Friday, December 21, 2007

Winter Solstice.

This is the first official weather holiday in the short tenure of ANYLF — yes, the end of the Atlantic Hurricane Season meant gift cards for the interns, but a solstice — a solstice is as big as it gets. Save for a landfalling hurricane, that is, but ANYLF's home offices are in 27408, several hundred miles from open water of any kind. One wonders, too, whether or not to cheer for such a thing.

The gods have smiled on this year's solstice, delivering a little bit of cold rain and a long low cloudbank and a day in the upper thirties. Down in the soil little switches will go off tomorrow morning: Jonquils and crocus and tulips and iris and whatever all else will register photochemically or however it is that they do it that we have swung back toward the other side, that we are aiming ourselves back through the universe toward the other brand of tilt we feature here on Earth, the one that leans us up in this half more toward the sun. The Japanese magnolia out front has already started in on the slow work of pushing those fuzzy buds out the tips of its branches; this means we're only 12ish weeks away from the yearly mid-March freeze watch, the incessant tracking of ten- and twelve-day long-term forecasts to see if this year, like some years, the plate-sized blooms will get hit by an early-spring frost or freeze.

I like the short days. I don't start to hunger for the warmth and the light until, well, March or so. I like winter, like for the weather to set in and hold on and deliver what it means to. But I like, too, that for these next few months the sun will work its way back across my backyard, back toward where it sets in June and July. A thousand years ago they must have felt the same way, or some version of it, must have stood out on hilltops and said to each other, Now the sun comes back this way. Interesting. Probably we should crack open a little mead, invite a few people from the village, tell the shaman he was right again this year, enjoy ourselves some. That is a nice coat you've got there, Thag. Let me know the next time you've got another bearskin. I'm about a size 42.

December is crazy around here: the end of the fall term means I don't much get to do anything other than lament the loss of evening, wonder when it was, where it went. Survive the holidays, though, and there are the long plain Tuesdays and Wednesdays of January, the thin light of four-thirty in the afternoon, hats and long sleeves and scarves and, if we're lucky, winter. An ice storm. A few inches of snow. Bone-dark by six instead of nine. A time of being indoors. Smell of something in the oven, on the stove. A kind of hibernation, a going in, because March is coming. There is much to do in March. There's a lot to keep track of. Now, in winter, is the time to prepare.

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