Welcoming the Light

At 5:03 central time, the wheel of the year makes another quarter turn and winter officially begins. We welcome the day. We welcome the return of the light, even if it is only a minute or so every 24 hours.

Just finished a walk with Oakley. Due to colds, work, and other seasonal issues, we walked on our own at the big forest preserve by the house instead of in our usual Sunday morning group by the river in the next town over. It’s cold and overcast, but much warmer than it was at this time last year. Solid white puddles left from the last round of rain dot the bare dirt roads here and there; otherwise there’s been no precipitation to speak of.

We had at least four inches of snow on the ground by this time last year and every two or three days storms dropped anywhere from three to six inches the rest of the season. We’d had many days when the mercury scratched its way into the low teens and held there with broken fingernails. Many were the days when leaving the house proved hazardous due to Kelvin-level wind chills or bad roads. Trading in the sparkly blue and white dangers for dreary but navigable days is a reasonable tradeoff. I can get out and go about the business of life as needed, and not have to juggle this and run to get that to make sure we were stocked up on basics like toilet paper.

Even beneath the overcast skies, the light peeks around the edges of the clouds. Will they break in time for sunset this afternoon? I hope so. At this time of year, the sun’s trajectory follows the railroad tracks that run through the trees by the entrance to the big forest preserve. At dusk, the sun hovers over the tracks framed by the trees. It hangs there as if it’s sharing a bit of last minute small talk before slipping further west down the tracks with a promise to be back in the morning.

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As Solstice Comes

The moisture falling from this morning’s leaden sky vacillates between gentle rain drops and the harsh rattle of sleet. The grass shimmers a little in the faint light from the glaze.

We retreat inside. Oakley is in no hurry to go anywhere, and with the roads likely growing slick, neither am I. I cooked a lot of Indian food yesterday, so we have curried chicken, spiced chickpeas, and rice to warm the day. Will we get out for a proper walk at the forest preserve today? I hope so.

A hawk followed us the other day. Every few steps, he took off from his branch, parted the air with his wings, and glided over our heads to a tree further down the path. He followed us until we returned to the parking lot, then wheeled to the west, the dimming light silvering his belly.

I think I had a discussion with an owl the other day. Hoo-hoo-hoohoo, she called. I hoo-hoo’d in response. After a pause, she responded. Did I say something comprehensible in raptor? I don’t know. Still gave me chills.

In a matter of days, the trajectory of the sun will follow the train tracks at the entrance of our nearest forest preserve, sinking into the western horizon as if traveling along them. Skies permitting, Oakley and I will watch. Not too long, since sunset is closing time for parks and preserves around here. But long enough to acknowledge the passage into the winter, and long enough to lift a prayer that the coming light illuminates the hearts of all.