Category Archives: Holiday Lore

Happy Summer Solstice! — Eratosthenes’ Inspiration

Seasonal changes are such a delight to the senses. The summer solstice marks longer days, if you live in the northern hemisphere, and ushers in fragrant blooming plants, delicious summer fruit, and adventures with friends and family. But the summer solstice also shares an anniversary of a scientific achievement. Here’s an excerpt from “Summer solstice: the perfect day to bask in a dazzling scientific feat” by Stuart Clark posted on The Guardian:

The summer solstice is the anniversary of one of the greatest achievements of the human mind: it marks the day we first calculated the size of the Earth.

This spectacular feat took place not in the modern technological age, but way back, over 2000 years ago, in the time of the classical Greeks.

Eratosthenes of Cyrene was the chief librarian at the great library of Alexandria in the third century BC. So the story goes, he read in one of the library’s many manuscripts an account of the sun being directly overhead on the summer solstice as seen from Syene (now Aswan, Egypt). This was known because the shadows disappeared at noon, when the sun was directly overhead. This sparked his curiosity and he set out to make the same observation in Alexandria. On the next solstice, he watched as the shadows grew small – but did not disappear, even at noon.

The length of the shadows in Alexandria indicated that the sun was seven degrees away from being directly overhead. Eratosthenes realised that the only way for the shadow to disappear at Syene but not at Alexandria was if the Earth’s surface was curved. Since a full circle contains 360 degrees, it meant that Syene and Alexandria were roughly one fiftieth of the Earth’s circumference away from each other.

Knowing that Syene is roughly 5000 stadia away from Alexandria, Eratosthenes calculated that the circumference of the Earth was about 250,000 stadia. In modern distance measurements, that’s about 44,000km – which is remarkably close to today’s measurement of 40,075km.

I first heard the story when it was told by Carl Sagan in his masterpiece TV series, Cosmos. I still marvel at Eratosthenes’s achievement – a stunning piece of deduction, based only on a few simple observations and an ocean of clear thinking.

So as you revel in the joys of the season, perhaps you can pause to marvel at the inspiration of Eratosthenes. 🌞


Sign up now…receive-news-3

World Environment Day — June 5th

Image from our Call of the Wild 2018 wall calendar featuring photography by Chris Burkard. Click image for more info.

World Environment Day is a chance to reconnect with nature and celebrate the places that matter most to you.

How will you celebrate World Environment Day? Here’s some wonderful information from the UN website about this international celebration and the 2017 theme:

Connecting People to Nature, the theme for World Environment Day 2017, implores us to get outdoors and into nature, to appreciate its beauty and its importance, and to take forward the call to protect the Earth that we share.

World Environment Day is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action and takes place every 5 June. This year’s host country Canada got to choose the theme and will be at the centre of celebrations around the planet.

World Environment Day is a day for everyone, everywhere. Since it began in 1972, global citizens have organized many thousands of events, from neighbourhood clean-ups, to action against wildlife crime, to replanting forests.

This year’s theme invites you to think about how we are part of nature and how intimately we depend on it. It challenges us to find fun and exciting ways to experience and cherish this vital relationship.

The Value of Nature
In recent decades, scientific advances as well as growing environmental problems such as global warming are helping us to understand the countless ways in which natural systems support our own prosperity and well-being.

For example, the world’s oceans, forests and soils act as vast stores for greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane; farmers and fisher-folk harness nature on land and under water to provide us with food; scientists develop medicines using genetic material drawn from the millions of species that make up Earth’s astounding biological diversity.

Billions of rural people around the world spend every working day ‘connected to nature’ and appreciate full well their dependence on natural water supplies and how nature provides their livelihoods in the form of fertile soil. They are among the first to suffer when ecosystems are threatened, whether by pollution, climate change or over-exploitation.

Nature’s gifts are often hard to value in monetary terms. Like clean air, they are often taken for granted, at least until they become scarce. However, economists are developing ways to measure the multi-trillion-dollar worth of many so-called ‘ecosystem services’, from insects pollinating fruit trees in the orchards of California to the leisure, health and spiritual benefits of a hike up a Himalayan valley.

Visit the World Environment Day website to find more information about celebrations and ways to be involved. Continue reading

National Bike Month — Bike to Work

Bicycle Bliss 2017 wall calendar

Images from our Bicycle Bliss 2017 wall calendar. Top to bottom credits: Russ Roca, Stephen St. John, Jef Maion

To me the bicycle is in many ways a more satisfactory invention than the automobile. It is consonant with the independence of man because it works under his own power entirely. — Louis J. Halle, Jr.

Our hometown of Portland, Oregon, is a wonderfully bike-friendly town, so the celebration of National Bike Month is a big deal here. The Bike More Challenge is among the tons of activities around town this year. As of today, the Bike More Challenge has 902 organizations and 13,225 people registered to see who can log the most miles for the month!

The League of American Bicyclists originated Bike to Work Day (3rd Friday in May) as part of Bike to Work Week in 1956. Here’s more from their website:

National Bike Month includes an ever-expanding diversity of events in communities nationwide — but the biggest day of the month is Bike to Work Day. In 2017, Bike to Work Week will be May 15-19, with Bike to Work Day on May 19.

40% of all trips in the U.S. are less than two miles, making bicycling a feasible and fun way to get to work. With increased interest in healthy, sustainable and economic transportation options, it’s not surprising that, from 2000 to 2013, the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent.

Hundreds of American communities have been successful in increasing bicycle commuting by providing Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day events.

