In case you haven’t discovered it, the Christmas music station for the Oklahoma City area is FM 104.1. If you prefer classier less contemporary seasonal music, go to KUCO Classical Radio at FM 90.1. More and more Christmas tunes are being aired as we draw close to the 25th of December.

In case you haven’t discovered it, the Christmas music station for the Oklahoma City area is FM 104.1. If you prefer classier less contemporary seasonal music, go to KUCO Classical Radio at FM 90.1. More and more Christmas tunes are being aired as we draw close to the 25th of December.

This evening at 10:19 pm comes the winter solstice, shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it is their longest day. Each day in Shawnee the sun rises later and sets earlier as it crosses in a low arc across the sky. Tomorrow daylight increases until our summer solstice, which falls at 4:44 pm on June 20th 2020. Something rather cool about the number 444-06-20-2020.

Speaking of astronomical events, were you able to see any Geminids? These bits from the asteroid annually pass through our atmosphere for days in December. It seemed every time I went out to scan the sky, clouds preceded me. One night the clouds appeared to be rolling waves of an ocean, curling in rows from south to north. Saturday night the stars sparkled in the cold air. The clouds were low on the horizon and the moon was dauntingly bright, illuminating the landscape as if it were a night sun. I walked along the road, head tilted up to catch any sudden dash or splash of light. My mom died four years ago the next day, Sunday, and I wondered if she was up there somewhere. The next moment this brilliant thick streak of light zoomed over my head high in the sky. It disappeared as a second much dimmer trail of white came from a different direction. I think I got my answer.

In an odd twist of events, a 3.6 earthquake rattled Stroud about 10 o’clock Sunday morning. The tremor was felt in Shawnee. Some of my pictures on the walls slightly listed to one side. In the kitchen another surprise awaited. Small moths had emerged from out of the blue and were clinging to the sides of boxes, walls and glassware inside one cabinet. The small step ladder was retrieved to allow me to check out the three shelves. Where was the food source these moths had enjoyed as caterpillars?

Pantry moths, commonly known as Indian meal moths (Plodia interpunctella) were in my cupboard. I soon located where the flock had originated—the rice package. Although the grain had been purchased recently with an expiration date deep into 2020, small caterpillars and webbing were in the rice. The moths were the end result of eggs in the rice which had hatched into larvae that had eaten their fill, crawled from the rice sack into crevices to spin cocoons and now were in flying mode. The moths’ only goal was reproduction since they couldn’t eat and their lives would soon end.

The rice and its occupants went to the compost pile. The moths were caught in the glass peanut butter jar and released outdoors to cavort and have fun the short time they had remaining. No doubt wild orgies were going on within the rose bush. All foods were checked and put into glassware before the shelves were thoroughly cleaned.

Trees become star performers this time of year, be they artificial or natural. People who don’t give trees a second thought most the year will buy a live or artificial tree to put inside their home. The evergreens are illuminated, decorated and serve as staging sites for gifts.

Romans decorated for Saturnalia this time of year using evergreen trees. As early as 217 BCE banquets were held in December. It was a time of partying, feasting, showing generosity and exchanging gifts. The public holiday celebration was held at the winter solstice. The following days then grew longer. Winter was leaving as the sun became stronger. The tradition carried on in ancient European societies where evergreen trees were important beacons of hope. Winters were harsh and spring seemed so far away. The tree stood upright or was hung upside down in the house. Other times deciduous plants were chosen and nurtured to bloom in winter.

Christmas later began in Rome as well. In lieu of celebrating the return of the sun, the birth of a son of God was celebrated. In Germany the evergreen trees, which continued to symbolize everlasting life, were decorated with apples, cookies and other foods. Baby Jesus initially topped trees, but soon angels and stars became popular. The indoor tree idea spread to other countries. Candles transitioned to electric lights. Handmade and glass ornaments yielded to plastic. Yet, many of us climb into the attic and precariously struggle down the steps under boxes of decorations. Our remembrances of past Christmases and Yules are resurrected as we hang old trinkets passed down from generation to generation while adding new ones. Our trees become enmeshed with memories and love.

My white pine tree stands in water in the front room. This tree with the softest of long green needles has two strings of lights, one with the older heat-producing traditional bulbs spaced 12 inches apart and the other of smaller more closely spaced LED bulbs. Nothing else. This weekend the tree may get strands of tinsel and a few ornaments while I watch “The Bishop’s Wife” or “The Polar Express”. Or not. I kind of like the tree au naturel with colorful lights!

The oak tree by the road has its own set of decorations. Not strung across the highest bows, but tucked into the niches and crannies of roots are large vivid orange mushrooms. The blackjack died two years ago, but continues to give. The dazzling schrooms with cracked tops (reminds me of molasses cookies), large gills and fibrous stems are probably in the Tricholomataceae family. This is a “wastebasket group” of pink, white or yellow spore producing gilled mushrooms. The Tricholoma mushroom complex shares a symbiotic relationship with oaks. The fungi are now busily degrading tree tissue to return vital nutrients back to nature to support other trees and organisms.

Vital is a powerful word. The Bagelry in Maryland is located on Vital Way. Great bagels. Some of the best store-bought eggs I have discovered come from Vital Farms. Their girls live in “sun-drenched fields” where the land is protected from toxic chemicals and over-use. Inside each carton is tucked a small Vital Times publication. This week: “Holiday like a Hen!” Graze on real food, exercise, and take time for yourself. If dust baths don’t work, try bubble baths!

And keep warm. The rain gauge on Tuesday morning was criss-crossed with frost lines over the clear plastic housing due to low humidity and 23 degrees. The icy frost formed patterns that covered the cars. Dull brown grass sparkled, hit by rays of the morning sun.

Becky Emerson Carlberg, graduate of Oklahoma State (Plant Pathology) is a teacher, artist, writer as well as certified Oklahoma Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at Becscience@att.net.