Wintry Solstice


Over the last few decades, winter solstice has been kind of a stealth arrival of winter.  There would be a couple of cold snaps, maybe a snowstorm, but generally the days remained fairly benign.  The shortest day of a year was a marker of the entrance to a cold season, but not an event in the middle of it.

My brain sometimes has trouble with the notion that seasons follow the sun events.  It makes sense that the longest day should also be the warmest, for example,  just as it seems intuitively obvious that noon should be the hottest time of day.  But that is not so _ the earth continues to warm in July and August, as it does at 1pm.  Likewise it cools after December 21. 

This year, however, the local weather is definitely more in tune with my incorrect internal notions.  This is Coindre Hall in the midst of a pretty decent north wind wintry blast.


Although the harbor is clear, shallow puddles have frozen solid.  The afternoon sun is bright, but dimmed by the atmosphere as it shines in from its most southernmost positions.  Dead and dormant vegetation has not yet been broken or crushed by heavy storms.

We’ve mostly lost the abilities our ancestors had, to tell at a glance exactly what season it is.  The clues are all around us, but they are clues that no longer matter as much to us as is our power on, is the gas tank filled, who do I have to please today.  Perhaps our lives are just as rich or richer for the change, but every once in a while I wonder.


Tiny bits of holiday cheer in the bright red berries.  We become so used to plastic artificial excess that we discount the real thing when we see it. 

Today is one of the times that photographs lie.  The real joy of the day is in the bitterly cold air, the quiet breeze, the almost empty streets, and the happiness of being well clothed and warm and able to enjoy the sensation of walking and thinking.  Vision is not all of existence, nor even most of it.


As the latest snow covers the parking lot, the empty docks show that all the boats that are going to be put away for the winter are now safely on land somewhere.  When you see anything like this, there has to be an assumption that the boat club has firm rules in place having to do with protecting the docks.

Everywhere else, a few boats are still in, some covered, some not having moved all summer.  I always wonder what stories they tell _ death, disease, bankruptcy, old age or change of life?  A motorboat is not an inexpensive toy, but there seems to be a constant stream of abandonment.  Obviously, however, not the case at the Harbor Boat Club.


Sure looks like winter _ but of course astronomical winter doesn’t start for a few days yet.  I think I’ll just go with the testimony of my eyes (and all my other senses out here in a cold wind.)  Whatever the actual date, this is a winter scene.

That’s one of the curses of our industrially-formed culture.  We squeeze the hours and days and seasons into nifty little boxes,  as precisely formed and labeled as our plastic food packaging, and ignore the fact that nature is really a bit more amorphous and ragged than that.  In reality, even our own midday is often controlled by events rather than the clock.  The only harm of living in categories is that we tend to observe even less than we usually do.


This seems to be our local miniature version of Scuffy, the brave little tugboat.   Every morning about this time it seems to chug out into the sound, and then chug back shortly thereafter.  I would like to think the slant to the horizon in the picture adds to the drama, although we both know it is my fault for failing to hold the camera stea

Natural human reaction (and it is kind of weird when you think about it) is to wonder what the story is.  Perhaps we have a drug runner in plain sight, or someone who just likes to keep the motor tuned, or an old captain who pursues memories, or a local gang dumping bodies or (what would be far worse to current sensibilities) ecologically damaging waste in deeper waters.  Anyway, it can add a dash of romance to an otherwise normal day.


Not sure about all these geese _ certainly not here all summer, maybe here all winter.  A lot of them from somewhere, anyway.  This little area attracts waterfowl because there is a constant spring seepage from the sandy hills providing plentiful fresh water along the shore.

I usually don’t get birds or other wildlife in these shots.  Just an old camera, not nearly as capable as that on a modern cellphone.  I would have nothing against a better device except that I notice that people who (in their middle age crisis or second childhood) equip themselves with expensive and showy equipment tend to concentrate more on what is available in the viewfinder than what is really around them.  I guess people really seeing weed leaves for the first time and exclaiming over them as they take thousands of shots is a kind of aesthetic progression, but I have always tried to do the same thing without manufactured aids.


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