Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Solstice Creche

I told you I would update you with how my creche turned out as I decorated it over Advent. Well here it is, in all of it's solsticey glory!

Included among the figures that came with the set are two goddess figures I made myself, a Disney Fairy Godmother, a jade Buddha my dad gave me, a carved wooden owl, a piece of granite from Ashland, a piece of pyrite and a group of quartz crystals, my favorite horse figure, a beautiful enameled frog and a chidhood toy goat. Alongside baby Jesus in the cradle is a beautiful pyrite ammonite Dave gave me symbolizing the returning sun.

I sure enjoyed decorating it, and it makes me happy to look at it.

Happy Solstice!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Good Morning Sun!

It's solstice! Hurrah!! Winter solstice is the middle of winter, the longest night of the year, the start of the days getting longer. It is a joyous holiday, a festival in the middle of the darkest winter. Northern Europeans have a long history of celebrating this time with lights, feasts, presents and a little magic. Modern Americans continue these traditions, though a bit twisted at times, with Christmas trees, a big dinner and shopping galore.

Over the years I have thought a lot about what traditions I want to keep from my childhood Christmas and what traditions I am happy to see go by the wayside. A couple years ago my older sister was explaining to her then 4 year old son why different families did different things around the winter holidays. She said there were some things about Christmas that she really liked and other things that she didn't like as much. She explained that the things she liked were generally Pagan Christmas things. Auggie proceeded to spend the rest of the holiday season asking if this or that were Peggy Fistmas. In my family we still greet each other with a rousing Peggy Fistmas :)

Of the traditions I have kept my favorite is the Christmas tree. It is truly Peggy Fistmas as there ain't nothing in the bible about no fir tree in the barn. Christmas trees are a wonderful, ancient tradition of sympathetic magic. During these dark and cold times we bring a tree that is still green (!) into our houses, decorate it with lights and shiny objects and put presents under it. By completing these acts we are hoping that whoever is in charge of the trees outside will do the same - keep them green, decorate them and bring us gifts. It is, after all, only a couple dozen more weeks until spring!

This year my boyfriend and I decorated Stuart, a live noble fir from a family member's property. Seeing as I am not spending money on new things this year we decorated him with things we had around the house including paper snowflakes and one red glass ball :) I was worried about the blue lights because I felt they would be cold feeling, but with them wrapped around the pot and reflecting the white snowflakes I think it looks quite cheery. Tree gods and weather goddesses - decorate the trees outside like we decorate the trees inside. And presents for all! :)

In college when I first started marking and celebrating the Wheel of the Year, I decided to wake up for the sunrise on every solstice and equinox. I was successful in that endeavor for a number of years. I remember a beautiful Summer Solstice at Crater Lake, a Spring Equinox on the beach at Cape Cod and more than one Winter Solstice all bundled against the cold. These last three years I haven't been able to get it together to get up that early. I always have a good excuse - it's raining, I have to go to work later, I stayed up too late the night before. But they are just excuses, aren't they?

My excuse this year was the biggest snow storm in living memory here in Portland OR. My Southwest neighborhood is under probably 6 inches of accumulation and there has been snow on the ground for 8 days straight now. This is absolutely unheard of. When I woke up yesterday morning I saw snow falling from the sky and decided to snuggle back into bed with my dog and my man. It would have been glorious, I just didn't have it in me. I did go out for a walk first thing when I woke up a couple hours later. It was pretty awesome... snow snow and more snow! And to think, just two weeks ago I was thinking how it didn't quite feel like winter and I should get used to the fact that "this" is what winter looks like in Portland. This is what winter feels like in story books! White, cold, windy and icy :)

It was a lovely Solstice despite the cabin fever. Tumalo and I went for our walk and then I came home and made polenta cakes. They were lovely yellow round pillows, like the sun itself. I topped the cakes with yogurt and homemade blackberry syrup I made last summer from wild blackberries. The first taste of the syrup instantly transported me back to a sunny field, picking berries in August. I am hooked on this home canning business :) I spent the day writing, reading and staying warm with the dogs.

