As we move into December it means there are less daylight hours for typical running adventures. This feels especially hard for working parents or anyone working traditional hours who runs before or after the grind of the day as those hours are dark. In pushing myself to get out there anyways, I have tried to stay optimistic by telling myself that I am practicing for the night time hours of the 100K I am eyeing for next summer. I have also found there is some immediate payback for the extra effort involved in getting out in the dark… the stars!
One of the most amazing things about living where we do is the clear, unobstructed views of the night sky. If you can find your way to a lookout, meadow, reservoir, or even one of the many golf courses in our area on a clear night, you will be treated to a truly breathtaking show. As the winter solstice approaches, we have even more star gazing hours. The solstice is December 21 but actually the earliest sunset is December 6th at 4:37pm with astronomical twilight at 6:13pm. Because the sun is setting so early, this makes for a great family adventure even for those with early bedtimes.
If you are like me, taking advantage of the evening hours is hard because parenting at the end of the day is a bit of a marathon. I cook dinner, clean up and then the kids need to bathe, get PJs on, brush teeth, read a book, and finally, to bed. But let’s say you shorten this a bit…prepare a slow cooker recipe throughout the day, postpone the clean-up, skip the bath (which saves the kids whining about it too), get jammies on and then put warm clothes on top, and head out the door. And instead of reading picture books, tell them a story illustrated by the stars…
We recently heard the story Coyote Places the Stars, a story about the Big Dipper based on a Wasco tribal legend. This was shared with us in honor of Native American Heritage Day celebrated on the day after Thanksgiving. The Wasco people are a native tribe that inhabit the Northwest and traditionally migrated along the Columbia River area. You can find the story here or purchase the beautifully illustrated book. There are also books for various age levels that tell the myths and legends from Greek Mythology that are common on constellation charts.
With older kids and teens, you could venture out for a night time hike or snowshoe. This is a great time to teach clothing layering and packing essential gear for adventures. Bring a star chart or download one of the many smartphone apps that help to navigate the sky. Greek Mythology is often taught in school around 6th or 7th grade, so have your tween tell you the stories about the characters in the sky. Have your older teen do some homework on Astronomy and pack your telescope or check one out from the local library.
There is definitely a bit more involved with preparing for a cold, night time adventure with kids, but no doubt the extra effort will be worth the memories shared. Happy stargazing!