December Light

Archive Photo of the Day: John Tenbusch, Waddington NY.

Archive Photo of the Day: John Tenbusch, Waddington NY.

The winter solstice is soon upon us — the dark of the year — and for many, the dark of a difficult year. And yet, the biggest celebrations come with the end of the year, too. It makes a useful paradox on which to hang the last installment of “Light Year,” my series looking at the unique qualities of light in each month of year.

Safe holiday travels to all, if you are heading out on the road. And enjoy the light of family and friends, if the sun provides you a little too little. Listening Post is off next week while I enjoy a little family time Christmas Eve.


December Light

What little light December spares is dimmed by frosted windows.
Both ends of night overlap the edges of the workday. At home
the windows are blackened morning and evening all week,
and all that daybreak has to show is snow blown sideways.

Where autumn burned the leaves, now we burn the trees.
Anything for a little more light. Under a paltry imitation of sun
I rig for silent running aboard the submarine of winter. Until
weather breaks, until the wind dies, it won’t be safe to surface.

I’d pay twenty more degrees of cold for a fair sky — a full moon
convoyed west by wisps of cloud, bold Orion riding above cedars,
moonshadows cast across the snow. But no. So little light;
so much night. Fat flakes thickly fall far as feeble porch light shows.

And so we conjure what we can — candlelight, Christmas lights,
angels glowing in the yard. We build up the fire and sing aloud,
throw feasts, give gifts, raise a clamor of bells. We huddle
with family, friends, to squeeze the very last light from the year.

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3 Comments on “December Light”

  1. Pete Klein says:

    Being a Sagittarius, I’ve always loved the dark, cold and snowy days of winter, except for driving in the snow.
    It’s the winter, not the summer, that caused me to move to the Adirondacks.
    The best thing I can say about summer is the summers are better (cooler) in the Adirondacks than they are in points south.
    Merry Christmas!

  2. Donna says:

    Love this, Dale! My favorite line is, “I’d pay twenty more degrees of cold for a fair day.” YES! You capture the cold beauty of December beautifully!

  3. Don says:

    While I feel for your sense of loss, cold light and frozen window panes, I like to look on the bright side…as a photographer, the light hits at different angles and. as you point out, the moonlight seems to be all the brighter in a snow white landscape. I think of all the chipmunks that would be in my bird feeders and black fly nymphs wintering under the rocks of frozen streams which will make life miserable for us later in May and June. The harsher, more angled light of winter offers more contrast and a different perspective in photographs, and the leaves have fallen off the deciduous trees, leaving views that will disappear later next spring. The sight of these maples, poplars, birches and other deciduous trees clinging to the earth through the frozen winter is a hint of life’s flowering next year (if our planet survives!) and reminder of the amazing cycle of the natural world around us…one that connects us all. I say hooray for the light of December! May it hold on until we reach the New Year!

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