Good news. The earliest sunsets, the earliest darknesses of the year have already passed. From now until June, the sun will stay with us a tiny bit later every evening.
The latest sunrise is still couple of weeks away, but in just a few days, the net daylight receipts will begin to rise.
More than in any prior pre-winter stretch of days, I've found myself seeing the slant of the sun. There are so many things that I have seen through new eyes this year, due to the presence of this teenage exchange student from Pakistan whose life experience has been so removed from what we know, before she came here.
It's not just cultural and climatological differences, it's also just a generally sheltered life. There are a lot of things that Q just never wondered about before. This is a very intelligent girl, with a pretty good education (mostly in English) in one of Pakistan's better schools, from what we can glean. But then there are these gaps in her knowledge where her reasoning is replaced by childish naivete, or what I might call magical thinking. J and I delicately encourage her to think, treading carefully around faith and belief. It is an interesting twist on the usual emergence of adult perspective through that revelatory life stage called adolescence.
In any case, as I explained the darker days of winter to Q, and how the sun was lower ALL day (it doesn't just follow the same sky path more quickly), I began to notice it myself. On these longest days, the sun gives us that exquisite low-angled light for much longer stretches of time as it lingers low along the horizon. Not so exquisite when it's in your face on the highway, but dazzling if you're just looking at the world.
I want to share one more thought before I sign off today.
We shed some tears yesterday over the devasted families of Conncticut, who have just seen such nightmarish, heart-crushing violence done to their little ones and others.
There is such anguish and suffering in the world, and it can seem especially unthinkable when it manifests itself at this supposedly delightful, celebratory time of year. There is a reason why ancient peoples established so many celebrations of light during this darkest time in our calendar year. At the best of times, humans suffer and struggle. In darkness and isolation we suffer more. This time of year is more of a reaching and striving time than a basking in the glow time. It's hard work to live these lives; it's not easy for anyone.
It is the mistaken idea that everyone else is bursting with joy that often drives people to a breaking point. We are supposed to be joyful, life is supposed to be filled with love and gratitude, so if we're not, our lives must be broken. Not so. We are all struggling together.
This shouldn't be a downer - it is a shared reality. Perhaps with that acknowledgement, we can more readily open the doors of our hearts to the joy, beauty, love, and great gifts of the world. Invite all those wonderful things into the house, knowing that they arrive with baggage. Set those bags in a corner for now, over there with everyone's else's bags. We'll deal with those all in good time. For now, sit down, have a drink, take my hand.
Find a smile for this day. Offer it to someone you love. Offer it to a stranger. Offer it to the great wide sky over your head. And don't forget one for the mirror.