December 21, 2006
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
— Robert Frost, 1874-1963
from “Stopping By Woods On a Snowy Evening”
The winter solstice occurs tonight in my part of the world some time between 7:00 and 7:30. That means (I think) that tonight the sun sets the earliest and tomorrow rises the latest of all the days in the year. I looked out today some time between 11:00 and noon and noticed that the shadows of the trees were perpendicular to the trunks, straight out across the street so that they looked like bands of wet macadam, as if after a rain. That, too, is a phenomenon of the season. The perpendicular shadows, that is, not the rain.
We’ve had warm weather and soft rains. When I go out for the paper in the morning it sounds and smells more like Easter than Christmas.
Our most wintry weather is to come. It’s warmer and greener now than in other years, but still, our weather lags behind the calendar by about two months. We’ve often had our heaviest snow in late February, even as winter wanes and the days get longer.
I am sensitive to what Emily Dickinson called “that certain slant of light winter afternoons,” the short days, the feeble blue cast of what sunlight manages to penetrate my consciousness. I have an unfinished draft of a post I began in October when I thought I was sliding early into a winter depression. Called “She’s B-a-a-a-c-k!”, it makes reference to Melanie, the black bitch, the embodiment of my depression as a black Labrador retriever. I avoided falling completely then, and am feeling the glow of a golden Christmas season most of the time these days.
This is no time to start feeling complacent, however. All the vacancies of January are ahead.
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