Just before midnight tonight, the winter solstice will mark the astronomical onset of winter in my hemisphere of Earth. My region has barely experienced cold weather, much less snow, so far this “winter,” but tonight that season begins, so I welcome it with the above photo from a previous year.
For three seasons, my little corner of piedmont shelters beneath tall, leafy canopy trees that keep it cooler than surrounding open areas. But that closed green canopy also means I cannot see the sky above the treetops very clearly. Light is softened, muted by lush vegetation and thick humidity. But during the month approaching the winter solstice, and for a few months that follow it, light dominates the landscape with its presence — and its absence.
After prolonged, dark nights, pastel masterpieces usher in the sun as it reluctantly pulls itself above the horizon. But the sun seems to know this is not its season, for it soon rushes west, bringing early darkness. Prolonged winter nights dazzle us with stars, and in its changing phases, the moon. In my landscape, winter is the season of the moon, which lingers even as dawn begins to subtly brighten the sky.
Even the thinnest of crescent moons persists as dawn light appears.
And full moons transform winter nights completely. Dark nights vanish, illuminated by this bright satellite that follows me from room to room, casting shadows across the floor, negating any need for a lamp when I wander the house after midnight, made restless by its potent light. I am often wakened by winter full moons; no blind or curtain seems able to suppress their power.
This Christmas will be celebrated beneath a full moon — the first time this has happened in 38 years. I pray the power of this potent light will illuminate all the dark places in the souls of humanity, bringing hope and peace to the millions now suffering. May the moon bring you comfort during winter’s longest night, as its light promises the greater power of a summer sun.