midwinter in self-quarantine

12.21.20 ~ 7:11 am, foggy winter solstice sunrise

After nine months in self-quarantine life still seems pretty bizarre. The coronavirus pandemic still rages and is getting worse with every day. Our fervent hope is that getting everyone vaccinated will turn things around sooner than later. Two of our elderly relatives-in-law have caught it, one is still fighting for his life in the hospital and the other is still sick and isolating at home. Some of Tim’s friends have lost loved ones. These are truly dark days.

Since I took a sunset picture for the summer solstice in June I decided to take a sunrise picture for the winter one. But we had fog and clouds on solstice morning, not even a hint of daybreak in the sky. There was a travel advisory for black ice on the roads so we stayed home and I took the picture from an upstairs window.

We had tried to take a walk on Saturday but found a sheet of ice on top of the snow making it too hazardous to continue. So instead of attempting another trek out on Monday I put Grandfather Frost out on our balcony, hoping to catch him casting the longest shadow of the year at noon. At first there was no sun and no shadow but by some miracle the bright star came out from the clouds right at solar noon for just a quick minute! I took the picture and then it disappeared again. (If I had known where the railing shadows would fall I would have located him standing fully in the sunshine!)

12.21.20 ~ 11:46 am, solar noon
longest shadow of the year!

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimages of the sun, and something of that natural sense of him and feeling for him which made even the most primitive people mark the summer limits of his advance and the last December ebb of his decline. All these autumn weeks I have watched the great disk going south along the horizon of moorlands beyond the marsh, now sinking behind this field, now behind this leafless tree, now behind this sedgy hillock dappled with thin snow. We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on nature’s sustaining and poetic spirit.
~ Henry Beston
(The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod)

12.21.20 ~ yule tree

We kept trying to get a decent picture of our lovely “snowball and icicle” tree but our cameras refused to focus — at least you can get a vague impression of it from this one. I suspect the camera doesn’t know what to do with the little lights and glass reflections. Then again, I’ve never mastered the art of indoor photography. Outdoor light is my friend. I tried to get a few close-ups of ornaments with mixed results. The best ones follow….

May your holidays be merry and bright and full of blessings and gratitude. As the light returns and as our days grow longer may the coming year sparkle with hope, love and peace. 🌲

46 thoughts on “midwinter in self-quarantine”

    1. Thank you, Janet! How I miss our lunches and walks! As the light increases the day this is all behind us gets closer. 🌲

  1. Hi Barbara! I like your Grandfather Frost shadow. I hadn’t known about doing that on Winter Solstice at noon. I also like your tree. What is on the top of it? Lovely ornaments. πŸ™‚

    I certainly hope that 2021 will be an improvement over the year we’ve just been through, although 2020 gave me my granddaughter, so that was a big plus!

    Thanks for the holiday blessings. I send blessings and good wishes back to you. <3

    1. Hi Timi! Thank you so much for the blessings and good wishes. A sweet little granddaughter was the best gift of all for you in this terrible year, and you and your family are safe so you have much to be thankful for.

      That’s a fluffy owl, no feathers, a bit on the whimsical side. πŸ™‚ There’s a fluffy fox under the tree to go with him. I’m so glad we went ahead and got a tree — it’s already given me hours of pleasure since we’re not out and about! 🌲

      1. I do like your tree, Barbara, and it’s even better with a fluffy owl and fox! I thought about getting a tree this year, too, but I no longer have all the accoutrements for one. Last night during our weekly online Sewing Circle, a friend who lives nearby said that the tree lot had packed up and left over the weekend. I guess many people who don’t usually get trees decided to this year, for the same kind of comfort that you are getting from yours. Merry Christmas!

      2. Hi Barbara! Snowy owls are my favorites, so your having a fluffy one on top of your tree pleases me no end! And I’m a big fox lover, too! πŸ™‚ I had thought about getting a tree this year, but I no longer have all the accoutrements for one.

