Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Turning of the Year

DEBORAH CROMBIE:  The first sign of the turning of the year for me is usually around the beginning of January. I hear birdsong in the morning, and it is only then that I realize how I've missed it for the last few months. This year the birds were ahead of the game. Last Tuesday I heard a cardinal, on Wednesday, a wren, clear on the cold and still air, harbingers of spring. 

Today we celebrate the winter solstice, whether in a religious sense, or just as human beings, thankful for the lengthening of days and the promise of warmth and growth. And that is our accustomed perception--relief at the vanishing of night. 

So I was intrigued to read  yesterday's op-ed article in the New York Times by Clark Strand, Bring on the Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice.  Strand argues that with the advent of electricity, we have lost, both individually and culturally, the creativity and vision that come with the experience of long, deep nights. Do read, it's fascinating, and I'm going to add his book to my teetering TBR pile.

In the meantime, I'm going to turn out the lights tonight and have a look at the stars. 

Happy Solstice to you all!


  1. I love the opportunity for star-gazing that each night brings.
    Thanks for passing on this interesting piece and the information about Clark Strand's book. I'll be adding it to my to-be-read pile as well . . . .

  2. Beautiful thoughts and pictures, Debs.

    I just downloaded the Clark Strand article, Bring on the Dark: Why We Need the Winter Solstice and look forward to reading it in the morning.

    Happy Winter Solstice.

  3. We can see why earlier people brought evergreen boughs into the house and made bonfires outside to stave off the death of all things living. Even though January and February are the coldest months in New England, they aren't as dark as November and December. Happy solstice!

  4. I am putting this author on my t-b-r list. He has a book about writing haiky and also one titled - The Wooden Bowl - meditations for everyday life. He may have more and sounds like an author I want to read.

  5. I have always loved Richard Wilbur's poem, "Year's End," which this time of year always brings to mind:

  6. what a lovely post D! thanks for reminding us to appreciate the changes and even get our heads out of our computers:) xo

  7. Happy Solstice! In my case it means one more month of hibernation.

    Here in the Northern Hemisphere we take the seasons for granted, even in states where it's relatively warm during the winter. There is still less daylight, and still a shutting down of certain kinds of things. But closer to the equator, where day and night exist in equal proportions all year long, there is a very different way of viewing life.

    I've only spent four weeks of my life along the equator, so it's not easy to explain, but I noticed that when there are no seasons, per se, life has a sameness to it that seems to be comforting. On the other hand, aren't we comforted by our seasons? I guess it's what one grows up with. But waking with the sun at 6 AM and stopping most activities that require natural light at 6 PM every single day... something to depend on.

  8. Karen in Ohio - I experienced the same feeling living in Mali and Burkina Faso, just a little south of the equator. Day length varied by no more than half an hour all year, and it got light and dark suddenly. I was there with small children, so we dragged a potted plant inside and tied red ribbons on it for Christmas, but it sure didn't feel like holiday time! Also celebrated Christmas in Brazil when I was 18 - where they had all the traditional cold-weather heavy European foods like nuts and turkey - but we sat outside in short skirts in the balmy summer weather singing until midnight.

  9. Thank you, Debs - this is lovely, and a reminder I needed to hear after a stressful week in which too many things in need on an electrical outlet have gone kaput this week.

    Clark Strand's article is calling to me, and like Gram, I'm adding him to my list for his other works also.

  10. What a lovely entry, Debs. It will be quite a while in New England before we hear birds singing at daybreak... but we do have a gazillion sparrows and "snowbirds" (aka juncoes) and cardinals and starlings about. Sadly, light pollution keeps us from really seeing the sky at night.

    Your essay made me think it's time to get out some seasonal poetry. A Child's Christmas in Wales tops my list.

  11. That's one of my traditions, Hallie. I read it aloud when my daughter was small. Now I read it to myself every Christmas Eve, the last thing, no matter how late it is.

    Lovely poem, Ellen! Thanks for the introduction!

    Gram, I'm going to look at Strand's other books, too.

  12. I am one of those strange people who enjoy the longer, darker hours. It makes me feel cozier in my warm, lit house when it gets dark sooner. I attribute this to being born in November and therefore the months as a baby being coddled, etc. My sister was born in August and is a true sun worshiper.
    And I also think we have lost mystical connection to nature and ourselves with the electrical advances. Not that I'm willing to give them up. :)

  13. These winter holidays mark our need for hope/light. I too look forward to spring, Debs. But there is something nurturing in the calm winter darkness.

  14. Lovely!

    We used to read Childs Christmas every holiday... and the Robert Frost, which in high school, seemed so ridiculously simply, now seems gorgeous and poignant and elegant.

  15. Mmm. Stopping by woods on a snowy evening... Love the poem, but not exactly upbeat.

  16. Winter solace

    the field’s breath hangs like a sigh
    above frost-encrusted stubble

    what thoughts brought on that long exhalation?
    dreams in the night of the cold, hard winter coming on?

    the ground freezing deeper, untouched by the plow?
    or the long rest coming late this year, a yearning
    for the quiet peace of the fallow season?

  17. FChurch, yours? How lovely!!! Thank you so much for sharing.

  18. Wow! I always gain so much from this blog, be it learning, entertainment, camaraderie, new books to read. Debs, you have posted a fantastic topic today. Strand's article impressed me so much that I've shared it on my Facebook page (isn't that the ultimate test of how much we like something--hehehe).

    And, the post really resonated with me today, as we all go into that final push to Christmas. I have had headaches all my life, at one point I had migraines, but for the last six months or so, I had been pretty much headache free. Then on Friday, I had a near migraine that forced me to lie down in the dark after taking medicine, to be still, and let the darkness take me to a place of rest, free of the ever pressing productivity I've been pursuing lately. With my house still torn up due to painting and new flooring (flooring will be installed after Christmas), my husband in for the holidays (he lives and works out of Leavenworth, KS), presents to wrap, presents still to buy, and, well, you get the idea, I hadn't realized just how much I was pushing it all. I needed that dark to relieve me of getting everything done.

    Another great thing about your post and reading Clark Strand's article, Debs, is that I looked him up in Amazon and found his book from last spring entitled Waking the Buddha. My son isn't a practicing Buddhist, but that is the philosophy he leans towards (he graduated from college with a philosophy degree), so I'm including it as a last minute order for him for Christmas. I am looking at some of Strand's other books, too.

    So, dear Debs, and community of Reds, you have brought me a peace today that I needed. FC, thank you for a beautiful poem. Ellen and Hallie, I'll be reading the selections you mentioned today, too. Happy Solstice everyone!

  19. Beautifully said, Deb. I love suddenly seeing a scarlet cardinal appear against a backdrop of grey, bringing a splash of hope and joy for brighter days. I love "A Child's Christmas in Wales" as well. Several times, I've walked the path past Dylan Thomas's writing shack on the approach to his Boat House home on the bay near Swansea, Wales where he lived in adulthood with his wife and children. Rounding the corner out of the Bay Area into the village center was a bakery with the lovely scent of Welsh cakes and goodies in the air. Good memories all 'round. Thank you for sharing your soltice story. We need all of our seasons for many reasons.

  20. Carol Flatt, thank you for sharing! That's a pilgrimage I'd like to make someday!