The shortest day of the year!


On December 21 at 10:44 UTC ( 3:44 a.m. EST),  we experience the shortest period of daylight of the year, which we call Winter Solstice.  That means that the northern hemisphere of the earth is more tilted (23 degrees) away from the sun than any other time of the year.  Many people believe that the earth is farther away from the sun on December 21st, but this is not true.  The distance from the sun is not related to the seasons, since the distance changes over millions of years of time  At this particular moment in time, the sun is closer during the winter in the northern hemisphere.  If you were living in Australia, the sun would also be closer at this time, but the tilt of the earth in the Southern Hemisphere makes it summer there now.

Although Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, few claim any knowledge of the exact day he was born.  So maybe I have come up with the reason we celebrate Christmas close to the longest, coldest, most depressing night of the year: to help us through the long cold winter! Just think, what is Christmas?  This is the time when the days are short and the wind is cold, so why not brighten up the world with Christmas lights and joy?  What a great idea!  Since people are depressed about the weather and lack of daylight, they may be more prone to buy lots of gifts in an attempt to improve their mood.  This will also help the economy by employing lots of people, as shoppers try to cure their Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) by spending money.

Throw into this mix the celebration of the New Year seven days later and you have a long length of time to celebrate in all kinds of ways.  We surround ourselves with lots of Christmas lights and seasonal joy to help us through this deary time of the year.

So I, in the wake of all this depressing stuff, along with a short earth science lesson,  would like to wish everybody a merry Christmas and a happy new year!  Oh, yeah, the most important thing is that the days are getting longer now!

My Christmas story

A Christmas story told again and again and….


This is one of my favorite stories and it helps me remember what Christmas is really about. If you read it last year or the year before, read it again and if you are new to my blog, I hope you enjoy this touching story. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can find Naotaka Maehara on Facebook. Maybe someday parents will sit around the fire and read this to there children…or maybe not…

Naotaka Maehara arriving in Augusta

The other day my friend Steve Bailes called me up to ask if I would be interested in housing a young man from Japan for the evening. He is riding his bike across America, having left from Vancouver 70 days ago. He was coming from Clarksburg and would arrive on Saturday if things worked out. I agreed, and contacted Nao (pronounced NOW which is short for Naotaka Maehara) by email to invited him to stay with us for the evening. He replied that he would like to stay with us Saturday evening. The next two days were interesting as I stayed in contact as much as possible via e-mail. If you remember, this past Wednesday and Thursday we experienced our first major snow fall of the season so Nao was right in the middle of it with the continental divide directly in front of him. To make a long, involved story shorter, he made it across the mountains to our home by 4pm on Saturday. I quickly suggested he take a bath to get warm. He agreed and headed for the bathroom. About an hour later he emerged, hungry, relaxed and anxious to get to know us. Steve had asked if he could come over and meet Nao so I suggested that we do dinner ; at about 6pm Steve and Terry arrived. It was one of those magical evenings that happen so rarely. We talked, exchanged stories and ate until we were ready to pop. Nao turned out to be charming, pleasant and a very gracious guest. I will remember the evening for a long time. With my fading memory that could be months from now. After dinner, us guys went down stairs to give Nao’s bike some tender loving care, which it needed badly. We reattached the front racks, cleaned and oiled the chain, pumped up the tires, and gave it a quick inspection. Later Nao and I went upstairs to spend almost two hours planning his route to New York City. He was ready for his journey to continue in the morning. After I went to bed, Sue stayed up until midnight talking with Nao about who knows what.

Resting after dinner

Relaxing after dinner

The morning came; Nao had several bowls of cereal and began to ready himself and his bike for his journey to New York City where he was scheduled to arrive on December 23. We created a Skype connection so that he could contact us with his computer, if needed. Shortly thereafter, Nao headed down the driveway.

After Nao had left, we found a note in his bedroom. In the note was a twenty-dollar bill. At first I considered getting in the car and catching him to give back the money but after reading the note I decided not to. This is written in Nao’s own words. He has only been learning English for three years. I’m impressed!

“I met woman in that time. (this is before he met us) She listened my serious talking and gave this $20 to me. She gave money and I received money. And also I received her kindness. She said, “I can’t help you now, but use this money and stay in hotel.

I want you guys (me) receive this $20. I mean it is not a staying fee, it means a woman’s kindness.”

I will keep this twenty and pass it forward when the time comes. Experiences like this one only intensify my belief that life is about the people you meet and the memories you take from those meeting. My only hope is that someday I will get to see Nao again!