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December 21, 2007

The Solstice Episode
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:15 AM * 252 comments

Nature is the original storyteller.

She can do it all, from the comedy of newborn rabbits to the tragedy of myxomatosis. She uses symmetry and repetition in due measure. Winter snow foreshadows the cherry blossoms of spring, and Indian summer flashes back to true summer. Her pace is impeccable: measured and stately, but punctuated with the most incredible surprises. She recasts the same stories in different contexts and makes them new again.

And story arc? She invented the idea, had it perfected it while we weren’t sure each daily episode was part of the same narrative.

We’ve taken what she gave us and built on it, of course. We adapt her plots, adding characters that suit us and dialog that sounds right. But nature the ultimate source of our storytelling, just as the sun is the source of all our food. And whatever else we’re reading and watching at present, this is a narrative that everyone around us shares.

I’ve been following the Northern Hemisphere series for a number years now, and we’ve reached a key turning point in the current subplot. It’s the dark time, when everything seems hopeless. Lydia has fled with Wickham just as Lizzie falls for Darcy; Han is frozen in carbonite; Théoden and Éowyn lie side by side on Pelennor Fields. We’re ready for the turning to the light.

So as the season finale draws near, what do you think of the story so far? What do you have planned for the last episode, when we celebrate our hope for the coming of the light? What are you looking forward in the next season?*

(Southern Hemisphere readers, who are at a different point in their story arc, feel free to update us as well.)

* If anyone can think of a spoiler surprising enough to ROT-13, I will be seriously impressed.

Comments on The Solstice Episode:
#1 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 06:37 AM:

It is a dark time, yes, but not, I think, that moment on Pelennor fields just before the wind changes.

That great battle never came to pass. The full forces of West and East were never unleashed to fight the ultimate war; a sudden and unanticipated turn of events saved us all from that doom.

But now we find that the leadership of the Council of the West has fallen and has inflicted all kinds of mischief at home, petty on the scale of the final destruction which seemed inevitable, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

Next Chapter: The Scouring

#2 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 06:38 AM:

And now it's being brought to you live!: Solstice webcast from Newgrange. Unfortunately, I can't get it to work on my system (yet, she mutters darkly) -- can any of you-all get it to stream, yet?

If it does, this is the perfect intersection of old and new. Time to re-read Hogfather.

#3 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 06:39 AM:

It's been an odd year here in Sydney, Australia.

After a lengthy visit from El Nino (who really overstayed his welcome), we're having an unexpected visit from his sister La Nina. This has led to rather schizophrenic weather.

We've had stinking hot days punctuated by short violent thunderstorms - rain so heavy that you couldn't see more than two blocks away, but clear skies an hour later.

We've seen temperatures soaring and plunging in a matter of days - one night it's too hot to have more than a single sheet on the bed, and a few nights later it's cold enough for blankets and a quilt.

We've had dam levels dwindle over a number of years to only 33% full, and then suddenly shoot up to over 60% full in a matter of months.

In more ways than one this has definitely been a year of climate change. I can honestly say I have absolutely no idea what to expect next year.

#4 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:20 AM:

Niall @1:
I have fairly severe Seasonal Affective Disorder, and I live in Northern Europe. Every winter is Pelennor and Helm's Deep rolled up together, no matter what the larger political situation.

This winter has been a little better, thanks to my recent move slightly south, but I still crumpled into tears in the corner after my company's Christmas drinks last night. (Poor sleep for weeks, kid barfing all night, work stress, too much Dutch, but mostly just winter eating away at me.)

We're going to Scotland for Christmas week, staying with my in-laws. I'm hoping to get more sleep.

#5 ::: EastofWeston ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:45 AM:

I had a sudden image of a Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie disguises herself as a man, goes in search of Lydia and Wickham, only end up in a metal bikini chained to Jabba the Hut. And Darcy comes to save her.

It will be interesting to see who makes it through the complete Jane Austen this winter and spring on Masterpiece Theater. Friends who are gushing over it, that is.

#6 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:45 AM:

I didn't get to see the Sun shine through the roof-box into the passage grave at Newgrange this morning, but it did rise directly ahead of me, rosy and cheerful, as I drove from Clara into Tullamore.

The Sun will continue to rise later each morning until about the 30th, but I won't be driving to work to see it as I'm off for Christmas!

#7 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:48 AM:

The seasons' axle is the dark of night.
The carousel slows, stops, for just a day.
The wheel turns slowly as we rise to light.

The heavens turn in cycles in our sight;
it took us centuries to see the way
the seasons' axle is the dark of night.

The year repeats the path of geese in flight;
letters written on the blue in gray.
The wheel turns slowly as we rise to light.

