Solstice Stops By


Harbor activities wrap up rapidly now.  The weather has been moderately bad, but normal.  Everyone knows at any given time, it could become horrible for quite a while.  So the boats that are going ashore have gone ashore, and their moorings are now being picked up and stashed in parking lots.  That’s what this little work craft is doing _ in fact, in another week it is likely the docks themselves will no longer be available.

Mornings don’t seem all that different _ well, colder, of course _ but noon sunlight is never all that brilliant, and the outside workday comes to an end surprisingly fast.  Most of the folks who are putting up holiday lights have them blazing by the time the sun goes down.  Judging by the frantic traffic, most of those same people can hardly spare a glance to notice any of this, immersed as they are in last minute necessary tasks.

Remove the possible snow, eliminate the fancy flashing lights and eccentric lawn decorations, turn a back on the constant auto traffic and the season has a feeling of free emptiness and quiet.  The birds are often quite hushed, except for a shriek of alarm here or there.  When the wind does blow, its echoes are subdued with no leaves to disturb.  The eye rests on seascapes free of human activity, not even implied by boats bobbing patiently awaiting use.   Docks are tied down, expecting the worst, but the worst is a while off yet.

It’s a good time to reflect on the rhythms of the universe, the tides of my life, and the majesty of each day I am permitted to experience.  Some, apparently, regard such vistas and ask “is that all there is?” seeking a secret logical meaning or imagining great hidden treasures in an inconceivable eternity.  I know I know nothing, but “all there is” in my world and life is infinitely more than I can possibly appreciate properly.

A mild spell has everyone who can do so out walking.  Mist softens the harsh outlines of bare branches.  Sienna, ocre, umber soften to grey in the distance, while the muted greens of remaining grass accent the composition.  The same moisture mutes the various constant noises from last minute yard clean-up and road crews getting the pavement ready for the worst.

In a week, there will be jolly festivities, enforced merriment, tense truces in family relations, and the constant requirements of following tradition.  A week after that, everyone will take stock of themselves,  shake off the disappointments of the last year, make resolutions for the new, and gird themselves to get back to “normal.”  Then the decorations come down, cold settles in for good, snow and slush and ice rule the grounds, and I return to life simply being. 


Nice effects from the sun low in the sky even near noon.  Without any instrumental change in the temperature reading, simply having the sun and no wind this morning felt warm and fine, no direct sun and a brisk breeze this afternoon feels raw and cuts deeply.  No matter how bleak it may seem, however, the beauty of everything is undeniable.

Day after day,
paragraph after paragraph, I drone on and on about beauty and wonder.  Do I not realize there is evil in the world, that people are hungry and children die and pollution pours into the seas?  Am I ignorant of the thousand and one calamities that surround us all?  Mea culpa.  All I know, shallow as I may, is that at my time in life, in my situation,  moments in the world are magical and glorious and worthy of praise, and perhaps that is what I must add to the noisy bedlam.


Water is chilling down fast, although it looks the same as always _ I can tell because my warmth is ripped by the steady northeast wind blowing across the empty expanse.  The barnacles on the pilings and the shellfish unseen go on with their normal lives.  Fish _ well, I don’t actually know any of their cycles except for the bluefish, all gone out to deep sea.

I could read up on all this, try to become a naturalist, relearn all the names of the plants and trees and shells and other things I once knew, be amazed by studies and meditations others have produced.  But the tattered remains of my memory are enough for now.  They add to my enjoyment and pleasure, without intruding or overwhelming the experience, and that for this afternoon is exactly where I want to be.

Monochrome only slightly broken by the crane, done working for five or six months.  Boatyard activity has slowed considerably now _ well, actually the action moves indoors and out of sight.  Even the yard crews have scraped the last of the leaves off every surface and rarely visit.  Once again, sound is dominated by wind, birds, and an occasional jet plane or siren.  Not exactly ever quiet, but about as much so as it gets until a deep fresh snowfall.

Contrary to expectation, such days can cheer me up.  There is a certain perverse streak in looking at a monotonous landscape settled in depressing chill and just going with the mood.  Nothing to be done, it is all futile, we are lost.  OK, that means it is truly a holiday _ I have no responsibilities, no hopes, no urgent must-be-dones.  Adjust and enjoy the world as it is.

At least six geese, more swans and ducks, but as far as I can tell no golden rings.  This avian gathering in a sheltered cove goes on all winter,  out of the wind and with plentiful fresh water seeping through the sand from the hillside.  The worse the weather, the bigger the crowd. 

You would say that other creatures hardly notice solstice, but of course that is wrong.  Now that they have dealt with migration instinct anxieties, if any, males are already preoccupied with mating in the coming spring.  It’s fun to watch the chasing and pairing.  Humans like to feel they have a monopoly on emotions, and also like to believe they have tamed their more primitive behaviors, but some of the actions in this area closely match the plots of many of our soap-opera entertainments.





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