The winter solstice is a great time explore and connect with nature, said Troy Mead.
He said it’s a great time for South Sound residents to think about the plants, animals and environment surrounding them, and to think about the role they play in the world.
Mead, manager and lead educator for the South Sound Estuarium, and a group of adults and children gathered Saturday at the Estuarium to learn about the local estuary and to hear stories as part of the Turn of the Tides Festival. The winter solstice occurs this year on Monday.
“Turn of the Tides is a great way to celebrate the solstice, and to raise awareness about our organization,” Mead said.
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The Estuarium, at 309 State Ave. NE in Olympia, is operated by the South Sound Estuary Association, a nonprofit organization that aims to promote understanding and appreciation of the south Puget Sound.
This is the third year the organization has hosted Turn of the Tides.
Visitors had a chance to look at marine wildlife — such as starfish and pipefish — in saltwater tanks, and learn about the Puget Sound at booths hosted by the Puget Sound Land Trust, the Puget Sound Restoration Fund and other groups.
Storyteller Gene Tagaban told an audience stories about the Northern Lights and animals.
One of the stories was about a group of animals that wanted to have a meeting — but they couldn’t hear what was going on because the rabbit was outside singing loudly and playing a drum. One by one, the animals took away the rabbit’s arms and legs. But he kept singing and playing.
Finally, the eagle took away the rabbit’s head, but the animals could hear the music coming from the rabbit’s heart. The other animals gave the rabbit his limbs and head back.
“When it’s coming from your heart, no one can take that away from you,” Tagaban said.
Olympia resident Grant Cohen visited the Estuarium specifically to hear Tagaban. He said the experience left him feeling very connected to the other people in the audience.
“I wanted to learn the meaning of the Northern Lights,” Cohen said. “And he said they’re the spirits of warriors.”
There’s still a chance to learn about the south Puget Sound at the Estuarium. The facility is open to visitors Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Nancy Arnold, a South Sound Estuary Association board member, said the organization spends the year teaching school groups, community groups and senior citizens.
“For me, the best part is the wonder that comes from learning about the creatures that are right beneath our feet,” Arnold said.
To learn more about the Estuary Association and the Estuaruim, visit sseacenter.org or call 360-915-0773.