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It is easy to think of this time of year as the season of utter chaos….fancy meals, a thousand errands, cards, presents, travel, and ho ho ho. The list goes on. No wonder everyone is on edge. Perhaps all the more reason to take a collective breath and look for the real gifts of winter underneath all the scurrying.

For me the wonders of winter lie in the silence, the light, and a sense after a hearty snowfall that Mother Earth is resting. I love the tangerine sunrises over the plains, the azure blue skies over the mountains and the clouds that make it impossible to describe all the colors that compose them. But above all, I love the quiet and the animals that any other time of the year may go unnoticed. When I turn off the road into the ranch I usually see field mice that could fit in a teaspoon, They burrow under the snow and I wonder where their homes are and what they are eating. I chuckle as I think about the childhood story of city mice and country mice and wonder out loud if a city mouse could make it out here. The bunnies are everywhere and seem quite comfortable living in the hay barn. The jackrabbits have turned from their summer brown to winter white…all the better to avoid to hawks and owls.

And of course, there is the Milky Way. In Montana during the summer a person needs to stay up until almost midnight to really see the stars. But in the winter they start showing off around at dusk and they never disappoint. Jupiter and Mars try to steal the show almost every night, but the Milky Way throws a silver ribbon across the night sky and begs us to see through it and beyond. And the moon, not to be undone, waits to be full and then outshines everyone. The full moon will dance across the prairie on a clear night as if to show off to every celestial being, “See? You planets may change position gradually and stars may shine when I am dark but I actually dance, and light up the meadows, and awaken humans at an ungodly hour.”

It all adds up to the best time of year. So for this Holiday season I wish you all the peace and serenity of a moondance and may the Milky Way guide you in the New Year.