It’s that time for the seasons to turn again. Today is the shortest day, and the solstice itself is this afternoon, here. It’s just a little bit after sunset here this year, which is nothing more than coincidence but seems rather apt.
This has been a big year, and a strange year. It’s been a year of many changes, changes I didn’t see coming but which have been embedded inside me all along. Mentally, I feel in some ways as if I’ve been working back through my own personal history, picking and teasing at it and unlocking all the mysteries which have been kept trapped inside myself for so long. Although it’s been a year of many changes, I feel as though there may be even more to come.
If it’s a clear sky tonight, I will sit outside and look for meteors, because the last few from the Geminid shower might still be visible. It probably won’t be clear, I have to say, because it’s been rather foggy here recently. Still, I can hope.
I’m posting this early in the morning whilst it’s still dark, drinking my morning cup of tea, and then I’ll be at my desk working all day fixing the various bugs I caused yesterday, because Christmas isn’t until the end of the week. But for me, this is the start of the holiday season, the turning point, the time to settle down in the darkness, to eat and drink and celebrate, and start to turn the world around.
Sadly, I didn’t get to see the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, at least not at the closest approach that would have been visible. We had heavy rain here this afternoon; and after sunset the sky was a uniform, undifferentiated cloudy mass with not even the moon visible.
Oh well: we had clear skies last night, at least, and I did see them both, maybe only about 10 minutes or so apart in the sky, just over the horizon after sunset. I tried to take a photo on my phone, but although Jupiter was clearly visible on it, Saturn was only really spottable if you already knew it was there. Maybe it’ll be clear skies tomorrow, when they are parting again.
The solstice has passed too, of course. Politically this country might seem be descending into some sort of nightmarish fimbulvetr right now, but at least the heavens don’t know that.
The night is drawing in, as I draft this post.* The sky is darkening, and the lamps are lit, to brighten the house and drive back the winter darkness. It’s a time to light candles, and fires, and stare into their hearts. We still have a visceral response to fire, glowing embers and flickering, crackling flames.
As we stare at it, though, the world turns. The world turns, and after today, ice gives way to fire again. It might take time for the darkness to lift and long days to return; but the world will turn, and everything will come around in its cycle. As it does every year. That doesn’t mean, though, that today isn’t time to light a candle and huddle round it, fighting back the dark.
* which was a few days ago, now; and when this post appeared online it was morning. But it’s a better way to open than: “The night is drawing in … well, it was at 4pm on Friday”
The fog is thick all over the country at the moment, but it’s only now it is affecting The South that it makes it into the news. Up here in The Forest we’ve had thick fog all week, but it hasn’t troubled the press at all. I’ve been driving the Town route home rather than the normal Country route,* because a fog-bump at 30mph is a lot safer, to my mind, than one at 70.
I’ve recently been rereading The Dark Is Rising, by Susan Cooper, for the nth time. And with the weather gripping the country, I couldn’t help thinking about that book. It’s set at this time of year, between Yuletide and Epiphany, and as the great force of evil, the Dark, rises and attacks the land, it brings on a great freeze and blizzards, stopping anyone from leaving their home. A great freeze is rather more dramatic than all-consuming freezing fog, but the fog has the same effect, muffling us all and slowing us to a standstill.
But now it’s the 21st of December, the time the festive season really starts. The solstice is tomorrow, I believe, and the year will have turned over. The solstice is the proper new year – it’s not an arbitrary date, it’s a measurable point in the turning sky. From tonight, everything will get lighter and brighter and on its way into spring. This is the time of year for flame and warmth and remembering that sunlight will come back into our lives.
* which is longer but a lot quicker