Why Solstices and Equinoxes?

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By M.F. Erler

I can remember as a child in elementary school learning about the Equinoxes and Solstices.  Maybe I was more interested in earth science and astronomy than my peers, but the image of the globe tilted on its axis, turning each pole in turn toward the sun in its yearly circle, has stuck with me all these years.

About eight years ago, I asked my geographer son to build me a miniature Stonehenge in our backyard.  He was glad to oblige, and used his dad’s GPS to accomplish a very accurate placing of each of the sight-stones in relation to the central one.  I can now tell exactly where the sun will be on our horizon at each solstice and equinox.

Why was this important to me?  I think partly because I need to remind myself that even when things in my world are growing dark, I can look forward to the eventual return of light.  That life is not just a linear journey from birth to death.  That it’s also cyclical.

As many of my Facebook friends know, I annually count down to the Winter Solstice.  This is the one I look toward the most, for it represents the coming back of light.  It was important to ancient cultures too, as we can see from the many ancient monuments like Stonehenge, which are oriented to show exactly when the solstices will come.  I actually find it surprising that so many of my friends now comment that they look forward to my countdown.  Maybe there’s an ancient “memory” in our DNA that points to these same times of the year that were so important to our ancestors.

Ironically though, as our world grows darker in most ways, we try to push back that dark with our artificial lights.  Whether they are street lights or Christmas lights, they actually block out the stars that our ancestors looked to for guidance.  Some places on earth, including Glacier National Park, are promoting their dark night skies, ideal for stargazing.  People even talk about “light pollution” now in all our urban areas.  Astronauts in space can tell exactly where the cities are as they orbit the night side of earth.  Each metropolitan area and even small towns are seen by their artificial lights, clumps and strings of them scattered across the face of the globe.  I wonder if it sometimes looks to these spacemen like a disease on the surface of the earth.

While we keep trying to find ways to push back the dark, maybe we need to be looking more for the lights within ourselves.  Yes, our world is a mess and seems to be getting worse almost daily.  But perhaps if each of us tries to let our lights shine out to others around us, we can do a better job of pushing back the dark.

To Plan or Not to Plan?

Photo.cropped by M. Frances Erler

I know I’m paraphrasing Shakespeare, so I hope he doesn’t mind.  With the Shelter-at-Home orders due to COVID19, I’ve been facing a challenge I’ve never encountered before.  We all have, I know.  Over the past three weeks all the plans I had for the next five months have gone out the window.  Or into the trash.  And yes, I know I’m not alone.

My quandry is whether to have a schedule for my empty days or not.  I’ve always been a planner, with a daily schedule on my bulletin board and a well-marked calendar on the wall. Setting up a new schedule has the appeal of helping me cope with everything and giving me some stability.  And a way to make sure I don’t ‘waste’ my time.

On the other hand, now that the calendar is gone, along with the schedule, I feel a strange sense of liberation.  I can do what I feel now, go with the flow.  Though I admit I find myself playing Solitaire on my Kindle a lot.  But maybe I need this bit of down time in a stressed life.

Hmm…I’m not sure which is better.  To schedule or not to schedule, that is the question.  Any ideas out there?

 

April Book News

 

 

 

Q. What do April Showers bring?

A. Long days to curl up with a good book!

 

 

 

**************NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE************

all too human book cover 2In 1905, Rebecca Bryan, the first woman to practice law in Kalispell, Montana, is sent by her uncle/ senior partner to a remote hunting lodge near the Canadian border. She’s to find the missing will of his deceased longtime love, the wealthy artist, Lucinda Cale. 

After a broken coach wheel forces her to set out in the winter forest at night, she meets Lucinda’s compelling son, Bretton. Next morning he takes her to Eagle Mountain where she meets the rest of the dysfunctional Cale family. There Rebecca also discovers Lucinda’s hidden diaries which tell of a naive bride’s victimization that hardened her into a manipulative, murderous matriarch. Lucinda’s estate is large. Each heir is desperate. Those involved reveal themselves to be All Too Human.

All Too Human  by Karen Wills was released September 18, 2019 by Five Star Cengage. Now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, & Five Star Cengage.

Midwest Book Review calls “‘All Too Human’ a simply riveting page-turner of a read from cover to cover. ‘All Too Human’ showcases author Karen Wills’ genuine flair for originality and a distinctively reader engaging narrative storytelling style that will make her deftly crafted and thoroughly entertaining novel an immediate and popular addition to both personal reading lists and community library collections.”

Karen's author photo apr 2019

           

For more books by Karen Wills     including information on her other or upcoming historical novels or to arrange a book signing or interview visit karenwills.com

 

