I grew up in the southeastern U.S. When I think of seasons changing I initially think of colorful foliage. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed a few leaves here and there that are “yet holding on” to the branches that bore fruit to them. The temperatures seem to yo-yo between the average for the current and coming seasons. Children at bus stops no longer run around playing with their coats discarded on curbs. Instead they stand bundled up, half asleep, perhaps dreading a test, looking forward to a Christmas party at school or wishing they hadn’t stayed up to play one more level of their favorite video game.
Yesterday marked the annual Winter Solstice, the first day of Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. To so many people this is the “ugly” time of year. Leaf-bearing trees lose their colorful leaves. Grass loses its luster. Flower-bearing plants hide many of their blooms. Although this season contains several boisterous celebrations in the U.S. – Christmas, New Year’s, The Superbowl – this is a season of quiet. People and animals tend to hide indoors due to cold weather and shorter times of daylight in many places. This is the season that seems to produce the clearest of night skies.
Growing up, I wanted to become an astronomer or an astronaut (my first Barbie was an astronaut). I recall putting on my coat, scarf and gloves as the local news went off the air. As the opening music of The Tonight Show began to play in the background, my mother and I would step outside of our apartment, attempting to peer through the city lights to spot the constellations. Cold air seeping into my gloves, I stood face up, sometimes pressing my glasses closer to my eyes in an effort to pick out Orion, Gemini and Canis Major. On rare occasions, we were able to catch a glimpse of the moon in some of its more picturesque phases. In those moments the sounds of traffic outside of our complex had died down, our loudly arguing neighbors and their unruly children had finally succumbed to sleep. It felt as if the night belonged to us. It was our special time.
Even now as an adult I find myself looking forward to the quiet that cold weather and early darkened days can bring. I no longer have the telescopes I used as a budding astronomer but my appreciation of nature’s remarkable beauty in the skies and the quiet that accompanies it during the winter months remains.
Let’s hear from you: What sort of weather did December 21st bring in your part of the world? Is it winter or summer where you live? Is winter a “quiet” season for you? Why or why not?