white landscape, and there is even a comet!

In permaculture, the summer and winter solstice are interesting times to study your land.  This is called sector analysis, and in permaculture, a sector is energy coming into a property from the outside.  Where are the shadows, and where does the sun hit the buildings? What are the cold and warm spots inside and outside?  Where does water and snow collect? What animals and birds are present? From where do the cold winds blow? With the continental divide, I watch as the sun rises over Berthoud pass on the winter solstice and over Mount Jasper in the summer, that is a significant difference.  Instead of rushing in and out of the car to the house because of the cold, put on your coat and make more time to be outside and observe your surroundings. We rush around even when we out enjoying nature, we are still on a mission and not just observing.

After the observations are made, and written, or drawn for future use, the planning can begin.  Planning is a creative process that allows for the proper placement of buildings, trees, gardens, etc.  I would like to beautify the entrance to the property, but where I thought I would create raised beds of flowers, is where the snow is piled from our road in the winter.  Proper observation year-round is the most important aspect of planning and implementation.

Use this time to observe yourself too. Are you happy with who you are and what you do or do you want to set new intentions?  Change of seasons is a great time to set intentions and to set change within ourselves. Maybe you don’t need or want to observe yourself. This is also a great time to observe your family and friends.  Perhaps there are loved ones who need our support.

Use this dark time to reflect on your year and take notes on your surroundings.  It is a great time to start a project, learn to paint, read books, and rest after a fun day of skiing, but don’t be so busy you forget to observe.  Sometimes we get wrapped up in our own lives, we don’t take the time to look around and see what is going on in nature, with our loved ones, or even with ourselves.  This year be mindful of the dark and become renewed with the light. As Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.”

Robyn Wilson has degrees in International Business, Sustainable Communities, and Bilingual and Multicultural Education.  She teaches permaculture design at Colorado Mesa University, and returned to Grand County to manage the cabin community of Grandma Miller’s New Horizons.