December 19, 2023

At Winter Solstice

A man I’ve known since he was a boy put up his yearly Holiday Star, high in an old Spruce tree near the road. I look forward to this every December. Thank you, Brett Beardslee.

In the forest, ferns cling to green along the path and Oaks rule like kings and Queens—White, Red, and Black.

My sweet dog Disco wanders through the leafless trees in her orange coat, staying reasonably close to me as she searches for something to carry or eat.

The moon rises above the forest and brightens our way home.

Lil Bit








I end 2023 with a Solstice goodbye to my son David’s sweet dog LilBit who’s been part of our family and David’s  community for 15 years. You had a good life full of love, warmth, and snuggles, LilBit. I’m glad we could say goodbye in November when I was in North Carolina

Wishing everyone in our struggling world a calm, gentle, and kind Winter Solstice. Soon there will be more light.

Common Haircap
Oak leaves




  1. January 2, 2024 at 8:40 pm



    Dear Elaine,
    Though I haven’t responded for a while, I have been enriched by your writing and photos, especially at this dark, cold time of year. My best friend died recently, and I was able to be at her side with her children when she passed. She lived a long (80 years) and full life, and I miss her terribly. And, like LilBit, she was suffering and it was her time.
    Sending love and wishes for peace and warmth, Anne

    1. January 5, 2024 at 11:42 am

      Elaine Mansfield


      It’s nice to hear from you, Anne, and know a little about what you’ve been experiencing. I’m so sorry your best friend died. It’s always a blow unless the person is so sick it’s a relief before the loss feels like a blow. I’m glad you could accompany your friend and her feamily. What a gift that is. It’s not surprising that you miss her terribly, but sometimes it’s obviously better to leave the body behind.

      I’ve had a virus (not covid) and I’m on the other side of it. It disrupted my writing flow and that may be a good thing. I’ll find the path again or a different path. Love to you, warm ginger tea, and hugs from people you love, Elaine

  2. December 23, 2023 at 12:25 pm

    Jean Raffa


    Thank you for the beautiful images and warm thoughts. So sorry about LilBit. I’m so grateful for the comfort our animal friends bring, even though it’s usually for too short a time. We’ll spend part of this holiday in the mountains with our family, but without our beloved animals this year. We look forward to the cold weather, a fire in the fireplace, good, camaraderie, and a jigsaw puzzle on the table.

    Blessed Solstice to you and your family and wishes for a happy and healthy new year. Jeanie

    1. December 25, 2023 at 7:33 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      LilBit was an old man, and he was suffering. It was hard for my son David, but it’s what we take on when we rescue a dog. It’s the part of love that hurts! I wonder if you had cold weather in the mountains. It’s been persistently warm here. A jig saw puzzle sounds lovely. Because I had a light fever and flu symptoms, my NC son didn’t come home for Christmas because we decided he didn’t need this illness, even if it seemed minor. We weren’t sure when he had to decide, but this bug made me tired for a week. My other son lives a few miles away and checked in on me. I Kept taking gentle walks and ate lightly. Our plan is to gather together in a month or so. Peaceful and healthy New Year to you and your family.

  3. December 21, 2023 at 11:32 am

    susan scott


    Happy Solstice to you and family Elaine. Thank you for sharing about LilBit and it’s wonderful that you got to spend some with him and his snuggles. Good on David for caring for him.

    1. December 21, 2023 at 12:00 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Blessed Solstice to you and your family, too, Susan. I hope you’re ready for a time of softening sunlight. I’m ready for longer days, but they won’t be obvious for another month. David is an incredible caretaker and he adopted LilBit when LilBit needed a papa. David rescued his other two dogs, too. Like me and his dad, David loves dogs. May all be well in our turbulent world.

  4. December 20, 2023 at 11:11 am

    Lin Gregory


    Oh Elaine, I’m so sorry to hear about Davids dog – what a fine name she had! She looked so lovable and obviously loved her snuggles with you, it’s so good that you got to say goodbye last month. Your photos show the essence of the woods approaching solstice – soon the green shoots will be stretching out to the light again.

    Sending you Solstice blessings, with much love, light and laughter for the Yuletide season and wishing you a happy, healthy 2024.

    1. December 20, 2023 at 2:35 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      It’s sad, Lin, because death is sad, but LilBit had a glorious life (and a great name). He was no longer enjoying being on this earth because of poor health and David was with him to the end. There comes a time with our pets and it’s always hard. I wrote a little about LilBit’s life in my response to Deborah. He shared his snuggles with everyone, especially on a chilly day if he could ride inside someone’s jacket, preferably up against a woman’s chest with his head sticking out of the top of the coat so he could watch the world.