Fried Polenta Pancakes

* 1 cup or so cooked yellow polenta

* 1 egg

* A 1/4 tsp or salt or more

* A couple tablespoons of white or whole wheat flour

Combine the egg and the cooked cereal along with the salt. Add the flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together into a spoonable mixture.

Fry the batter by quarter cup fulls in a cast iron skillet greased well with coconut oil or other good fat (bacon grease if you are going for a savory flavor). Cook until brown on one side and starting to set on the top, flip and brown the second side. Top with butter, yogurt and home preserved jam. Happy day, happy day!

Pancakes can be made out of any cooked cereal ranging from cream of wheat to oatmeal to cooked rice. Just combine with egg and flour until a spoonable consistency. You can add any other kind of goodies to the pancakes to change the flavor - green onions with polenta, almonds and raisins with oatmeal, crumbled feta cheese or chopped leftover vegetables or spices like cinnamon or cumin. Depending on the ratio of flour, egg and cereal you may get anything from a fluffy fried porridge to a stiff, dense pancake. All will be delicious. Change the toppings to fit the flavoring - salsa, ranch, cheese sauce, tzatziki, maple syrup. Mmm.. pancakes.

One memorable solstice morning I walked up a trail outside of Ashland, Oregon. It was almost 7:30 and I crossed paths with a group of women with young children. One of the girls was chanting "Good morning sun! Good morning sun!" I can't wait until I have my own little sun worshipping toddlers to bundle up and tote along on a Solstice morning walk.

What did you do to celebrate the sun this weekend? How did you greet the new year? Did you do anything special to beat back the darkness? Happy Solstice!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Outer Darkness and Inner Hope

Last night was the full moon of the Birth Moon. I got home late from a play and the moon was shining down so brightly I thought about stopping at the park for quick dog walk. Unfortunately, my tired feet and cold hands conspired against me and I went to bed. Winter will do that to you, conspire against your better judgment with dark, cold and the blues.

I've been having a rough week. It's cold, it's dark, I'm broke (despite not spending any money - how does that even happen?) and I am feeling the existential weight of a 40 hour work week. I'm making poor food choices because I don't feel up to cooking and the blood sugar spikes and troughs accentuate the angsty, depressed feelings. It's an ugly negative feedback loop.

Luckily, there is a way out of these dark feelings and these dark times. It is the hope for a better day, and the faith in the light returning. Faith is the belief in the truth of an idea while hope is desire for a positive outcome based in a real knowledge that the outcome can be expected. Hope is more emotional than optimism, but more reasoned than faith. In the Greek story about Pandora hope is the only thing left in her box after all of the ills of the world are released. Hope is the light that keeps us going.

The opposite of hope is dispair. The deadly sin called sloth was originially called sadness or despair and was described as a refusal to enjoy God's goodness or the inability to love God with all one's heart and soul. I have a close family member struggling with depression and substance abuse and I have always felt that her despair is the worst part of the affliction. I feel anger at her choice to reject the gifts that the universe has bestowed on her. She has, through conscious and unconscious choices, chosen to despair instead of hope.

This is the time of year when I feel closest to that despair of depression but make a real effort to buoy myself with hope. I bake cookies, I take long walks to enjoy the winter scenery, I enjoy time with my friends in warm bars and cozy front rooms. Even if it's just putting on a happy face until spring comes again it seems to work.

The celebrations surrounding this darkest time of the year are all about instilling hope in us as well. Long nights are lit by cheery Christmas lights and decorated trees in people's front windows. I made chocolate chip cookies the other night. They may do nothing for my blood sugar, but they sure made the night more bearable :)

Joy of Cooking Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup plus 2 tbs all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chip cookies (or the rest of the bag after you eat some :)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease or line two baking sheets.
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. This is best done by hand, taking turns with someone else you want to hang out with. Add the egg, salt and vanilla and stir well to combine. Stir baking soda into the flour and then combine the flour with the egg mixture until blended and smooth. Add the chocolate chips and then drop by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are colored and tops are not quite set. Let cool on a rack and serve warm with a mug of whole milk.

