I am of two minds about the winter days getting shorter. On the one hand, I regret the loss of daylight, mostly with respect to the early end of each day. This afternoon, I dashed up to Topsmead at about 4:00pm for a quick walkabout with my poodle. And quick was the operative word! The afternoon light was fleeing fast. Even though at the top of Jefferson Hill, the highest point in Litchfield, Topsmead catches the latest rays of the setting sun and even as the tree boughs were painting themselves black against the red and orange canvas of the sky, there was no arguing with the official sunset time of 4:24pm.
On my way back to the parking lot, I found some compensation in admiring the almost-full December moon that was already on the rise. For good reason, this moon is called the Cold Moon or the Frost Moon or simply the Winter Moon. On this afternoon, however, with the temperatures approaching 60 degrees, we could call it the Lukewarm Moon or the Melted Moon or simply the Not-Winter Moon.
A friend of mine on the next ridge over from Topsmead feels the same way about the shorter days. He is trying to finish roofing his cow barn, and he said to me, “If this were summer, I could work until almost 9:00pm, and I would be able to get the job done in fewer days.” So true! Then he went on to say, “At least it is warm so my hands don’t freeze.” Also true!
On the other hand, this time of the shortest of the shorter days and earliest of the earlier darknesses coincides with the coming holidays and gives us the opportunity to withdraw from the brightness and energy of longer days for outside activities and savor spending time indoors with family and friends. Time to bake those holiday cookies; time to bring out the holiday decorations and deck the halls; time to play favorite holiday tunes and address Christmas cards; time to put up holiday lights to keep the darkness a-twinkling.
Another reason to celebrate this time of shortening days is the approaching winter solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year after which the days start getting longer. According to The Old Farmers Almanac, “We often think of the winter solstice as an event that spans an entire calendar day, but the solstice actually lasts only a moment. Specifically, it’s the exact moment when a hemisphere is tilted as far away from the sun as it can be.”
The Almanac also says, “On the day of the solstice, stand outside at noon and look at your shadow. It’s the longest shadow that you’ll cast all year!” Why not try it? On the day of winter solstice, Tuesday, December 21, 2021, hope the sun is shining and head on up to Topsmead so that you will be there at 10:59 am EST. At that exact moment, measure your shadow at a specific spot on the property and remember where you stood and how long your shadow extended. In the June Musings, I will give you the exact day and moment of the summer solstice and remind you to go to that same Topsmead spot and compare your winter and summer solstice shadows. Cool, huh?!
In the meantime, enjoy the longer nights...and be cozy this holiday season!