Urban Almanac

December 30, 2019

Greta Belanger deJong

Jan 1 Average temps today: high 32º, low 22º. Sunrise: 7:51am. Sunset: 5:10pm. Here’s a timely spiritual practice from Bulgarian philosopher and mystic Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov (1900-1986): Say the first 12 days of the year represent the whole year (Jan. 1 stands for January, Jan. 2 for February, and so on. For 12 days, practice lovingkindness, openness and generosity while focusing on each of the upcoming months as a way to bless your year.

Jan 2 Christmas lights are made of copper, glass, and plastic—materials that can actually be recycled and reclaimed. Send them to Christmas Light Source and they will see they are properly recycled. https://bit.ly/35HRRH4 They will also be collected by the Utah Recycling Alliance at the Jan. 11 Winter Market (see calendar).

Jan 3 January’s birthstone is the garnet, valued by humans since at least the Bronze Age. Garnet Hill, near Ely, Nevada, is internationally known for hunting this semi-precious ruby-red gem. blm.gov/visit/garnet-hill

Jan 4 It may seem counter-intuitive, but Earth is marginally (3%) closer to the Sun today than any other day of the year.

Jan 5 Tonight is the 12th night of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Tomorrow the Three Kings arrive in Bethlehem, bearing gifts—a crescendo and completion to holiday festivities, called the Epiphany. In truth, the 12-day Christmas-to-Epiphany celebration solved an administrative problem for the Roman Empire, reconciling their solar calendar with the lunar calendars of its eastern provinces which differed by 12 days.

Jan 6 Loretta Young, an Academy award-winning actress from the ’30s and ’40s, was born in Salt Lake City on this date in 1913 (b. Gretchen Michaela Young).

Jan 7 Easy treat for winter-weary skin: Tie up about half a cup of oatmeal, any kind, in a washcloth, coffee filter (closed securely with a rubber band) or nut milk bag. Swish it around in your bath water and use it like a sponge on your body. Soothing! Afterward, put the spent meal into your compost pail or worm bin.

Jan 8 Plants develop ingenious ways to survive winter. Some hide underground as roots, bulbs, and tubers crammed with food; some secrete alcohols and sugars as a kind of antifreeze, or grow low to the ground to avoid wind chill. Others, such as mountain laurel, grow hairs as insulation, or like lichens, dehydrate.

Jan 9 Listen to your houseplants. Are they getting enough sun and humidity? A humidifier would be nice, or setting them on trays with pebbles and water. Positioning them closer to each other helps, as does moving them to the kitchen or bathroom where humidity is higher. But most important: Don’t overwater. Winter is downtime for most houseplants.

Jan 10 Full Wolf Moon: 12:21pm. The moon is officially full when the Sun and Moon align on opposite sides of Earth. This sun-earth-moon alignment is called syzygy.

Jan 11 Winter Market continues each Saturday at the Rio Grande station on 4th West. Buy some hardy greens, root vegetables and crusty bread. Make yourself a big pot of soup to share with friends.

Jan 12 The birch tree was worshiped as a goddess by the Druids. Birches prefer acidic soil, so are not prolific in Utah.

Jan 13 Will you help a hungry bird? Excellent (and concise) info is given here on the why and how of birdfeeders, food choices, and more: https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Jan 14 The most germ-infested button in the elevator is usually the first floor button. During cold and flu season, press it with your knuckle. Or take the stairs; exercise is known to reduce your chances of an upper respiratory infection.

Jan 15 Today is the birthday of gender-bending Saint Joan of Arc, who is said to have led French soldiers to victory over the British in 1429. She was burned at the stake at age 19; most of the charges against her related to her wearing of men’s clothes.

Jan 16 By the time you’re in your 80s, your sense of smell is likely to be nearly 50% less effective than when you were younger.

Jan 17 We have tiny tastebuds not only on the tongue, but also the throat and roof of the mouth.

Jan 18 Attention non-skiers: Just because January is the coldest month of the year in Salt Lake City doesn’t mean you have to stay inside. Consider snowshoeing (wear your warmest boots, rent the snowshoes and poles); visit a hot springs (Crystal, Lava, Diamond Fork, the Homestead); try ice skating (Gallivan Center). Or head to SLC’s Downtown Public Library, where (in addition to books, music and activities) there’s a fireplace, a coffee shop, and windows galore through which you can watch whatever weather is rolling our way.

Jan 19 Lichens, a symbiosis of algae and fungi, play a vital role in our ecosystem, even in death: Certain types are the “canaries in the coal mine” in regard to sulphur dioxide pollution, a gas emitted with the burning of fossil fuels. By contrast, in areas where the air is clean, those lichens are healthy and abundant.

Jan 20 We celebrate the life and mission of Martin Luther King, Jr. (born January 15) today.

Jan 21 Winter has killed off all the grasshoppers and the garden looks peaceful at last. But lurking under the soil lie teems of ‘hopper embryos, waiting for warmth and moisture to grow into hungry nymphs that will spring forth.

Jan 22 Jesus walked on water. Even the uncoordinated can walk on ice, with the aid of Yaktrax—discrete, slip-on/slip-off traction cleats that go right over boots. Simple, safe, inexpensive (around $20). Insurance companies should hand them out for free.

Jan 23 The pollution from one wood-burning stove is equivalent to the amount emitted from 3,000 gas furnaces producing the same amount of heat per unit.

Jan 24 New Moon: 9:41pm. What will you begin today and tomorrow?

Jan 25 Most people know Ab Jenkins (b. today in 1883) as the driver of the Mormon Meteor racecar which resided inside the state capitol for many years. Lesser recalled is that he was also Salt Lake City’s 24th mayor, from 1940 to 1944.

Jan 26 The Bonneville Salt Flats have been growing thinner for decades. Some blame the nearby potash mine. Others point to the site’s world-class reputation for speed-racing and the erosion it causes. It could also be part of the site’s natural evolution. From 1960 to 1988, an estimated 55 million tons of salt disappeared from the crust, thinning it by 18 inches.

Jan 27 Light pollution wastes energy, adds carbon emissions, can harm wildlife and may interfere with your sleep. Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to fix than air pollution. Turn on outdoor lights only when you need them or install motion-sensitive switches or solar lamps. Check out darksky.org for dark sky-friendly fixtures.

Jan 28 Respect the Earth—and the rare-earth metals you’re likely carrying around right now. Extend your smartphone’s life by fixing it when things break, occasionally cleaning the charging port (instructions online) and replacing dying batteries. If you must replace your phone, consider buying a used one. And, of course, recycle the old one.

Jan 29  A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. — Robert A. Heinlein

Jan 30 Bookcrossing: the act of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by another, who then may do likewise. You can leave notes/your thoughts in the book, and even register it online at BookCrossing.com.

Jan 31 Average temps today: high 37º, low 26º. Sunrise:  7:38am. Sunset:   5:43pm.

Greta deJong is the founder and editor of CATALYST.