About 50 participants gathered at Shell Mound to celebrate the Winter Solstice. It was Friends 6th annual Winter Solstice celebration, and the first with no rain. On the other hand, we shall have to try again next year for one where we can actually see the sun setting. For this year, we were happy for less blustery wind and warmer temperatures.
Both guided walks were successful. The Dennis Creek walk, led by Friends member Donna Thalacker, crossed through not-quite-upland, not-quite-marsh scrubby woods, a tidal flat with unique plants such as glass wort, a tidal pool ringed with both cordgrass and black needlerush, trees scarred by early commercial turpentining, and a maritime hammock canopied by oaks, redbay, and yaupon holly. A short side trail led to Dennis Creek itself, flowing into the Gulf and visible from the Shell Mound pier.
Along the way, despite the cold weather, they also saw animal life, including a pygmy rattlesnake, tricolor heron, great blue heron, little blue, great white egret, snowy egret, and a palm warbler.
The Shell Mound walk, led by Friends president-elect Dr. Ginessa Mahar, was a trip through the history of the people, geology, and culture of the civic-ceremonial site. It crossed time from the Ice Age to the present, lingering especially over what archaeologists have found about this particular location at the peak of its activity about 1,500 years ago. The dune on which Shell Mound is built provided high land for dwellings. The sea waters, mixed with the fresh water of the Suwannee River, provided food in abundance. The alignment of the dune with the annual cycle of the sun, setting off the open arms of the dune at 240 degrees on Winter Solstice and rising above the closed end of the dune at 60 degrees on Summer Solstice provided a sacred reminder of the cycle of daily, seasonal, and generational transitions.
After the walks, we all gathered for conversation, hot herbal teas, and cookies before we went out to the pier to imagine the sun setting near the former burial ground on the dune arm. A good time was had by all.
Photos by Michael Miller