The Urban Almanac: December 2017

By Diane Olson

A monthly compendium of random wisdom for the natural world and beyond.

DEC 1 Sunrise. 7:32am. Sunset 5pm. In Salt Lake City, December is the cloudiest month of the year, with only six days where the sky is mainly clear. Most nights are below freezing, but some days reach 50 degrees. Snowfall varies from seven to 17 inches.

DEC 2 Ride your bike in winter! Dress in layers. Wear good windproof gloves. Use hand warmers on extra-cold days. Head to a bike shop for studded tires and a good air filter mask. And good lights!

DEC 3 Full Supermoon (the only supermoon of 2017) at 8:48am MT.

DEC 4  Winter blues setting in? Get outdoors. A regular yoga practice can help keep seasonal affective disorder and stress at bay.

DEC 5 Master your thermostat. If you don’t already know how to program your thermostat, check your manual (or look for it online). Drop the heat to 60-67 at night. What are those blankets, pets and bed partners for, anyway?

DEC 6 Gingerbread is made with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom and anise. An ancient form of gingerbread was used by the Greeks and Egyptians for ceremonial purposes. The spices entered European kitchens when 11th century crusaders brought them back from the Middle East. A doctor once wrote a prescription for gingerbreads for the Swedish King Hans, to cure his depression.

DEC 7 “Let us give thanks for unknown blessings already on the way.” — a Quaker mealtime prayer. From The Whole Heaven Catalog, by Marcia and Jack Kelly.

DEC 8 Have a dry cough? Make your own cough syrups using herbs and honey. Find recipes at

DEC 9  Feed the birds. A good mix includes large amounts of sunflower seeds and millet but is low in wheat, milo and corn. Water helps, too. Birdbath heaters cost $20-30 at birding stores, hardware stores and online. Check out the solar-powered versions.

DEC 10 Choose and chop your own Christmas tree:

DEC 11 “Green Monday” was coined by eBay to describe its best sales day in December, because it’s big revenue for them and they market online shopping as greener than brick-and-mortar stores. But online shopping also hijacks a chunk of revenue from the local economy, so think twice and think local, first.

DEC 12 Tracy Smith is our country’s current Poet Laureate (a position established by the Library of Congress in 1986). She is currently writing an opera about one of our heroes, the legendary urban renewal activist Jane Jacobs.

DEC 13 Geminid meteor shower. Tonight and tomorrow, from 9pm till about 6am, look to the northeast for meteors. Expect 75 an hour at peak.

DEC 14  The smell of chocolate increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.

DEC 15  “God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” (J.M. Barrie)

DEC 16  When training a new (or old) dog: Instead of just taking a walk, stop and have the dog sit frequently. Change direction and speed. The point is to unleash the dog’s herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.

DEC 17  New Moon 11:31pm MT. The night is darkest at the new moon. Those astrologically inclined consider it the best time to set intentions. Try it.

DEC 18  Thundersnow, a snowstorm with thunder and lightning, occurs when a cold front passes over a large body of water, such as Great Salt Lake. The snowfall acts as an acoustic suppressor, so only those within a two- or three-mile radius of lightning strike hear thunder.

DEC 19  Need something to do outside? You can put down mulch in your garden, even with snow on the ground.

DEC 20  Goats were among the first animals to be domesticated, around 10,000 years ago. There are over 300 breeds, among them fainting goats, which fall over when they’re startled or excited.

DEC 21 Winter Solstice 9:28am MT. The darkest, longest night of the year. The Sun begins its journey back. Hallelujah! Celebrate with 10 Sun Salutations.

DEC 22 If you live along the Wasatch Front, you’re likely sharing your home with at least 10 different species of spiders, only two of which—the hobo and black widow—are our foe rather than friend.

DEC 23 Festivus. Seinfeld writer Dan O’Keefe wrote the episode (“The Strike”) that featured Festivus—a holiday invented in the 1960s by his dad. Traditions include the “Airing of Grievances,” “Feats of Strength” and “Festivus miracles” (easily explainable events).

DEC 24 Although every snowflake is unique, during their early stages of formation, snowflakes are just about identical.

DEC 25 Druids brought holly boughs to snag evil spirits and protect the elves and fairies said to join human households during Yuletide. Wishes written on parchment were hung from its boughs. The Celts planted holly to prevent lightning from hitting their homes. Holly does, in fact, conduct lightning to the ground better than most trees.

DEC 26 Starting to think of new year’s resolutions? A visit to may be in order. “As I let go of what is insignificant to me, I am better able to enjoy those things that are important to me.”

DEC 27 Every time you kiss someone, you exchange face mites.

DEC 28  Time seems to speed up as we get older because our brains calculate the perception of time based upon the percentage of time we’ve lived. When you’re two, a year represents half your life. But the years between ages 10 to 20 seem to pass as quickly as those between ages five to 10. The 40 years from ages 40 to 80 fly by at the speed of just five younger years. Today is Greta’s birthday, and she is buckling her seatbelt.

DEC 29  If your wish were the Universe’s command, how  would things be different? Again—write it down (on paper). Set it on fire. Onward and upward.

DEC 30 Let it go, let it go, let it go….Write down your regrets. Set them on fire. (This presupposes you have written them on paper.) Do this alone or in a group, indoors or out, with hot spirits or not. Onward.

DEC 31  Sunrise: 7:51am. Sunset: 5:10pm. Average number of days with snowfall: 8.2. “You have within you unlimited capacities for extraordinary love, for joy, for communion with life, and for unshakable freedom.” — Jack Kornfield, Buddhist teacher.

This article was originally published on November 30, 2017.