Are you feeling the tinge of despair in these short days and long nights? What are you doing to encourage hope? What's your favorite cookie recipe? :)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Today is the new moon in the month Annette Hinshaw calls the Birth Moon. This is the month of deepest, darkest winter. It's a hard time of year, but we know Solstice will come soon and the days will start getting longer. Ms. Hinshaw draws parallels between this time of year and that period of late pregnancy when when the mother-to-be can't seem to bear it any longer and just want the birth to come. At this time of year we are waiting for the Solstice, waiting for the scales to tip and the sun to return.

This dark time of the year can be scary. It reminds out monkey brain of times past when winter meant potentially life threatening cold and hunger. Even now when most of us aren't facing eminent death we still face the discomfort of the season. Dark, cold and wet seriously curtail our actions and most of the time I just want to come home from work (in the dark) and curl up in my bed (which is cold) and eat something carby and fatty. This is about the time of year when I feel like I'm going to scream if I have to go the same, close, easy dog park one more freakin day.

Most cultures have a big festival to brighten the dark time and bring a bit of sympathetic magic to the struggle of the divine entities in charge of changing the seasons. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and Yule are all festivals of light that help us through the deep of winter. In our culture Christmas is a magical time but so many of us loose the magic as we grow up. Once your parents are found out as the gift bringers and no one is leaving presents under your tree anymore except you it just doesn't feel the same. One way to bring a bit of the magic back to the season is by focusing on the time just before the holiday - the waiting, the Advent.

Advent is the Christian season that encompasses the four Sundays before Christmas. The traditional activities during this season revolve around marking the time passing and reflecting on the pivotal event that is the birth of Christ. I personally see these Christian traditions as directly borrowed from more ancient pagan traditions surrounding the winter solstice. Those of us who follow the earth and her ways also spend this time of the year waiting for the pivotal moment of rebirth. Does it really make a difference whether what we are waiting for is a Sun or a Son?

Most of us are at least passingly familiar with Advent Calendars. I wanted to make an advent calendar this year and even gathered all of the materials for my chosen pattern. But it just didn't happen. Instead, I will incorporate another advent tradition, the decorating of a creche or a nativity scene. In parts of southern France and Italy creches take up entire rooms of homes and people spend lifetimes collecting clay figurines to decorate elaborate village scenes. Mine will be more modest. I found a nativity set at the thrift store (since I am not buying new things this year) and will decorate it with the figures that came with it as well as my own collection of animals, goddesses, candles and crystals. This is a picture of the set I bought, I'll post one of the finished creche later in the month.

Waiting is hard and in this culture we are no good at it. We have been brought up on instant gratification and constant stimulation. Sometimes, though, waiting brings the best results. Like with soup. Sure you can open a can of soup and have something liquid and hot in about 30 seconds, or you can gently simmer chicken parts in water for hours and get a gelatinous, salty/meaty, flavorful broth. And chicken soup is potent medicine for these dark days!

Chicken Stock and Chicken Soup with Rice

1 gallon of assorted chicken bone and skin scraps along with vegetable peelings and trimmings
Carcass of one chicken plus some bony wings, half an onion, one carrot and some celery tops
4 - 6 cloves of garlic, smashed but not peeled or chopped
1 tbs black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
Sprigs of fresh rosemary, thyme or bay leaves
Enough cold water