        Apparently many people this year decided to get trees. A friend of mine who lives nearby said that the Christmas tree lot near us had packed up and left over the weekend! People who want to get a tree at the last minute might discover that they are hard to find. πŸ™ I’m so glad that you are enjoying yours! πŸ™‚

        1. I should have checked before commenting again from my laptop. When I wrote my first reply, my phone said that it could not be moderated, so I didn’t think it had posted. Sorry! πŸ˜›

          1. No problem, Timi. Thanks for liking my tree with snowy owl and fox! πŸ™‚ There has been a shortage of trees this year — it was pretty slim pickings by the time we got to the tree farm. Like you say, a lot of people aren’t traveling so they wanted the comfort of a tree at home this year. Merry Christmas! 🌲

  2. What a lovely little tree. I like all the white and the bits of nature on the branches. It was cloudy near Philadelphia for the solstice, but I got outside and enjoyed the day anyway. I’ve been self-quarantining for most of the year, too. It’s been strange but actually something I learned to enjoy. I’m sorry for your sick relatives. I hope they recover quickly and fully.

    1. Thank you, Tara! We’re hoping for the best for the ones who are ill. I’m glad you like the tree, it was fun having something to focus on for a while, bringing nature inside for a bit. It’s so good you got to be outside on the solstice – my plans were definitely thwarted. But the snow is melting, and the ice along with it, so we should get out there again soon. I love snow but the ice is a problem. It’s good you’ve found ways to enjoy staying at home. Being a homebody by nature I found the adjustment pretty easy. 🌲

    1. Thank you, Leelah! Yes, it’s a whimsical owl, not very life-like with fur instead of feathers. πŸ™‚ I’m very happy I met you, too, my friend. Amazing how that book, “A Time for Everything” by Karl O. KnausgΓ₯rd, brought us together. 🌲

  3. I never thought about putting an owl on my Christmas tree, but how I love yours!! And what a great idea, taking a long shadow photo. I’m sorry the virus has touched close to home for you, Barbara. They keep telling us it’s abating, but in the next breath, they list how many new cases our county recorded. Grr.

    1. Thanks, Debbie! One year I had so many bird ornaments on the tree that the kids raised some very strong objections, so I’ve tried to tone it down a bit. lol! But the owl, I couldn’t resist. Maybe I’ll try to get a short shadow picture of Grandfather Frost for the next summer solstice. 🌲

      It’s so scary, isn’t it? So many new cases every day while the vaccine is starting to be given, hope taking turns with despair. What an emotional roller coaster. πŸ’™

  4. I am so very glad you got a picture of your lovely yule tree! It is so very hard to take a pictures of Christmas lights and ornaments inside, isn’t it? The camera never captures the *sparkle* and magic of it. I’ve tried several times this year to no avail. Also, so sorry to hear about the elderly relatives that have the virus. Residents and staff in my mom’s assisted living have had it and it and it is such a concern. Her next-door neighbor died of complications from it. So far Mom is the picture of health, but you never know…

    1. You know, if I saw a course at the senior center called “Photographing Christmas Trees” I think I would sign up. After it opens again… Maybe magic just refuses to be captured! I’m happy to hear that your mom is healthy so far but I know you must be very concerned about her. Do you know if she will be vaccinated soon? I saw your governor on TV last night and she seems to be on top of things, in spite of those working against her. I hope your mom stays well! 🌲

        1. Oh my, that’s understandable, even though this one is different than traditional vaccines. I hope enough people around your mom get the vaccine, though. Apparently if 70% of the population gets vaccinated it will stop the transmission. Have they started vaccinating the others living there?

  5. Your “snowball and icicle” tree is gorgeous! Lots of icicles outside since last Thursday’s storm (we got a foot) but it’s slowly melting, and the big rainstorm on Christmas will take it away. Then we can walk again with impunity and sing with the winter birds. πŸ™‚ Here’s to the vaccine and a world put back on its axis where we can touch and hug and smile face-to-face with each other. Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you, Pam! Our icicles are melting, too, and the coming rain will wash all the snow away by Christmas morning down here, as well. Not looking forward to all the predicted power outages — what a finish to the year! But I am looking forward to a walk in the woods this morning, and the world getting put back on its axis, as you say. Science and nature and winter birds have been saving graces and those hugs will be so wonderful!!! Merry Christmas! 🌲

  6. I’m so sorry about your relatives. I wonder when all of this will ease. Hopefully 2021 will be a better year.

    I love the little… what is it, a snowball creature? – at the top of your tree. πŸ™‚ It reminds me of one of the characters from a Moomintroll book.