The seven-part young adult crossover saga, “The Peaks at the Edge of the World” by M.F. ErlerPhoto.cropped looks into the future of faith in a world that is beginning to fall apart.  The members of the Parker and Sullien families share their lives with each other across time and space, in a feature called the GAP.  Each time one of them crosses this passage (similar to a wormhole) a side-effect is caused in the other’s world.   The Peaks Saga relates these effects and brings each of them to the Final Battle, where the fate of our entire galaxy hangs in the balance. Book 1 – Finding the Light: Young Jael’s family is being torn apart by the Galactic System.  Can he find someone to help rescue his sister Martina, before it’s too late? Book 2 – Searching for Maia: Jael and Martina flee their home planet with a GAP-crosser named Jon.  As they search the galaxy for a safe haven, they begin to wonder if there is any rescue out there. Book 3 – Mountaintops and Valleys: The three searchers have found planet earth, but is it really the mysterious Maia they were told to search for?  Nothing seems to fit what they expected, and soon threats are beginning to pull them apart. Book 4 – When the World Grows Cold: Twenty-five years have passed on Earth, in both the 21st and 31st Centuries.  Ginna and Martina, once connected across the GAP, now have daughters of their own, but they have taken very different paths. Book 5 – The Fountain and the Desertfountain and desert: The next generation is searching for what only the True Fountain in the Desert can supply.  Celestia, daughter of Martina, is determined to take three friends there by Crossing the GAP.  But something goes terribly wrong. Book 6 – Beyond the World: beyond the worldA new dark force is rising, forcing Celestia and her family to flee Earth.  When they discover a portal to a parallel universe, their hopes rise that they can escape.  But is there true safety in this strange new world? Book 7 -Where All Worlds End: The powers of darkness are now personified as a terrifying red dragon, which must be defeated for the galaxy to survive.  All of the GAP-crossers must work together to do this, but who is the traitor among them?

ALL OF APRIL EACH BOOK WILL BE .99 CENTS ON KINDLE

 

LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Delighted to share the cover of THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES, the fifth Spice Shop mystery, out this July from Seventh St. Books, in paper, e-book and audio.  From the cover: 

Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. 

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But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface …

Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.

Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.

As we’re all being reminded, books are a comfort during difficult times. I hope you have a stack of good reads close at hand, and that you’ll take a moment to order a book from an independent bookseller — we need them more than ever! If you do, pop over to my Facebook Author page and tell me what you ordered and the bookseller; when this crisis is over and libraries and bookstores are open again, I’ll choose a reader to win a book of mine or a bookseller gift card. 

Be safe. 

The Value of Mystery

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By M.F. Erler

Over the years, I have repeatedly run into writers who emphasize the need for mystery in our lives. I don’t mean murder mysteries, though I enjoy reading these, and so do many others apparently—for it’s a popular genre across all forms of media.

No, what I mean is something I first ran across in Frank Herbert’s Dune books. His main character, Paul Atreides, is prescient and knows all that is coming in his future.I thought that would be a great gift to have, but instead it becomes more and more of a burden to him. He begins to lose all hope in his life, for he knows exactly what each day will bring—all the way up to his death.

This idea opened a new world of thought for me. The next place I discovered the concept was in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. In one scene, the wizard Gandalf tells Frodo that there is no need to despair. “Only those who know the future without a doubt have cause of despair.” At first, this seemed backwards to me. But as I thought more about it, I realized that it’s the mystery, the unknown aspect of the future, that leaves room for hope. For we don’t know everything. Maybe we aren’t meant to.

Even in the Book of Job, an ancient piece of poetic literature we’re told, this idea is prevalent. Job experiences all kinds of heartbreaks and setbacks in his life and begins to ask God why he has allowed this. (I confess that I often find myself asking questions like this, too.) In the end of the book, God at last comes to Job, but he doesn’t answer his questions. Instead he asks him questions such as, “Where were you when I created the world? Can you create anything like I have?”

And Job’s reply?  “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” He is humbled by the mystery.

One of C.S. Lewis’s most misunderstood book is called Till We Have Faces. I read it several years ago, and perhaps need to again. It’s a retelling of the ancient myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the viewpoint of the young woman’s sister. She often asks the gods why they have tormented her sister. In the end, however, she realizes that the gods are a mystery for a reason. She says, “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer [to my questions]. You are yourself the answer.” This is, according to most, Lewis’s most completely realized character. And to me, she seems to echo Job.

In the end, we must face up to the fact that we humans don’t know everything. Even though our techno-scientific culture pushes us to intensify our search, maybe its failure is what helps us to embrace and value the mystery in our lives.

 

Happy New Year Blog!

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By M. F. Erler

Happy New Year.  Of course, this only applies if you are on the Gregorian (more commonly known as the Christian) Calendar.  Most of the western world is.  However, not everyone celebrates the new year on what we call January 1.  Before the Sixteenth Century, most of Europe was following the Julian Calendar, started originally by Julius Caesar, the first Roman emperor.  In the Julian Calendar, March was the first month of the year.  Which explains why September, October, November, and December literally mean 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th month, respectively.  (By the way, the reason July and August both have 31 days is that Caesar Augustus, successor of Julius Caesar wanted his month to have as many days as his predecessor’s.  Couldn’t let him look more important, after all.)

When the Gregorian Calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory in the 1500s, January became the first month.  Therefore September (septem=7 in Latin) became the 9th month instead of the 7th.  And so on.  The reason for this was the Julian Calendar’s year was not 365 days long, so there was need for a leap month every so many years.  And you thought Leap Year was complicated!

Here’s some more calendar trivia.  The New Year of the Church Calendar actually begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas, the First Sunday in the Ecclesiastical season of Advent.  In a sense, our commercial new year coincides with the opening of school in August or September.  School used to start the day after Labor Day, the first Monday in September, but that has fallen by the wayside in many places.

And then, of course there’s the Lunar Calendars, whose dates vary from our solar calendar from year to year.  Chinese New Year usually falls sometime in February, on 2/5 in 2019.  Then Hindus, Arabs and others also have their own calendars.  The Jewish calendar has two new year’s, similar to some Christian churches.  The Sacred Jewish New Year falls around Passover in the Spring.  While the Secular New Year is in the Fall.

Okay, now that I’ve further complicated your life, let me just wish you a peaceful and hopeful new year.  That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, though it may be a pipe dream.