*Place your chicken and vegetable bits with the garlic in a spaghetti pot, add the vinegar and cover with cold water. If your chicken bits are frozen allow to sit at room temperature for a while (how long? until you think about it again. 15 minutes?). Turn the heat on medium for a while and let the water heat up until everything is defrosted and the water is starting to get warm. Turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a good, rolling boil.
*At this time you will notice fluffy foam rising from the top of your stock pot. Skim this away with a spoon. When you've gotten almost all the scum (it causes a cloudy broth, but doesn't alter the flavor much so it's not imperative that you get all of it) turn the heat down to medium low and add the salt, peppercorns and herbs.
*Put a lid on the pot and adjust the temperature so that you see occasional bubbles rising to the surface, but not a full boil. On my electric stove this is at about 2, but it will vary depending on your stove. Let broth simmer like this for a couple of hours (how many? 'Till you can't stand it anymore :) . I like to cook my broth between 6 and 8 hours. This is long enough to extract the flavor and gelatin from the bones, but not long enough to start breaking those down again. Anything over 3 hours is good enough. Good stock takes a while. Practice waiting :)
*When you are ready carefully strain the stock. I carefully pull much of the large bits out of the pot and place in a colander over a bowl. I then strain the rest of the liquid through a wire mesh strainer into another bowl or pot. I add whatever drips out of the big chunks in with the strained liquid... waste not want not! (The cooked carrots, potatoes, mushrooms or parsnips can be fed to the dog, as can any meat you pull off the wings. Please do not feed cooked bones, onions or garlic to your dog!)
*Quickly cool the stock in a cold water bath and place in the fridge. After it has cooled you can pull the fat off the top and spoon the stock (is it like gelly? Cool! If not, it still has good stuff in it and tastes great!) into smaller containers to freeze.
*To make chicken soup with rice gently sautee onions and garlic in olive oil or chicken fat you pulled from the top of the stock. Salt and pepper appropriately. Add carrots, celery or parsnips as you wish. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil then down to a simmer. Add cooked or raw chicken and either cook or reheat in the stock. Add rice. Finish with a splash of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, and maybe another small clove of garlic, pressed. Serve in big bowls with lots of love. It was worth the wait, right?

One of the lessons of the Birth Moon is that the waiting can be as good as the getting, or at least as productive. Like Greek grandmothers, sitting in their black dresses, watching the world go by, we can learn to embrace waiting. If nothing else, it makes the getting there all the sweeter.

What will you be doing this month to honor the darkness? How will you mark the waiting that comes before the joyous moment of Solstice morning?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Full Moon in Taurus

Did you see the moon last night? Here in Portland it was glorious! We had just endured 48 hours straight of rain (believe it or not, that is unusual. 48 hours of wet and grey, yes, but two days of continual rain is not common) but the clouds had broken early on Thursday morning. By the evening the sky was mostly clear and the moon lit up the fields with that beautiful, silvery glow of moonshine.

The full Death Moon this year was in the astrological sign of Taurus. Taurus is an earth sign and so signifies the pleasures of the earthly things, of the practicalities of life and of blossoming where you are planted. The full moon in Taurus is a time for reassessing your finances, enjoying a fine meal, slowly and with friends or for enjoying other earthly pursuits.

Amazingly, without before I even knew the full moon was in Taurus I was inspired to deal more closely with my finances yesterday. I rewrote my monthly budget and aticulated to myself some longer term goals with my money. I am strongly inspired by Riana of These Days in French Life who has, over the last few years, built a life for herself where she doesn't need to spend money. She allows herself a small budget for eggs and milk, and did some bulk shopping for food in the late summer but mostly lives off foraging, trading and being amazingly resourceful. At the beginning of this month I decided to try to go a year without buying anything new except food. As the full moon rose last night I reaffirmed this into a pledge... I will buy nothing retail until the Death Moon next year. I am doing this to curtail my personal spending, to reduce my impact on the earth's resources and to open myself up to the blessings of the universe. A full cup can not be filled.

Besides money Taurus is also all about that other earthly delight: food. This week I indulged by making a batch of my favorite whole grain, kasha. Kasha is the toasted seeds of the buckwheat plant. It is a seed, not a grain and is gluten free so it is having a bit of a revival among health concious folk. It is a staple food of the peasants of eastern Europe. I was taught to cook it by the granddaughter of a Polish Jew... her name was Slotnick and she knew kasha. The earthyness of kasha goes great with mushrooms, onions, hard boiled eggs and mild cheese. I made a meal out of kasha and feta along with roasted beets in a horseradish sauce. It doesn't get any more indulgently earthy than that.

Traditional Kasha

-1 cup kasha (toasted buckwheat groats.. they're brown, not green)
-1 egg or just egg white
-A little fat for the pan - I used bacon grease but that is sooo not kosher ;)
-some sliced onion and sliced mushroom (canned appears to be traditional, but Rosie always used fresh), or not
-2 cups water, boiling or not, or chicken broth
-Salt and black pepper
-Sliced mozzarella or crumbled feta

*In a small bowl combine the raw egg with the kasha. Stir until all the grains are wet.

