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Snow globe

 

We arrive at the bottom of winter…

 

Crabapple en gelee

 

The shortest day of any northern year is, of course, the winter solstice. But modern society values efficiency over adherence to natural rhythm, and we have separated ourselves from solar time in favor of the normalized hyperfine tick of cesium and hydrogen atoms. (–And then blocked the world into large and absurdly large artifical time zones, based in turn on an antique and entirely artificed division.) In consequence of that and our planet’s orbital inclination and eccentricity, earliest sunset occurs around Pearl Harbor Day, and latest sunrise when holiday hangovers have dissipated a couple of days after the new year opens. Yet the solstice remains shortest in sum and difference.

But while days are already visibly longer, seasonal lag means that thermometers may have further to fall. New Englanders know too well that the harshest nor’easters, branch-snappingest ice storms, highest heating bills and most heart-straining shoveling may still lie ahead—perhaps even well into calendrical spring.

Our forebears understood these things. While hierarchical religions might tie key observances to solstice and equinox (often overlaying newer ritual on the most ancient of holy days), primal cultures and their relict practices often placed equal or greater importance on the cross-quarter days. And with the passing of Beltane,

Lughnasadh

and Samhain (or All Hallows’ Day),

we are at last immobilized by dread Imbolc:

But just as the taijitu shows the apotheosis of any extreme to bear the emerging seed of its opposite, the frozen tail of one year begets the burgeoning of the next. So appears among intermittent snows this avatar of Brìghde (Brigid), with moss-crowned nimbus,

perhaps a trifle optimistically,

 

 

to usher in the uncertainly timed

but (one may hope) inevitable spring.

 

~ for Áine