I love the idea of solstices and equinoxes. I love the idea of the wheel of the year turning and four times during that year there is a sense of balance. I love the feel of the rhythm of it.
I love the markers of the passing year. I always notice when the forsythia first comes out in spring and watch for the first dandelions. They always look so sunny and are one of the first wild plants out and welcoming bees. I love the rhythm as Palm Sunday and Holy Week lead to Eater, followed by the schools having fits in the run up to exams, and the caravans and motorhomes coming out for Late May Bank Holiday. I love the progression from FA Cup, to Wimbledon, to Charity Shield, to school uniform shopping, then gearing up to that time at the autumn equinox when the day and night are the same length, then the year slides down through Halloween and Bonfire night to the first storms and the first frosts and the longest night of the year.
It is rarely the coldest night here. The solstice, like Christmas, feels like it ought to be the middle of winter, but for me it’s the start. September, October and November have been spent winding down after summer. If I was any sort of gardener it would be about getting in the last of the harvest and preserving it. Then it’s time to get the big blankets out and the warm sweaters and make sure that the heating, of whatever type, is working properly.
The real winter starts, for me, in January. It’s usually getting colder then and the last traces of leaves have gone from the trees. It’s a hard slog through the grey days, past Valentine’s Day with all the artificial pink and red, and into Lent and spring again. Where I live I am statistically more likely to see snow at Easter than Christmas. This longest night is more like the start of a sleep, where you snuggle down in a warm bed and dream. Then the days slowly start getting longer and you see the first green hints of growth and you are back into the sunny rollercoaster of growing things.
This dark, long night is like a pause. We’ve journeyed down into the dark of the year, but now we pause and gather our strength to climb back up towards summer. Perhaps for me it is a better time for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s a standing time, where nothing is moving and it’s a chance to look back at the last year and gather our resources for the next one. It is a moment of soft quiet between the tinsel and the parties.
As a writer, it feels like a time for stories. When it is bright and sunny, I feel like I ought to be up and doing, out and about and generally being active. As the nights grow longer and colder, it feels more like a time for telling tales by the fireside. So I will taking the quiet moments in the next week or so, between all the fun and family, to take stock of my stories and get ready for the upswing into the New Year.