*Melt the fat in a cast iron (or other) skillet and cook the onions and mushrooms with salt and pepper until soft and starting to brown.

*Remove the veggies to a plate and add the eggy kasha to the skillet. Cook, stirring and breaking up the mass with a wooden spoon until all the kasha is dry. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil (lots of recipes call for having the water hot before adding to the skillet, I've never noticed much of a difference either way). Turn down to a simmer, stir in the veggies and put a cover on the skillet. Cook until all the water is dissolved and the grains are tender.

*When the grains are cooked and fluffy melt mozzarella cheese over top, or stir in crumbled feta, or serve with bowtie pasta.

This time of year the dark is getting darker, the cold is getting colder and around here the wet is getting wetter. The full moon in Taurus reminds us that there's always warmth at the kitchen table, and always light if you tend to your lamps. What is the Taurus moon talking to you about? What are you doing to grow where you are planted?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

When the Veil Between the World is Thin

I have more ridiculous and wild stories to tell from Halloween than from just about any other holiday I celebrate. Halloween, both in it's traditional nature and in my experience, is a rowdy, chaotic, rambunctious and almost dangerous time of year. Halloween is one of the two times in the wheel of the year that the veils between this world of the living and the other worlds of the magical and beyond living are thin. This, along with our traditions of costumes and parties, sets the scene for debauchery and mystery.

Halloween and other related holidays like Dia de los Muertos and All Saints Day are traditionally focused on our relationships with the ultimate mystery, death. It is a time when we can easily contact the dead - both beloved ancestors and the less benign sprites and most of our current Halloween traditions spring out of the modern European fears of the dead. We light Jack O Lanterns, dress up in costumes and hand out candy at the door all to confuse or appease those possibly mean spirited beings. In Mexican and Spanish culture traditions still reflect a more caring relationship with the dead. It is a time when families clean up the grave sites of their ancestors and tell stories about their lives.

I have been working to spend part of the Halloween season each year thinking about those who have died. I am fortunate enough to never had any very close friends or relatives die and have a hard time really bringing that part of the season to a personal level. This year I redecorated my personal altar and added photos of a friend from high school, my grandfather and my childhood dog who have all died. I also included images representing extinct or endangered species whose loss to this world I feel almost more acutely than the loss of a grandfather I never knew, a dog whose time had come or a woman who lived an amazingly full if painfully short life.

In my life Halloween is a time of dressing up and going to crazy parties. I feel this is very much within the spirit of the holiday and is a heckuva lot of fun. This year I dressed up as a substitute teacher complete with a terrible pink cardigan and a kick me sign. It's always so fun to see how creative my friends get. This year I met Mother Nature and Father Time, Peter Pan, When Pigs Fly and an Upside Down guy. It's fun to play someone else for an evening, to masquerade in the anonymity of a costume party.

However, being not yourself has it's dangers. Sometimes we feel free to do things we wouldn't do when we are ourselves. In past years the malicious sprites of these dark nights have truly wrecked havoc on my life. One year someone threw a pumpkin through the windshield of my car. Who would do that if they were feeling responsible for their actions? More than once I have said or done unwise things while under the influence of alcohol and party crazyness. I am generally a thoughtful and responsible person, but when in costume we feel free to do things we would never do otherwise.

This year we made it through with no major incidents, thank the ancestors! Fun was had by all and we got to celebrate the turning of the wheel of the year in all out costume party style. And now we settle into a dark, wet winter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time is a Circle

When you start looking at time as a circle you realize that every point on that circle is a necessary part of the whole. You can't have day without night, joy without sorrow or youth without age. Without winter the world is a dry, overgrown, overhot place.

Today is the start of the Death Moon, the first month in Annette Hinshaw's soli-lunar calendar. She starts her year with the Death Moon just as in Celtic (and Hebrew, among others) days begin with sunset, not with sunrise. The Death Moon has an ominous name but is not inherently uncomfortable. It is the first dark after sunset. It is a time of relaxing after a big harvest season and a time of putting the last bits of the summer to rest before the long winter. If you can relax into the change of seasons, the change of pace (and have lots of warm socks!) this can be a fascinating and magical time of year.

