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Longer Days Make Me Optimistic: Prediction for a Glorious New Year

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: solstice, farms, 2009, New Year,

Happy New Year!

Hard as it is for me to believe, the first day of 2009 is well underway. The winter solstice passed by, more than a week ago. This morning, I noticed that the sun peeked over the horizon just a hair north of where it rose the last time I watched it from my farm-henge vantage point. The season of life is coming, I just know it is. Longer days make me optimistic.

Osage County Kansas sunrise

I was born in North Dakota, where winter was long and hard. We knew how to have fun in that dark season ... we spent half an hour bundling up to brave the sub-zero temperatures and double-digit wind speeds. Skating, sledding and fort-building were all on our wintertime agenda. More often than not, in spite of our physical exertion, we turned to little blocks of ice within 15 minutes of exposure. We were warm by the time the un-bundling was completed ... and more often than not, started the process all over again. As much fun as wintertime brought, longer days made me optimistic.

As a kid, I didn't understand the cause of  seasonal day length differences, but I was well aware of the expanded dark period in winter. I was also aware of where I saw the sun peek over the horizon, although it wasn't until 4th grade science class that I was able to put it all together ... with a little help from a very patient teacher. Ever since that revelation, no matter where we lived, I found myself a sacred place in the landscape where I could hide out, reflect on nature and mark the sun's progress from south to north and back south again. My sighting stone was often a grain bin or silo; trees also came in handy. When I went to college in Chicago, I found water towers atop buildings to help. Here in Kansas, our pine grove makes a pretty nice solar tracking device.

With the turning of the sun, and the subsequent longer days to look forward to, optimism fills my soul. I know that our country is facing some very exciting and difficult times in this new year.  I know that folks will want to hunker down, pull back, and wrap themselves in the shroud of survival. Money will be tighter than usual, but don't let that get you down. Our ancestors didn't have half the material goods to feel compelled to consume that we have. They got their satisfaction from hard work and took joy in the small things. They grew gardens out of necessity. They raised chickens and milked a family cow ... out of necessity. They cut wood or dug coal to fire their stoves. They played games, worked on puzzles sketched, painted and wrote. The work of living was hard, but it was oh-so satisfying.

I predict that 2009 will be a glorious year. Yes, the economy will be less than we would like it to be, but in my opinion, that is a small part of the equation. Gardens will once again flourish as nourishment for body and soul. Small chicken flocks will appear in the most unlikely of places. People will stay put long enough to marvel at the subtleties of nature ... and to interact with one another as our highly social species was meant to interact. I predict that there will be a surge in community action, and that people will reach out to help others in ways that haven't often been seen in the last decade or more. The ME generations have what it takes to become the US generations, I just know it is true. I am convinced that the work will be hard in 2009, but it is that special reward that will motivate us in ways our culture hasn't been motivated for some time.

Here's to a new year of opportunity. I am optimistic, and excited to see how it all plays out. 

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

hank will_2
1/9/2009 10:30:21 AM

Hey Wanda -- What a treat to "hear" from you. Thanks for your kind words. I think there will be considerably more economic carnage, before it is all over. The run-away train is derailing as I type. And I definitely believe that there will be plenty of pain ... pain that I don't wish upon anyone. But, I also believe that our ancestors had it way worse ... and the experience made them stronger. Of course, the backlash might be exactly what landed us in this current predicament. I hope things are well over at Simple Living, Wanda. Folks, Wanda Urbanska is, among many things, an insightful author, effective activist and charming TV host ... she wrote the book on Simple Living, quite literally. Visit Wanda's Simple Living website ( for a fresh dose of inspiration.

wanda urbanska
1/9/2009 9:11:06 AM

Great blog, Hank! Though I'm convinced that the great majority of us -- even those on the path to simplifying our lives -- experience some fear of the economy going from bad to worse, there has been little comment in the media about the upside of the downturn. Not only can this crisis bring us together again as you mention, return us to victory gardens, and put an end to the habit of recreational shopping, but our carbon emissions have been lowered of late. We're driving less, manufacturing less, consuming less. Maybe a blessed silver lining will be reducing negative impact on the planet, which sorely needs help.

hank will_2
1/2/2009 11:14:04 AM

Hey Barb -- thanks for the kind words. We are also looking into wind power. The wind really blows at the farm. But you are right that the technology is still fairly expensive. I am convinced that we as a people have what it takes to get back on track. And I think we will like it. KC -- thanks for your kind words too. I really believe that reaching out and resisting the temptation to pull away will be key to our success as a nation in 2009.

kc compton_2
1/2/2009 9:52:04 AM

Nice one, Hank. I agree whole-heartedly and I know the key to coming through this challenge on even stronger footing is for all of us to resist pulling away from each other and getting into an "every person for himself" mind-set. The key is pulling together, and that's what Grit is all about. Thanks for a thoughtful beginning to a squeaky clean new year. I can't wait to see what we all make of it -- together. And now, I'm going to go enjoy my day off and think good thoughts about all y'all there working away at the office. :=] --K.C.

1/1/2009 3:31:14 PM

I agree completely, Hank! You summed up my own thoughts and feelings quite well, and I'd suggest that it's a safe wager we're not the only ones feeling this way! Another area I'm hopeful about is getting more serious about alternative energy. My husband and I just got back from a walk around the neighborhood and we were noticing how much sunlight hits the south side of our roof and how much wind blows through our yard. We've been doing some research on solar and wind energy, but right now it seems a bit pricey for us. I'm hopeful this will change as well as many other things in the coming years. I campaigned for Obama this year, and like many others, it was the first time I had ever gotten involved in a political campaign. I think he has the potential to be a great president. I also think that we as a people have the potential to be a great nation again, and that returning to a simpler lifestyle is one of the ways we will be able to meet the challenges ahead of us. Here's to happier New Years Day's to come! Barb Kuzara High Ridge, MO