    Have a happy Christmas, if you can, Barbara. x

    1. Thank you, Val. I’ve heard we might have most Americans vaccinated by June but we’re just hoping we can visit our grandchildren by the end of summer or early in the fall.

      The creature is a whimsical furry owl. I don’t get the fur but I guess it was easier than giving it feathers. πŸ™‚ I’ve never heard of the Moomintrolls before so I did a quick search. It looks like a series of stories my grandkids would enjoy.

      Wishing you a Merry Christmas, too! Stay safe, my friend! 🌲

  7. Sorry to hear about your friends. I’m ready for vaccinations to trickle down to all. I love your unique tree topperβ€”very pretty. I have The Outermost House on my shelf, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s one of those I keep saying now is the time. But then I grab another. I have so many books that are begging me to read them. I know Beston’s is a classic.

    1. Thank you, Cheryl. I know how it goes with those books on our shelves that have yet to be read! Sometimes I wonder if they outnumber the books that have been read. πŸ˜‰ When I was a child we visited Cape Cod about one weekend a month because my grandparents lived there, so it’s a special place to me and the beaches there soothe my soul. Beston does capture the essence of the Cape. Merry Christmas! 🌲

  8. Hi Barbara and Merry Christmas … the other day I recommended your website to someone and went to your site to give them your latest post. Last night (when I finally caught up in Reader … only because there were less posts), I shut down my computer and remembered I never read this post which I saw when visiting your blog site. I scrolled back a few days in Reader … found it and some other posts I never saw. I think it is a WordPress Reader issue, not mine. I hope your weather is better than it was predicted to be. We got snow, about an inch, so everyone is happy for their white Christmas; I, on the other hand will deal with the snow shoveling and decide if I want to make the 2-mile roundtrip trek to the Park, i.e. if it is icy or safe. There are accidents due to slippery conditions, so we shall see. I didn’t go yesterday as the wind was blowing at 18 mph with 21-25 mph gusts … but it was dry. Your tree glistens and is beautiful. It looks delicate and you say you are not an indoor photographer but you have indeed captured the beauty and magic of your tree and its delicate adornments. Next year I will put up a small tree … I need to have a little Christmas here … the glow of Christmas lights is needed for sure. I am off to get suited up and survey the snowy situation. Enjoy your Christmas Day.

    1. I’ve discovered that Reader doesn’t always post every post for any given blog. Someone told me it works off some kind of algorithm. So I went back to email notifications so I wouldn’t miss anyone’s posts in the future. Sigh. One inch of snow sounds good, enough to be pretty but not too much to shovel and plow. We got heavy rain for the whole day on Christmas. The drought is definitely over! Thank you for liking my tree. πŸ™‚ It has given me a lot of pleasure this year, even if I don’t think the camera captured its magic. I hope you didn’t have too much shoveling to do and that the roads and sidewalks aren’t too icy. And I hope you had a nice Christmas, Linda. 🌲

      1. Well, I remember when I sent your blog link to Marsha that I saw it and just figured I would read/comment on the post through Reader. Well that is annoying and I had an issue last year when I would post something but it didn’t show up in Reader for hours. People scrolling through Reader would not see it and you’re not going to go back. It was frustrating. We ended up not getting the “dusting” or even one inch as predicted (two different forecasts), but two inches and it was moisture-laden and slippery. I’ve not been to the Park since Wednesday and feel badly about that for both the walk and the critters. We had the high winds on Thursday, snow yesterday, another 1 1/2 inches and slippery today as they’ve not plowed. I usually walk in the streets. I am going down there tomorrow as I don’t want to go four days without a visit and leaving some peanuts for them. I’m glad I left extra on Wednesday! It was a quiet Christmas and relaxing. I read and stayed away from the computer for the most part, though I actually watched TV, streaming some complimentary shows which was a nice surprise. Haven’t watched TV in a decade as I mentioned last week! Hope you had a relaxing Christmas too Barbara – your tree was very pretty.

