When we lived in the lower 48, winter darkness was present, but it was fleeting in comparison to the hours without light in the North. Here, we feel the darkness, carry it really, like a weight on our backs. Who knew the void weighed so much? Who knew darkness tipped the scales in a way that light could never do? Who knew the dark was a bag of rocks tied to our ankles. A heavy trinket meant to remind all northerns of their location on the map.
It is dark when we wake up, and it is darker again just hours later. The light is fleeting and low. If it is a cloudless day, the sun can be blinding. It is as if the sun is only strong enough to look you in the eye—to climb higher is a summer activity.
And it is not just dark. It is cold too. To be outside for more than a few moments without layers of arctic fleece, wool, and down is foolish. Even indoors we are wrapped—we add and subtract these layers all day as we move from one activity to the next.
It is the cold that makes me angry. Makes me want to pack up and leave. Especially these last few years, when I have had glimpses of how southerns live. The decadence of shorts and sundresses in October! Sandals and flip flops in November! I am so jealous of their exposed skin.
This is my 21st winter in Alaska. I always think that this year, I won’t notice the dark cold never ending night of December. But every year, I do.
Sometimes I marvel—how can it be so dark? Will the sun really ever come back? Last summer, did we really pull our shades at midnight to block the sun? Could that be true?
And then Winter Solstice arrives. It happens. And at that moment, the north once again begins to turn towards the sun.
I love this day. There are celebrations and ceremonies. We wish each Happy Solstice! And we mean it.
In 2013, I wrote a blog post about Winter Solstice, and the quilt I made to celebrate it.
This year, I set a timer, and I photographed the view from our front stoop. These are the images you are looking at now.
Years ago, my Lila read this poem at her Winter Solstice Celebration. It has been with me ever since.
The Sun Never Says
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
“You owe me.”
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”
Hafiz (c. 1320 – 1389)
Or as George Harrison put it, “Here comes the sun.”
YES. Happy Solstice Dear Friends.
Odds and Ends
If you would like more Solstice news you can read this story written for the Alaska Dispatch News . The ice luminaries are worth the click.
My friend the artist and illustrator Kristin Link wrote a lovely post about Winter Solstice. Kristin lives in an off-the-grid cabin on the Nizina River.
And if you want to get really geeky about Solstice you can visit timeanddate.com.