The yard is how the yard’s going to be until spring.
School semesters are ending.
The chimney sweep and the wood man paid visits.
And we grow quiet. Yes, there’s the occasional visit or party, and Friday night we’ll go see the Nutcracker Ballet, but we stay home a lot. We build fires. We sit on the sofa and watch lights twinkle. We light the Advent Candles at our evening meal.
There’s the downside of cold weather: my fingernails break off at the first cold snap; my shoulders hunch; I wear socks to bed. The fleece vest with pockets becomes my everyday garb. I’m cold all the time. The silk undershirts and silk under-socks come out of the bottom drawer. My birth date is exactly opposite Christmas Day and this is the bottom of the year for me; I wait for Solstice, or Sun Return as the ancients often called it.
In Mexico, a visit to Xochicalco showed me first hand the power of Solstices. It’s a pre-columbian site south of Mexico City where the ancients, it’s said, came from all over Mexico to coordinate their calendars once a year. Their observatory was a cave with a hole drilled in the top where the sun poured through at Summer Solstice and hit a precise mark on the stone floor. I’m glad I got to see it. Coordinating their calendars made trade much easier; and trade and communication kept everyone relatively peaceful until the Aztecs came along.
In Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a solar calendar is engraved into Fajada Butte, dating back to the year 800. It’s a more sophisticated calendar tracking solar and lunar progressions. They used it for the same reasons: know when to plant as winter is unpredictable on the high desert; know when the festival days approached; know the timing of trade and travel. A scrabbling rocky path along the butte wall carried me to that calendar, a calendar the conquering Conquistadors had no use for. And so, it remains.
We’ve lost so much of what the ancients knew in their bodies.
Watching solar and lunar progressions began in my childhood. When you live on a High Plains farm on a rise with a view for ten miles in any direction, you learn to watch the seasons. I was cold all the time then, too, but cows still needed milking morning and night; chickens needed food or eggs gathered; animals needed hay and protection from the winds. I stationed myself near the gas stoves or the floor furnace grate whenever possible.
I’ve considered, from time to time, whether I might be part bear.
Following the movements of seasons seems natural to me. I layer the layers and keep pockets handy to warm my fingers. I slow down.
And then we stop.