Darkness Into Light

Just before midnight last night, the Earth reached the point in its annual orbit when the North Pole tilted the farthest distance away from our Sun—23.5 degrees, to be exact. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, that means today, December 22, brings the shortest day’s worth of daylight of the year. Starting tomorrow, daylight grows incrementally longer.

Tower HillI’m not alone in my feeling of relief every time we pass the Winter Solstice. People have celebrated the arrival of the “new sun” for millennia. Usually Hanukkah lands close enough to this day that, by the time we light the eighth candle, I feel like the long descent into darkness is over; this year, I had to wait another eight days, and it seemed like forever.

Of course, here in New England, just because the days are now officially getting longer doesn’t mean they will get warmer. Not by a long shot. Even though December has been exceptionally mild—heading toward the ‘60s on Christmas Day—come January, we will undoubtedly have colder weather. Last year’s mild December tricked everyone when we were socked with a brutally cold winter and more snow in Worcester than any other city in the country.

I write this, of course, because winter is just really hard on my Raynaud’s. I saw my rheumatologist last week, and we were joking that the only people who are happy about the warm weather here are people like me. Everyone else is wishing for some seasonal temperatures and at least enough snow to transform the landscape without making roads hazardous. Even the ski resorts can’t make snow because it’s just been too warm.

So far, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a milder winter in these parts. I have yet to have my snow tires put on my Prius. Usually I do this just after Thanksgiving. I know I should take care of this soon, before year’s end. But there’s been no incentive.

I’m not complaining. I am reveling in this weather for as long as it lasts. And I’m enjoying the psychological boost of knowing that there will be more daylight tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.

Meanwhile, I’m looking for ways to brighten the darkness. Over the weekend, Al and I went to Tower Hill Botanic Garden to enjoy tropical plants in the Orangerie and Limonaia, the festive seasonal decorations, a performance of Renaissance and Baroque music celebrating the Winter Solstice and, best of all, the gardens illuminated at night by thousands of jewel-toned lights. I leave you with this view, to brighten your own dark nights as we await the return of longer days.

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Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.

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