December 22. First day of winter. Feels like the hundredth. Snow came early, and now the roads are covered with semi-frozen slush, the Sun is hardly to be seen, and a keen little north wind cuts down out of the sky the color of a prison wall.
Despite the chill, I decide to take the dogs down the road. They need the outing. So do I. The difference is, they don't believe it. They're dachshunds, which is to say, independent thinkers. They're also old. Time was, they couldn't wait for their walk. They surged ahead, quartering avidly back and forth across the road. Today, however, they plod gloomily along, dragging their feet, pulling up lame, feeling sorry for themselves. You can't blame them, they're 15. By one formula, this makes them 90 in human years; by another, 105.
Now, the fact is, I'm no longer young in human years, myself, and so, short of our normal halfway point, I stop and prepare to turn back. And here, a miraculous rejuvenation is seen to bless the dogs. Human years, dog years, years in general seem to fall away. They perk right up. Their lameness vanishes. They commence trotting briskly on the return leg of our walk. I follow. Perhaps, I, too, feel a certain lightening. For all of us, however we count our years, when they begin to accumulate, the shortest way is the way home.
The Earth's two nearest neighbors finally show dramatic improvement. In fading evening twilight, Venus stands 10 degrees on the first, but twice that height by the 31st. It's at the left of the Moon on the 26th. This is the start of a glorious apparition that will peak in late winter and spring. Mars finally rises before midnight and gains half a magnitude from 0.7 to conspicuous 0.2 in Leo. Jupiter fades a bit but still dominates the night sky on the Aries-Pisces border. December 10 brings a total lunar eclipse just before dawn, visible from everywhere except eastern North America. A nearly full Moon washes out the usually reliable Geminid meteor shower on the 13th-14th. Winter begins with the solstice on the 22nd, at 12:30 A.M.
14. what a
22. a rink!
27. we think!
6 December; Wind toppled National Christmas tree, White House, D.C., 1970
8 December; Musician John Lennon died, 1980
14 December; Ember Day; Prince Albert, Prince Consort of Queen Victoria, died, 1861
16 December; Ember Day; 8.1 earthquake, northeast Ark., 1811
17 December; Ember Day; Moon on equator; conjunction of Mars and Moon
18 December; beware the Pogonip.26 December; St. Stephen; Boxing Day (Canada); First day of Kwanzaa; Jupiter stationary
Ember Days: The four periods formerly observed by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches for prayer, fasting, and the ordination of clergy are called Ember Days. Specifically, these are the Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays the follow in succession following (1) the First Sunday in Lent; (2) Whitsunday - Pentecost; (3) the Feast of the Holy Cross, September 14; and (4) the Feast of St. Lucia, December 13. The word ember is perhaps a corruption of the Latin quatuor tempora, "four times."
Folklore has it that the weather on each of the three days foretells the weather for the nest three months; that is, September's Ember Days, Wednesday forecast is for October, Friday for November, and Saturday for December.
Writer's Note: I tracked the Ember days in September for the October, November and December. October's weather was mostly wet, and that was true to form: Wednesday, 21 September was raw, wet and windy. November has not been nearly as overcast as Friday, 23 September; it will be interesting to see December's outcome, as it was cold, wet and windy on Saturday, 24 September.
Beware the Pogonip: The word pogonip is a meteorological term used to describe an uncommon occurrence -- frozen fog. The word was coined by Native Americans to describe the frozen fogs of fine ice needles that occur in the mountain valleys of the western United States and Canada. According to their tradition, breathing the fog is injurious to the lungs.