In fact, among the 51 largest U.S. cities, 43 hosted Bike to Work Day events in 2010. The City of Denver reported the highest rate of participation with one out of every 28 adults participating in its 2010 Bike to Work event. That effort makes a difference: Many people who participate in their Bike to Work Day promotion as first-time commuters become regular bike commuters.

But Bike Month is more than one day — or week! From fashion shows to group rides, local groups find unique ways to celebrate their diverse bike cultures and community pride.

We hope you join in the fun by searching for events in your area or even just by dusting off your bike and going for a joy ride. #ridemore Continue reading

Beltane — The Dance of Spring

Celtic Mandala 2017 wall calendar

Image from our Celtic Mandala 2017 wall calendar featuring artwork by Jen Delyth.

Ceilidh – The Dance
Excerpt by Jen Delyth from the Celtic Mandala 2017 wall calendar — Within ancient and modern spiritual traditions, dance is a metaphor for life, an ancient choreography moving with the rhythm of the earth to the music of the cosmos. Within Celtic tradition, the Ceilidh is a gathering to celebrate music, storytelling, and dance. The long winter nights are passed to the music of the fiddle, the whistle, and the beat of the bodhran drum. Traditional Celtic dances weave intricate patterns of circles, spirals, and squares in arrangements of threes and fours – a dynamic expression of the eternal knot. In ritual dances such as the annual Beltane Maypole dance, men and women weave ribbons in ancient spiral patterns around the sacred tree to raise and manifest the fertile earth energies. Morris dancers continue the tradition of shaman dances. They wear antler headdresses and costumes of red and white representing the colors of the Otherworld. Their clogs, sticks, and bells stamp out rhythms in circular and square patterns in celebration of the ancient Horned God of fertility and strength. The Lord of the Dance is one of the oldest gods of the natural world. Within the Christian religion, he is still honored as the force at the center of our spiritual and metaphysical lives. Continue reading

Arbor Day — A Time for Celebration and Action

Wanderlust 2017 wall calendar

Image from our Wanderlust 2017 wall calendar featuring photography by Chris Burkard.

Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees. — Karle Wilson Baker

On April 28, communities across the country will to come together to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. What is the origin of this celebration for this natural wonder?

Julius Sterling Morton (1832-1902), one of the earliest American conservationists, settled on the treeless plains of Nebraska in 1855, where he edited the Nebraska City News and developed a lifelong interest in new agricultural methods. Believing that the prairie needed more trees to serve as windbreaks, to hold moisture in the soil, and to provide lumber for housing, Morton began planting trees and urged his neighbors to do the same. On April 10, 1872, when he first proposed that a specific day be set aside for the planting of trees, the response was overwhelming: a million trees were planted in Nebraska on that day alone. Continue reading

Happy Pi Day

Pi Day Pie by Jo Harrington

Photo by Jo Harrington | @jojoromancer on Instagram

March 14 is a celebration of pi. Not pie 🙂 Although many make and enjoy pie to celebrate the number pi. Yum.

Here’s some fun tidbits from CNN:

• Pi is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It’s not equal to the ratio of any two whole numbers, so an approximation – 22/7 – is used in many calculations.

• Pi is essential in architecture and construction and was used frequently by early astronomers.

• Pi has been known for about 4,000 years, but it started to be called by the Greek letter only in the 1700s.

• There are no occurrences of the sequence 123456 in the first million digits of pi.

• The true “randomness” of pi’s digits – 3.14 and so on – has never been proven.

• Pi Day started 28 years ago at San Francisco’s Exploratorium. Physicist Larry Shaw, who worked in the electronics group at the museum, started celebrating pi on March 14, 1988, primarily with museum staffers. The tradition has grown to embrace math enthusiasts from all walks of life. For more about Pi Day, visit www.piday.org.

• To 31 decimal places, the celebrated irrational number that never ends is 3.1415926535897932384626433832795. If you want to appreciate what it looks like to 10 thousand digits, click here.

• March 14 also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday.


Sign up now…receive-news-3

Women’s History Month — International Women’s Day

Women of Myth and Magic

Image from our Women of Myth & Magic 2017 wall calendar featuring artwork by Kinuko Y. Craft.

In 1987 Congress declared March National Women’s History Month in perpetuity. A special presidential proclamation is issued every year to honor the extraordinary achievements of American women.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is (March 8). Not only is this commemorative day one of the most widely observed holidays of recent origin, but it is unusual in that it began in the United States and was adopted by many other countries, including the former U.S.S.R. and the People’s Republic of China. This holiday has its roots in the March 8, 1857, revolt of American women in New York City, protesting conditions in the textile and garment industries, although it wasn’t proclaimed a holiday until 1910. Continue reading

Random Acts of Kindness Week

It’s that moment when we have become present and offered a kindness – or the intention of kindness –  where there’s a real transformation. — Tara Brach

Image from the Present Moment 2017 wall calendar published in partnership with our friends at Sounds True.

Image from the Present Moment 2017 wall calendar published in partnership with our friends at Sounds True. Photo © Katsiaryna Yudo.

Random Acts of Kindness Week, which will be observed February 12-18, 2017, is an annual opportunity to unite through kindness. Formally recognized in 1995, this seven-day celebration demonstrates that kindness is contagious. It all starts with one act — one smile, one coffee for a stranger, one favor for a friend. It’s an opportunity for participants to leave the world better than they found it and inspire others to do the same. Since inception, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation estimates that millions of individuals, celebrities, businesses, schools, and partners have participated in these weeklong celebrations. Continue reading