the hinge day of the seasons

“Summer Day in Ukraine” by Volodymyr Orlovsky

On this twenty-first of June, the hinge day of the seasons, the yearly tide of light reaches its flood. Tomorrow, it will begin the long rollback to the dark days of December. … And so this longest day in the year comes to an end with silver mist and low-lying land and the smell of the sea. Twilight here is doubly impressive for we are face to face with twin mysteries — the mystery of the sea and the mystery of the night. We, as diurnal creatures of the land, are looking into foreign realms, into worlds other than our own, into the mysterious dark and the mysterious depths.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

~ summer solstice ~
(10:57 am eastern time zone)

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. 🌲

dark places

“December” by Theodor Kittelsen

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair; and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.
~ J. R. R. Tolkien
(The Fellowship of the Ring)

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
~ Max Ehrmann

when the cold comes

photo by Alyssa Bausch
owl by Alyssa Bausch

When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night, the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.
~ Alice Hoffman
(Here on Earth)

in the thrall of winter’s solstice

12.7.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut
12.7.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut

Because I am an early bird and a creature of habit, every morning I lay out in little trays our morning prescription meds (4 for Tim and 3 for me) and vitamins. A couple of days ago I suddenly realized that I had just taken most of Tim’s pills and vitamins. The shock paralyzed me for a few moments. Am I losing my mind??? For the rest of the day I worried about the effect his pills would have on me – one of them was definitely just for men – and worried about my brain’s increasing inability to pay attention. A few days later now and I’m still here and breathing so evidently no lasting harm done.

12.19.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut
12.19.11 ~ Groton, Connecticut

I’ve always been too easily startled and confused. And like most dreamers I do spend an inordinate amount of time living in my head. (One reason I was a sympathetic fan of the J.D. character on “Scrubs.”) But this latest episode was most unsettling. And I can’t even remember what thoughts were distracting me when it happened.

Mid-December is thus one of the most positively magical times of the year. Things are possible during December’s darkening days that are not even dreamt of at other spokes of the Wheel of the Year. We should use this magic as a vehicle for deepening our awareness of the world around us and preparing our souls for the ongoing pilgrimage of our lives. A seeker of Wisdom in the thrall of Winter’s Solstice should consider their celebrations as a spiritual pilgrimage or even a quest, during which, through the disciplined use of the spiritual imagination, he or she may encounter one’s own truest self along the way and in communion with Spirit.
~ Montague Whitsel
(The Fires of Yule)

Years ago in therapy I learned that if one feels weird on a particular day for no apparent reason it is sometimes helpful to see if it is an anniversary of some event that has left unresolved feelings lurking around in the subconscious mind. I didn’t have to dig too far to figure it out… But after figuring it out I had to deal with the feelings of regret and sadness and the fact that some situations don’t lend themselves to being neatly settled once and for all. Collateral damage from my spiritual quest… But deepening my awareness of the world around me, and inside my head, has helped.

12.11.11 ~ Preston, Connecticut
12.11.11 ~ Preston, Connecticut

No kids around this year to decorate the Tree so Tim cut a small one and I decorated it myself. Tim’s been working 17 days straight and I’ve been trying out vegan holiday recipes for our Solstice Party. Still haven’t completely settled on a menu. And we’ll be going up to see Dad and Auntie for Christmas. So it will be a subdued holiday season, but that’s OK, I’m content with the blessings we have.

12.11.11 ~ Preston, Connecticut
shake, then bundle ~ 12.11.11 ~ Preston, Connecticut