Here in Washington, we will have eight hours and 25 minutes of daylight on the solstice tomorrow. Then we turn around and reach for the light. If the sun is out, it will really shine. Compared to Anchorage, where the sun barely clears the horizon or the house next door for a few hours, the quantity and quality of light should suffice. But when it’s dark here, it’s really dark.
The morning dark is easier – a stretched out time (before we can walk by half past seven), time at my desk, writing cards – or blogs – Frances in my lap. But by 4 p.m. when darkness descends, my energy will flag.
In Anchorage the old house, city house, has streetlights and neighbors, and for years I sat at my workroom desk in the early morning and watched winter weather in a nearby streetlamp. Glittery snow or thick snow, snow driven into a swirl by the north wind, or falling straight and blanketing fences and roofs. Small, suspended particles of frost identified really cold air, even without a thermometer.
On our Alaska visit last week, I was so glad to see seedling spruce aglow with colored lights. The new (and beautiful) kitchen in the old house has many more windows, and at dinner I could watch snow slant through the streetlight. Perfect snow fell all one day and into the night, and the temperature read 3° the morning we left.
Here dark, not cold or snow, most defines our season, and the decorations and lights of all the winter holidays help combat it. The dark also sets off those efforts. (Like in the wordsmith’s comment – her tale of lamplit Christmas cards – the shining and glow happen best in a setting of darkness.)
This year book group meets on the solstice, and I’m making wassail to take. My herbal desk calendar calls wassail an “herbal mulled beer” (the word wassail comes from an Anglo-Saxon blessing that means “be in good health”), a hot beverage of ale, apples, and spices, taken to neighbors this time of year as a blessing of friendship.
Or a celebration of the Winter Solstice!