This last week I've been very aware of the sounds of this season. We had a few blustery but dry days and the sounds of the leaves on the pavement and the wind in the branches sounded loud and jarring. Every time I'm outside I hear the honking of geese as they fly in their ever changing vee patterns across the sky. Oddly, here in Western Oregon the geese do not necessarily fly south this time of year as some will be spending the winter on the islands and wetlands north of town. At 7am this morning the sky was getting light but the sun was not yet up, the hour of deafening birdsong in the spring and summer. This morning I heard one lone robin and a few crows. The robin was probably young and getting in some last minute practicing before the winter and next years mating season.

This time of year always seems the coldest to me. I'm not used to wearing all my winter clothes and I'm stingy about turning on the heat. It gets dark early, making my evening dog walks either a night time adventure or more likely just skipped all together. The change in season puts us in mind of the darker parts of life like death and disease and economic misfortune (or maybe that's just the news).

But the Death Moon, like winter itself is not all dark and dreary and sad. Here in Portland we've been lucky enough to enjoy the last few gorgeous autumn days with brilliant gold and red leaves. I'm looking forward to the fun of Halloween and shortly after that we get to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is the time of year to take stock of your pantry and your craft supplies, making sure you have what you need for those long, dark nights. It's a time for popcorn and movies and snuggling together.

Popcorn is a wonderful evening treat for these first dark nights. The corn seems to transform from compact little kernels to fluffy white treats through some kind of magic. The butter fat and spicy chile powder helps you stay warm and eating out of a bowl together is a cozy evening activity.

*** *** ***

Spicy Popcorn

1/2 cup un-popped popcorn kernels
4 tbs butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp mild chile powder (I like New Mexico)

Pop popcorn either in an air popper or in coconut oil on the stove top. While it is popping melt the butter in a toaster oven, small saucepan or (gasp) the microwave. When the popcorn is popped and the butter melted place the popcorn in a paper bag. Drizzle some of the butter over top, sprinkle some salt and chile over it and shake the bag to distribute the seasonings. Drizzle the rest of the butter and more salt or chile as necessary (sprinkle a little bit of garlic powder or hot chile powder too!).
Pour into a large bowl and share with one or two of your favorite people.

*** *** ***

Like the sunflower plant that has to die back for it's seeds to finish ripening, winter is necessary for spring to come again. It may be cold, and it may be dark, but would you enjoy the long evenings of summer without it? What are you doing to honor the change this month? What is keeping you warm?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Wheel and the Disk

Hi, my name is Alyss and I am starting this blog to help myself get more intouch with the sacred cycles of the lunar cycles and the yearly solar cycle. I have been studying these cycles for a number of years now both as a naturalist and as a follower of nature based spirituality.

I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest where we are blessed with real seasonal change but rarely the extremes of any one season. I have always reveled in watching the leaves change in the fall, the flowers come up in the spring and looking for more subtle signs of change inbetween. In college, while studying the science of ecology and environmental studies, I discovered neo-pagan, goddess worship and other earth based spiritualities and read voraciously. Using the writings of Annette Hinshaw, Anne Hill, Starhawk, Waverley Fitzgerald and others I began cobbling together my own form of spiritual practice. It is based on watching the seasonal cycle and celebrating the natural rhythms of the moon and the sun through food, ritual and fun.

Through my studies I have found that so many of our modern holidays are based on ancient seasonal holidays. Since discovering this path I have always been a young adult living with other young adults and "religion" hasn't been a major topic of discussion. That hasn't stopped me from hosting full moon potlucks, carving pumpkins with my friends or having an annual spring party, disguised as a St. Patricks day beerfest.

Over the course of the year I hope to include posts that mark new and full moons, quarter and cross quarter days and other events in the lunar or solar cycle. I also hope to post on the signs of the seasons as we travel through these cycles and events or activities I engage in to celebrate them. I hope that this will encourage me to continue practices I do now, rededicate myself to practices I have let slide and develop new ways of celebrating. I have a feeling that this will evolve over the course of the year and I hope to find some visitors to
share the journey with me.