Monday, December 20, 2010

So much beautiful light...

It was so dark when I got up to get ready to go walking this morning. "Ah yes," I thought, "tomorrow is the shortest day of the year." And it was raining. I think a lot about light this time of year and what it means to us. Not just illumination but how we feel. Several years ago I posted this quote and photo as my Christmas greeting. The quote was something I read many years ago and wrote in my sketchbook. I still am not certain who first said it. It may be a translation from the German poet, Wilhelm Raabe.

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and we will celebrate the return of the light. I am always surprised at how soon I begin to notice that the days are getting longer. We live close to the 45th parallel north, which is halfway between the equator and the north pole, so the length of our days is probably about halfway between the consistency of the 12 hour periods of light and dark at the equator and the near total darkness of the north pole. We do, however, also live in a rainy climate, so often what sun we get is obscured by clouds. Our move to Portland happened one February and that winter was one of the darkest and most difficult of my life. For a long time we talked about moving back to Idaho where, even though it is cold and snows, the sun shines and the sky is blue many winter days. We were having a hard time with the dark winters here. But we are here to stay and I have made peace with the Portland winters. Even though the days are short, it is in the winter that I notice that incredible blue hour just before things get really dark. The light we create with electric lights and candles and a fire seem all the warmer and more welcoming because of the ambient darkness. When I arrive home to Christmas lights glowing along our roof line, it warms my heart.

When my daughter lived in Ecuador she lived very near the equator and  on our visits there we experienced the sun that rose promptly at 6 am and set promptly at 6 pm, year round. The climate and seasons never changed. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around. I think the changing seasons and the changes in the length of the light in a day has been a difficult transition for my Ecuadorean son-in-law. I hope he will adjust and adapt to the dark Northwest winters.

I just stepped outside to see if I could see the lunar eclipse tonight. It is raining and clouded over. The sky has a purply pink cast to it, but no moon visible. Oh well. Inside the fire is burning down in the fireplace. All those trees we lost last winter are providing some beautiful light this year.


  1. The sunshine is why we have not moved back to Seattle. It may be cold and snowy, but we do get sunshine. We were able to see the eclipse. I never get tired of seeing the wonders of nature. Have a wonderful Christmas, Terry and I hope the new year is full of joy and creativity for you.

  2. Anonymous7:36 AM

    As I scrolled down to the picture of the fireplace, I got goose bumps. What a nice post. Rhonda M.

  3. When Ron and I moved out here, my great aunt and uncle told us "you will think it is only temporary, but you will never go back". And like you I miss the sun on the snow. It took at least 3 years to acclimate to the cloud cover, and this year I think I maybe revisiting those first winters... all I want to do is sleep. I miss the crackle of a real wood burning fire, the next knock on the door just might be me ;-).

  4. Light in all its forms is a very powerful thing. I'm fairly sure I would have trouble living in Norway, the land of my ancestors, where the winter months are so dark much of the time.