      It’s always a challenge adjusting to winter here, but we’ve had almost no snow and none deep enough to need a shovel. Have a joyful, laughter filled, delicious Solstice celebration with your poet wife. I love your photos and I’m on my way to look and comment. The very first one is a knock-out. May there be peace and hope in this confusing world as the season turns.

  5. December 20, 2023 at 9:17 am

    Marian Beaman


    Thank you for sharing the Holiday Star and your homage to the stark beauty of this season: Oaks rule like Kings and Queens, a vivid description. This morning I mentioned to C. that I believe today (or tomorrow) is the first day of winter, to which he replied, “Huh, well that’s interesting. I guess you pay more attention to the seasons because you grew up in the country, in farmland.” Probably so. We all look forward to the days slowly lengthening.

    Yesterday I found this seasonal bit in a book I’d just finished reading: “Winter seems to have arrived with a peculiar abruptness. She doesn’t know if it is the northern climate or the dank humors of the Po valley but the seasons in Ferarra turn like the handle of a crank; one day it is summer, the next, the trees are dropping their leaves, then frost descends and icy winds are seeking out gaps in the walls and windows. She is used to the Tuscan climate, where there is a slow tapering-off of warmth and light, a gradual tip into autumn, winter arriving in an apologetic creep.” from Maggie O’Farrell’s The Marriage Portrait about the Duchess of Ferarra, the star figure in Browning’s “My Last Duchess.”

    Enjoy the gently increasing light this season provides and the warm presence of your Disco, Elaine.

    1. December 20, 2023 at 2:23 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      Marian, Dec. 21 is the big day of the turning this year. There will be more light, but more cold. I hope you didn’t have floods from the big rains, but in NY we were grateful for the storm. I hope it soaked the Canadian forest. The bird feeders have many visitors here and a male Downy Woodpecker dominates the suet cake. He’s not a big guy, but he’s in charge. I’ve been in Tuscany and briefly in Bologna, but never in the Po Valley which is also in Northern Italy. The descriptions you quoted make me want to throw another log in the wood stove.

      Blessed Christmas to you. I hope you’re feasting with family and may you decorate with the reddest of red flowers to celebrate this time of year. Disco loves to sleep in this weather and I’m fortunate she doesn’t need as much exercise as some dogs I’ve had. She loves a long walk but also loves curling up next to the woodstove. I look forward to longer days, too, but winter skies have been exquisite this fall with beautiful views of the moon. Sending love and prayers for peace.

  6. December 20, 2023 at 4:35 am

    Aladin Fazel


    I will hold your prayers deep in my heart, dear Elaine, and call a grateful Amen to all the good ones. The light is there, tiny but bright.
    I wish you and yours a leisurely and peaceful Winter Solstice.

    1. December 20, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      We’re having a quiet holiday which feels just right this year. I send blessings to you, your wife, and those grandkids. May there be peace and love in this struggling world.

  7. December 19, 2023 at 9:48 am

    Deborah Gregory


    Dear Elaine, thank you so much for sharing these precious memories and lovely photos with us. I’m so sorry to hear that LilBit is no longer with your family. I hope she’s running, wild and free, through other fields with sweet Willow now, together with all the other animal companions your family has loved and given homes, and pieces of their hearts, too. Sending you and yours, Yule blessings and much love and light across the oceans and oaks between us, Deborah.

    1. December 20, 2023 at 2:05 pm

      Elaine Mansfield


      LilBit was old, even for a Chihuahua, but his first Mama died young and he was alone too much while she was hospitalized. My son David began taking care of LilBit when his owner was ill and then David adopted the little guy when she died. When I visited David, I requested LilBit as a bed partner. I missed Disco’s warm body. LilBit was glad to fill in and in most photos, he’s snuggled inside someone’s jacket or sweatshirt. He was a good, good boy and loved walking in the woods. He weighed 6 pounds, but kept up with the big dogs. David’s North Carolina home has beautiful old oaks and natural stones large enough to walk under. LilBit is buried on that land. I’m sure he’s happier in doggie heaven than he was in his last days on earth when his heart was failing. It was a great blessing LilBit found my son David who is expert at choosing the best dogs who need a home.

      Have a blessed Solstice and a peaceful New Year. I send you love and appreciation for the beauty you share.

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