The Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist solstice celebration combined rituals from the Judeo-Christian and pagan traditions. They honored Chanukah by telling its story, lit a chalice to honor the orbiting of the sun and the planets, cast a circle to honor the indigenous Nuche people and called upon the guardians of the four directions, represented by animal totems. On slips of paper, people wrote down what they want more of in 2023 and what they want to let go of. The papers were placed in a wreath which was ceremoniously burned in the bonfire at the end of the spiral dance where people joined hands and moved in a counterclockwise circle, winding toward its center. The circuits grew ever smaller, just as the days get shorter toward the end of the year. Near the center, at the point that represents the solstice, the dance turned and moved clockwise, bringing people face-to-face. Photo and text by Sue Rollyson

Hello Darkness
By Jampa

It’s that time of year
When darkness drops without dusk
And crushes the light.

The Resourceful Elf 
By Tom Mercer
Former Carbondalian

Snuffles the Elf had mixed feelings about the coming Christmas. Santa had selected Snuffles to oversee the maintenance and upgrading of his sleigh just over 100 years ago, and each Christmas season the elf typically had to deal with uncooperative suppliers, late deliveries of parts and countless other challenges. Nevertheless, Snuffles faced a hard deadline each and every year, and he always managed to complete the necessary work on Santa’s sleigh in time for Christmas Eve deliveries. 

Santa’s most recent work order for Snuffles included the following tasks and modifications: (1) Purchase and install an upgraded electronic mapping program, (2) replace Santa’s sleigh seat with a heated model, (3) install an electronic display panel that would show all intended deliveries for Christmas Eve (one that would include information on whether the intended recipient had been “naughty or nice” since the previous Christmas), (4) an upgraded radar system, (5) a new eight-speaker sound system and (6) a replacement for Santa’s “snack box” with a greater capacity. Snuffles had a hard deadline and his future employment depended on successfully completing his assignments. 

Mrs. Snuffles dreaded the coming of the Christmas season. She was acutely aware of the pressure that her husband had to endure. Snuffles the Elf worried and fretted about his assignments, and he would sometimes become uncharacteristically grumpy (which was not a desirable quality for an elf). Still, the couple managed to make it through each Christmas season, thanks to their mutual elf-support and elf-understanding.

It was the week before Christmas when Snuffles received a message from the vendor who handled Santa’s sleigh seats. The vendor, whose name was Ted, reported that his supplier could not ship any heated sleigh seats due to a manufacturing defect. Apparently, the new model of the seat featuring the heaters had a tendency to short circuit, thereby burning the seated party’s posterior. Snuffles repressed the panic that began to well up and instructed the seat supplier to go ahead and ship one of the new heated seats immediately. Time was of the essence and, apparently, Snuffles’ mission, not to mention Santa’s posterior, was potentially in jeopardy.

The defective heated sleigh seat arrived quickly. Santa’s sleigh had to be ready to fly in just a few days, and Snuffles knew that failure was not an option. Fortunately, Snuffles possessed some basic knowledge about electronics and wiring. 

Recognizing the critical nature of his mission, he developed the following plan. He would work day and night to correct the electronic defect in the seat’s heater unit, reinstall the heater, sew up the seat’s upholstery and mount the new seat in Santa’s sleigh — all before Christmas Eve. His job was on the line, and for elves there were very few alternative employment opportunities.

Happily, Snuffles’ plan seemed to progress perfectly. He rewired the seat’s heater, installed the new sleigh seat and finished all of Santa’s other upgrades and modifications with two days to spare. Snuffles the elf and his wife were finally able to relax and enjoy their quiet, peaceful, elven lives.

But that Christmas Eve, somewhere over the Midwestern United States, Santa Clause became aware of an intensely uncomfortable heat emanating from his seat on the sleigh. The heat forced Santa to make an emergency landing in an open field somewhere in Illinois. He jumped out of the sleigh, and looking back he saw wisps of smoke rising from his sleigh’s empty seat. Naturally, his first thoughts were of Snuffles the Elf.

To be continued……