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Many people have been asking very good questions about the Republican Primaries, which start incredibly early this time ‘round.  Sadly, I don’t have any good answers – but I can give a few really lousy ones.

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The Year in Work

It’s been quite a year in the economy.  70% of all Americans think the economy is going badly according to a CNN poll, with unemployment the biggest concern of a solid majority.  By a 7-1 margin Americans will tell you this is a bad time to find a “quality” job, by a recent Gallup poll – the worst figure they’ve ever seen.  But 2011 was a year in which there was solid growth in the total number of jobs, even if they aren’t quite what people are hoping for.

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It’s a story that truly deserves the term “meteoric” – a brief ball of heat streaking across the sky for just one moment, then crashing to the earth with a terrific thud.  The rise and fall of Michael Brodkorb is the biggest story in Minnesota politics this month, yet it begs caution on so many levels.  It is full of unsubstantiated rumors and personal tragedy that do not deserve much public scrutiny.  We cannot be sure exactly how it ends, given that some pieces are still playing out.

But there is one thing that we know about this story that is worth telling now – influence is fleeting when done for the sake of influence itself.   That cautionary tale has a deep meaning well beyond “politics”.

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When it Stops

A quiet grey day in Saint Paul rustles slowly as the kids and animals laze deep into the morning.  There’s no reason to get up early – no obligations, nowhere to be, no sun calling.  The holiday has started on its own time, creeping into our lives without much fuss and fanfare because that’s how it comes.  The holiday starts when everything else stops.

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Dark into Light

It is dark outside when the alarm goes off, not at all a time to wake up.  The usual 8 hours and 41 minutes of daylight we can expect on a Winter Solstice is never enough to keep us going, even on a relatively warm and sometimes even bright year like this.  The brown Winter of 2011 is just as dark as any other.

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Darkness falls quickly, long before dinner.  The evenings are deep and reflective, times that make body and soul a bit weary.  Deep Winter, just before the Solstice, is a time for imagination and possibility more than making something happen.

Into this darkness plunged the news that the “Dear Leader” of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, has died suddenly.  The world has reacted with a mild panic, stock markets tumbling as they contemplate the possibility of more uncertainty ahead in the region.  This was especially true in South Korea, a nation that only recently completed the leap from developing nation to the developed world.

This may not seem like a time of “Romance” in the way that anyone typically uses the word, but the imagination of the moment demonstrates what a new Romantic Era is like, good and bad, far better than nearly anything else.

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Solstice Reflections

Winter Solstice arrives precisely on December 22nd at 05:30 GMT, or 11:30 CDT on the 21st. At this moment, the northern hemisphere will be at its darkest. The axis of the planet is pointing directly off into space, but it is also starting its wobble back towards the sun that brings all life to this humble planet.  We celebrate it by turning off all electric light and enjoying a few moments with quiet and candlelight – just the music of the spheres to contemplate. This is our holiday for the season.

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