Sunday, December 21, 2008

Solstice

Date: Dec. 21
Mileage: 38.1
December mileage: 618.8
Temperature upon departure: 23

Dec. 21 is a big day in Alaska. And not because it's the first day of winter, which no one gives much thought to, because most Alaskans have been thinking about winter since October. And not because it's a solstice, a designation that no one gives much thought to on June 21 when they're kicking back in lawn chairs, sipping cold drinks and watching the sun set at 11 p.m. No, Dec. 21 is a big day because it's the winter solstice. The day that brings the light.

I rode out to the glacier today, and the area was packed with people. Ice skaters weaved around each other in erratic lines like water skeeters on the surface of a blindingly blue pond. The low sunlight sparkled on the frozen lake. I ventured out onto the glare ice for the first time. I'm terrified of riding glare ice. I've washed out enough with my studded tires to know they're not slip-proof, and I don't have any traction on my shoes to back me up. But I saw enough people out walking on the lake that I let my guard down, picked my bee-line so I wouldn't have to turn or use my brakes, and pedaled toward the blindingly blue towers at the end of the lake - the age-old glacier ice.

Normally I shy away from crowds, but I was happy to see all the people on the lake. It warms my heart when people go outside simply to enjoy the winter air and the noon sun hovering at its lowest point of the year. It's four days before Christmas and everyone I passed said, "Happy Solstice." They know the real reason why nearly every major culture in the Northern Hemisphere saves its biggest celebration for this time of year. The coming of the light.

Yeah solstice.