Welcome to today's guest blogger and Connection Messenger, Esther Miller. Esther has forgotten more about nature and gardening than I'll ever know, and I love it when she shares ways to connect with the natural world around us.

Seasons change…have you noticed?

How well do you connect with the natural world as the seasons change?

Are the changes in nature endlessly fascinating to you, or do they just happen without engaging you at all? Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

We all know, regardless of latitude or even hemisphere, that days are shorter in winter and the weather is colder. We may welcome the bracing cold, can't get enough of winter sports, and rejoice in the comfort of long, cozy nights by the fire. Or we may ache with the cold and long for the healing heat of summer.

If this season of winter is just something to be endured, let me see if I can tempt you with some subtle signs that may help you connect with what is happening around you. Let's start with something you can observe without having to make a special trip out into that freezing mess.

Watch the sun's winter movements…and beyond as seasons change

Do you know where the sun rises at your house? In the east, of course. We all know that. But where? Is it due east every morning of the year? Do you have any east-facing windows? When does the sun shine in those windows? Does that change from winter to summer?

If you don't know, this is the perfect time of year to figure it out. Find a window that faces more or less east. Make a point of looking for the sun each morning about the same time. Late in December, at the winter solstice, the sun is as low and as far around to the south as it is going to get…assuming you live in the northern hemisphere. The farther north you are, the lower the sun will be in the sky and the farther to the south. If you live in the southern tier of states or in tropical or subtropical areas, the sun will be higher and there will be less change from day to day.

Watch the pace of change

If you start this observation in early winter, you won't see much change for the first days or even weeks. But slowly you'll see that the sun is a little higher than it was when you started—and a smidge farther to the north. If you first saw the sun coming up right in line with the south side of your garage, for instance, after a couple of weeks, the sun will have moved far enough to the north that it may be hidden behind the garage. As you approach the equinox, the first day of spring, you'll notice the changes are happening faster than they did in December. By the summer solstice, the sun will be coming up well to the north of your garage and will be high in the sky by the time you're looking for it. The changes will have slowed down again, as well. After the summer solstice, it will begin to reverse its path and its rate of change until by next winter, it's back where you started watching it.

Knowing the path of the sun across your home and your yard is a good beginning to a better connection with nature and is invaluable if you are a gardener. It may even answer some of those pesky questions like, “Why does it take so long for the ice to melt at that one place on the driveway?”

If by chance you get hooked on day length and want to know more about the changes as they occur, a good source of information can be found at http://sunrisesunset.com.

Esther Miller

Esther Miller is a friend and fellow writer and amateur radio operator (KK6AD). Born and raised in the Midwest, Esther lived in California for over 30 years before moving to the Shenandoah Valley over 10 years ago. She's currently back in California living nearer her children and grandchildren.

Esther has been a Virginia Master Gardener for many years. She has traveled all over the United States and brings a wealth of experience to her writing. She invites you to follow her through her blog “At Home…On the Road.” Besides gardening, Esther is interested in genealogy. She has two children and two grandchildren.

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