Winter solstice and navigating extremes: Alaska News Brief December 2023
winter solstice, navigating extremes
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Winter solstice and navigating extremes: Alaska News Brief December 2023

It may be just me, but it seems like folks have been saying “I can’t wait until 2023 is over” since 2015.

We’ve been living in a time that has elevated extreme ideologies with little regard for truth, facts, and law. Political, social, and cultural divisiveness continues. COVID never left the building. Social media has turned baseless posts by trolls into the new “news” of the minute.

It feels to me like a world of forces and counterforces, and actions and reactions, with a good measure of chaos in between. I know for some people it feels like this in their families. Their relationships. No wonder people latch onto conspiracy theories and fantasy stories where the forces of good and evil seem clear and true!

The danger of course is that these stories and theories devolve into dangerous slogans that bring out the worst in human behavior—a righteousness that justifies lying, deceiving, dehumanizing, silencing, and harming others.

Selfie of Vicki with her light goggles.

On the other hand, sometimes we say “extreme” when we talk about someone walking 500 miles in the Arctic, or to the very cycles of nature that nourish us—cycles that feel exhausting and difficult at times, and yet provide the very center of our lives. Sunlight and the moon. The angle of the earth to the sun.

Winter solstice brings the fewest hours of sunlight and a darkness that can feel enveloping or suffocating. Even the Alaskans who love winter skiing and biking and aurora hunting say that they begin to feel the lack of light eventually. It creeps up on you slowly, and then quickens. It affects your mood before you can say, “oh, right, it’s that time of year again.”

That’s one reason I got a set of light goggles—yes, goggles that fill my eyes with light—as a life hack to cope with the winter doldrums. They give me a little energy and a mood boost.

The idea of a “boost” is in some ways what all the winter holidays bring. They tell us to come together. They remind us of our communities. They seek our recognition of purpose and meaning and love. They call us to light.

Candles, lights draped along the roofline, blinking lights on trees, lights as symbols and commemorations, even as offerings.

This sort of “boost” isn’t meant to be a jolt like that from an energy drink, but as an ongoing remembering of ourselves and our connections to everyone else. They are not meant to tug people apart as lights on some infinite single-dimensional line that pulls endlessly in either direction, but more like stars in the night sky, as a part of everything.

We have so much work ahead of us to remember how to work toward solutions rather than sound bites and shame. The “we” here is everyone.

Here at Trustees, we have two oral arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court in early February, briefings due at the end of December and throughout January, inactive litigation about to activate again, and it can feel extremely intense and relentless.

When I see our attorneys and clients, our board members and supporters, and our entire staff stick with these cases and our work month after month, year after year, I know the night sky is full of stars that give light even on the darkest days.

Just as Alaskans (and all who live toward the earth’s poles) must figure out a rhythm to live in a place with extreme changes in weather and light, so does everyone who wants a healthy planet and who will fight for it. So does anyone who works on behalf of the health and rights of everyone.

I still love my light goggles, but nothing feels more joyful and heartening than working alongside people with the resilience to navigate these extremes.

Happy solstice to all!


PS. Thanks to supporters like you, we can continue fighting to protect Alaska’s land, water, air, wildlife and people.



The twelve days of litigation

Geoff chilling out in Glacier National Park, 1996. Family photo

Drinks with lawyers–Geoff finds work that matters

Joan Jett in an afternoon sunset. Photo by Bridget Psarianso

Darkness my old friend

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