        1. Your winter weather patterns sound a lot more complicated than ours! I wonder if your critters can predict which days you will show up from the weather they’re getting. πŸ™‚ I find myself watching Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming services. TV commercials get on my nerves, and even though I can record programs and skip the commercials, having to do that gets on my nerves. I’m so spoiled!

          1. Well, I know it sounds funny Barbara, but I have wondered the same thing about squirrels anticipating the days I’ll show up. I have thought they might be savvy enough to figure out a large collection of peanuts = no Linda tomorrow. I did that very thing today as I know tomorrow I will not be there. I will do likewise Thursday (it is supposed to clear up) as we have freezing rain/wintry precip New Year’s Day. When I was at the Park on Sunday, I took photos of the memorial stone where there were footprints around and on it as well as the second locale where there were footprints on the log and stump, telling me they clearly are trained to go there for food. I think animals are much smarter than many people give them credit for. A fellow blogger told me that the James Herriot “All Creatures Great and Small” series will be on PBS beginning January 10th, Sunday nights around 8 or 9 (she is in Canada). I looked quickly to see if I could find it and signed up for a newsletter to get more info to see if I can watch it online. I loved the books back when I was much younger. It is funny because I wrote that recent post that I had not seen TV in a decade. On Christmas Day, I sat down to read, didn’t care for the book so set it aside to return to another time and decided to look at what movies were available … I got Amazon Prime too and only because of the pandemic and worrying if I ran out of something (despite loading in so many groceries). It is there while exploring what was available, I discovered a treasure trove of movies and specials and TV shows I’ve never seen. I began watching “Mad Men” and always wanted to see it as I worked in an ad agency right after I graduated from college, albeit about 15 years after this show takes place. But I worked in the Creative Department, so there were a good deal of similarities as to ad pitching to clients, client rejections of ad campaigns. Fitting TV or a movie into my evening, when I can’t keep up in Reader … (I’ve not been there tonight and it’s already 9:45 and I still have more comments to go through), will be difficult to do. I watched seven episodes, but it was a holiday weekend and will try to finish off Season 1 this upcoming holiday, then watch a few episodes each weekend. But, seeing what was available really opened up some entertainment resources for me. I saw you could watch episodes of yoga sessions with Jane Adams too (that was fee based). I would prefer the DVD which is also available. I am looking forward to retirement and more time to do what I enjoy doing, without cramming everything into weekends.

          2. I also believe animals are much smarter than we might suppose. I’ll have to watch β€œAll Creatures Great and Small” again as it’s been years since I’ve seen the series. I’ve never seen “Mad Men.” Depending on the weather and the pandemic there might be a lot of screen-time (as my grandchildren call it) happening around here this winter… How long until you retire?

  9. Hi Barbara, I’m the Marsha Linda mentioned in her comment above. Recently, I revived an old challenge called Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays. When Linda mentioned that you use quotes a lot in your writing, and that I should contact you, I rushed right over. Your blog is my favorite color and It is so calming and attractive. I’d love to have you take part in the challenge, but even more, if you wanted to guest host some of the weeks. Here is a link to the page on my site that explains the challenge and lists the topics, along with who is going to host each week. https://tchistorygal.net/writers-quotes-wednesday-writers-challenge/ I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. Quiet and relaxing is what I’m hearing from most people. πŸ™‚ Marsha Ingrao

    1. Hi Marsha, sorry to take so long to respond! I will visit your site after I post this. I’m glad you like the deep blue-green color — it’s one of my favorites. I do change the color with the seasons, though, so don’t be surprised when the spring color comes along. πŸ™‚ This one makes me think of evergreens. Off I go to explore your site…

      1. No worries, Barbara. We all operate on Hobby Blogging time – when we can, No guilt or apologies necessary! It’s like friends who have been friends for years, they can be apart for long periods and catch up as if they weren’t ever apart, right?

        1. I think I will enjoy reading your blog posts but I might just lurk around for awhile before feeling the urge to join in. Challenges tend to make me very anxious! I like your hobby blogging time philosophy. πŸ’•

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