As We Descend toward Winter…

Today, June 20, 2021, at 11:31 PM, we will begin the long descent into winter by reaching the summer solstice. The longest day—actually the longest period of sunlight—will end, and the days will grow shorter.

While this extended period of sunlight and our position riding on this earth in the northern hemisphere will bring us warmer, sometimes scorching days of summer heat, the inevitable progression of the earth’s axis tilting away from the sun will drive us inexorably toward winter darkness.

For those of us in New England, our weather within each season is as variable as it is throughout the year. The first hints of Fall coolness are often interspersed with almost summer-like warmth. Still, they inevitably yield to frosty nights, cold-desiccated gardens, and falling leaves—a sort of technicolor version of a snowstorm.

The progression toward howling blizzards, bone-chilling wind, and the palette of summer color replaced by the white- gray hazy shade of winter soon dominates the scene outside our windows.

Sitting outside, fishing in a stream, walking on a beach, or hiking a mountain path bathed in the summer’s warmth are such pleasurable, if fleeting, moments. It would serve us well to embrace them.

Seasons change with the scenery;
Weaving time in a tapestry.
Won’t you stop and remember me
Look around,
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Hazy Shade of Winter, Paul Simon

The progression of the sun through the seasons has always fascinated me, even as a young boy. In winter, I always noticed the sun would be far to the left of a large tree in the woods behind my house. Magically it would seem to the six-year-old me, I would see it move first behind the tree, as winter faded and spring arrived, then appear again to the right of the tree, marking the start of summer.

Through the fortunes of birth and my growing up in Cumberland, RI, the window of my room always caught the first rays of the summer solstice and the last rays of the autumn equinox—when the day and night were of equal length.

In the summer, the sun’s rays would wake me in the morning, inviting me to another day of freedom. As summer faded, the sun would disappear from the window, first hidden behind the tree through the first days of autumn, then move, so I had to look out the window to see it.

While the two solstices and equinoxes mark the passing of time—each event deducting from whatever allocation we might have—they are also comforting. I may complain about the winter, yet truth be told, I think I would miss never seeing it again. While living in a winter-free part of the world has its attractions, I sometimes enjoy sitting in a warm house looking out on a blustery New England winter storm. Knowing, even if I cannot see it, the sun is working its way back toward summer while I look forward to seeing it.


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