As each day passes here in Northern California, I can observe the sun returning, growing stronger as it travels north across the horizon over our famous “Golden Hills”.
I purchased the first local daffodils at the market yesterday.
Of course, this is an observation couched in terms that are uniquely humans: “travels” “north” “returning”. It is we who are moving around the sun, and the return is all about the tilt in the axis of the earth. Here, at this longitude the seasons are muddled: red and gold leaves of the maples and oaks are still flying the winter wind. The temperatures are mild in comparison to other parts of the country: in the 50s during the day, the 30s & 40s at night. In an odd, cold, dry and windy year, the hills are fire-ready brown and the local wildlife is searching for water in neighborhoods bordering the regional park system. In those same neighborhood yards the early spring flowers are blooming: bold pick and rosy camellias, a few hardy violets, some papery white narcissus. While, on protected side streets, there are buds on the trumpet vines and the Meyer lemons, satsuma oranges, and clementines are in full harvest. Nowhere else is the “Forward and Backward” looking of Janus, for whom January is named, so apparent all around us: the year past a memory as the leaves yet fall, swirling in the winds while the spring blooms begin peeping up through the mulch foretelling summer to come.
I am reminded that the passage of the seasons and the celebrations of Earth-Centered traditions are as much about place as they are of time. Other writers have broached this subject, re-naming the moons to fit the seasonal dance of their personal home place. Some suggestions for the San Francisco Bay Area over the years have been: “Harvest Moon”, “Fire-in-the-Hills-Moon”, “Wine Moon”, “Deer Are Calling Moon”, “Frost Moon”, “Storm Moon”, “Good-Time-For-A- Festival-Moon” and, a favorite suggested by Starhawk, “Fog-Comes-in-Moon” – which can be any moon year round here in the Bay Area.
As with the circumnavigation of the of the moon around the earth, so it also is with the sun as we orbit and the light waxes and wanes over the year.
The January sun is, for me, the “Wint’ry Sun”: a brace of days between the darkness of deep winter and the warmer days of spring. Giving us the cold light, chill nights, and early sunsets of winter that are conducive to moments of deep reflections and meditation.
Storms thundering in from the Pacific should be upon us, and we wait, looking for rain: For the snow to fall in the Sierras. Life-giving water that makes California home to abundant wildlife, towering forests, fertile farmlands, the ranches and the communities we love.
I am ending this post with a few musical concerning the Wint’ry Sun thoughts as I watch, on this chill January day, the shadows lengthen into afternoon outside my study window.
Winter Sun – Gerry O’Beirne
Gerry O’Beirne plays his composition “Winter Sun” at the Auburn House Concert on November 20, 2008.