Solstice yesterday, and today’s gentle daylight promises to stick around a little longer. Slowly, inexorably, over the next six months, my much loved cool, silvery grey world will brighten, quicken, surge, harden, crack. The light, waxing insistently, will demand more and more attention, lavishing its deceptive friendly warmth (careful, it can sting!) until by June it reaches zenith. And grateful homage will be duly paid by all manner of chlorophyll-fed life, gathering up the energy that will sustain them through another year.
Then, as if raging against its own dimming, the light will turn on us, browning and burning the thirsty earth even as it reddens the tomatoes and sweetens the melons. And we will eagerly await the fall rains.
Northern human tribes have celebrated the winter solstice for eons, and I am quite aware that my feelings of loss at this time are not widely shared. “How can November be your favourite month!?!” my sister asks, faint disgust tinging her voice. It’s a good question, to which I don’t have the answer.
I am a morning person. I enjoy all the four seasons (although I must work diligently to appreciate summer). Yet I have always been more comfortable in the dark than in the daylight. My favourite childhood summer memories involve playing tag and riding bikes through long dusky purple evenings, streetlights switching on, hoping that Mom would forget to call us in until well after dark. And when I was ten, after our family moved out of the city to the streetlight-free countryside, feeling comforted by the friendly black night keeping me snug and safe. This was where I belonged. When I grew up and got my first city apartment, it was the light I couldn’t stand, not the noise. I got back out to the country as quick as I could.
Once my children were of the age to enjoy bedtime stories, Janice May Udry’s The Moon Jumpers, a simple story involving children playing after dark on a summer evening and joyfully illustrated by Maurice Sendak, was my absolute favourite. I know it by heart. We also enjoyed many ‘night walks’, roaming the neighbourhood well after dark. Did I pass on my love of the dark? I don’t know, you’d have to ask my children.
But there’s nothing to be done, it’s all out of my control, so I shall simply indulge myself with a little solstice sadness, and resolve to savour my dim grey days and dark black nights, before light chases them away for another year.