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Friends of the Porkies celebrates winter solstice


Michelle Thomasini/Daily Globe

JEFF KILPONEN, left, of Ironwood, and Mel Seeger, of Bergland, perform "The Unknown Waltz" Saturday at a winter solstice celebration at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School near Silver City. The event was offered by the Friends of the Porkies.

SILVER CITY - The arrival of winter was welcomed by a celebration with dancing, music and poetry Saturday at the Porcupine Mountains Folk School near Silver City.

Revelers traveled from Ontonagon, Bergland, Ironwood and White Pine to join the winter solstice celebration, organized by the Folk School Committee of the Friends of the Porkies. The night began with a barn dance with folk, line and square dancing. "The dancing was fun," said Joy Ibsen, a committee member who helped organize the event. "We exercised more than we usually do."

A program followed the dance, featuring music and poetry reading. A special moment came when several poems were read in the memory of Steve Sundberg, of Ontonagon, who passed away on Oct. 31.

Sundberg had chosen and read some poems for a summer solstice celebration held in June this year at the Folk School. He had already been planning for the winter celebration and had picked out three poems before he passed away, Ibsen said. His wife, Cheryl Sundberg, shared the poems with the group so they could be read at the event.

Folk School committee member Kim Sims read the first poem, "Prayer at Winter Solstice," by Dana Gioia. "'Blessed is the shortest day that makes us long for light,'" she read.

Jim Jessup, of Ontonagon, read the second poem, "Epistle to be Left in the Earth" by Archibald MacLeish. He also played guitar, leading attendees in a singalong of holiday tunes including "Let It Snow," "Winter Wonderland" and "Silver Bells."

The third poem Sundberg chose, "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper, was read by committee member Sally Berman. She also recited one of her favorite poems, "When Icicles Hang by the Wall" by William Shakespeare.

A foot-tapping performance of Finnish waltzes and polkas was played by Mel Seeger, of Bergland, on accordion, and Jeff Kilponen, of Ironwood, playing a rhythm stick adorned with sleigh bells, a pan and other noisemakers.

Bob Lind also read poetry, including his favorite poem, "The Cat and the Moon" by William Butler Yeats, and the last three stanzas of "Ode to the West Wind" by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

To conclude the evening, Ibsen played the piano and led another singalong of Christmas music, including "Silent Night," "Angels We Have Heard on High" and ending with "Auld Lang Syne."

The winter solstice marks the first day of the season, with the solstice happening at about 12:11 p.m. EST, according to the Associated Press. It occurs when the sun's elevation in respect to the North Pole is the most negative it has been since the last December, making it the shortest day and longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere marked its summer solstice over the weekend.

Both solstices have been traditionally celebrated by cultures around the world since ancient times, Ibsen said. Celebrating it locally helps further the goal of the Folk School. "What we want to do in the Folk School is honor traditions of different cultures," she said. "This is something that's common to so many cultures, and also nature."

The Folk School is operated by Friends of the Porkies, a nonprofit group that aims to promote, support and enhance Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and inspire appreciation of wilderness for current and future generations, its website said. The school offers workshops in various art media including watercolor, photography and writing.

Ibsen and Sims said they hope to offer another winter solstice celebration next year, in addition to continuing the summer solstice event, which began in 2012.

Sims said the best part of the event is "the people that are willing to come out of their busy schedule this time of year."

Ibsen agreed, adding that the celebration offers a good opportunity to "really get in sync with nature."


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