Great Year turns slowly, quern of might,
as Terra's spin tumbles under Sun's sway.
The seasons' axle is the dark of night.

We tremble now to know our plight;
to see the depths of world's decay.
The wheel turns slowly as we rise to light.

Yet wheels go round, return is right.
As in large so small obey.
The seasons' axle is the dark of night.
The wheel turns slowly as we rise to light.

#8 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:23 AM:

The Year is dead, long live the New Year.

#9 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:24 AM:

East at #5

I had a sudden image of a Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie disguises herself as a man, goes in search of Lydia and Wickham, only end up in a metal bikini chained to Jabba the Hut. And Darcy comes to save her.

I would totally read that book.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:29 AM:

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all living things create an energy field which surrounds and penetrates them, and binds the galaxy together.

#11 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:48 AM:

If we had a slightly less eccentric orbit and less axial tilt, nature's story arc would be flat...

#12 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:53 AM:

I'm still in school, so this isn't the end of a year but the middle. It's dark and cold and 'wintry mix' keeps showing up, but it's the end of a semester. Friends are going home, or to different homes, so we eat out a lot to see each other one last time before the month off. One is going to journalism school-- we need her out there. I keep setting my alarm earlier and earlier, the desk lamp I have timed to help wake me up is doing its job, and if I come home at the right time on the right day, my little slanty apartment is filled with rainbows. The cat sometimes goes under the covers for a few minutes.
Tomorrow, I'm going home, or to a different home, one that doesn't fit as well as my apartment and my cat here. And that will break me out of just-another-day-- I don't decorate for holidays here, but my family does. There will be cookies, all of Mom's santas, a new stove insert now that we found out the old one violated a lot of fire codes, and a lot of animals. I'll get to see how they like the presents. I'll get to see a couple old friends.
And then spring semester comes.

#13 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:24 AM:

Seasonal Affective Disorder is the weirdest damned thing.

I have so many happy memories of Christmas as a child, adolescent, young adult, and parent, and yet until the last few years every one of them is wrapped in melancholy. Since starting treatment for my "wintertime brain damage," Christmas has felt all wrong. It is as though I can't properly enjoy the happy parts of Christmas without sucking down the gloomy rage that I associate with it.

And I've only got a mild case. So Abi, sympathies.

#14 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:34 AM:

My second daughter will be arriving more or less right with the Spring Equinox.

Can't think of a better reason to have hope and faith and cause for celebration.

#15 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:44 AM:

In Ottawa, we've had more snow in the last month than we got all winter last year -- and this winter hasn't even started yet, officially. I've been thinking about writing a parody of the Sesame Street song "Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange)" as "Fluffy and White (and Yellow)".

"I have a bad feeling about this." I expect there's going to be a lot more snow before we're through the next season. Last night, I shovelled a heavy snowplough-deposited ridge out of my driveway for the fourth time this week. "What an evil fortune. And I am already weary!"

I'm tired and cranky, and I am so looking forward to a week of being able to sleep in, just a little bit.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Sarah S @14:

You're coming to the end of the second trimester, then? That was always a good and energetic time. My first was on the same seasonal pattern (born early April). Makes for a good Christmas season.

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Sarah S

Nope, that's just about the best reason there is, and a wonderful time for it, too. Congratulations.

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:58 AM:

Niall McAuley @ 1

Next Chapter: The Scouring

Right. You get the cleanser, I'll grab some rags. The vermin will come right off with a little elbow grease.

#19 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:01 AM:

Best Christmas Eve service ever was when our 9-months-pregnant Episcopalian priest read out "For she was great with child." Not usually a laugh line...

#20 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:09 AM:

A deep and enchanted sleep, waking with the thawing winds and growing grains, to put the countryside to the blush, and new life to the breeze.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:22 AM:

What are you looking forward in the next season?

The glimmer of a hope that we can move back to California. Probably will never happen.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #7: Oh, wow!!

#23 ::: jm ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Today is the best day of the year. Barely any sun to stab into your eyes, no ball of thermonuclear hellfire pouring its wrath into your skull every time you step outside. Everything is covered in soothing, soothing darkness.

From here on, it's downhill. It all just gets brighter and hotter. Alas.

#24 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Currently, no doubt due to Josh singing it lots, my favorite take on the cycle of the seasons is Talis Kimberly's "Uffington Hill". Lyrics can be found here.

This year, I hit 40 in my personal cycle. I'm looking forward to a Yule dinner with friends at Aquavit.

Next year? Hm. The con season cycle for us -- GAFilk for both of us, and me doing Dreamation alone while Josh does ConFlict (not sure of spelling) in January. Possibly Boscone in February. Intercon H in March, where our larp already has a waitlist. Contata and Origins in June. Worldcon and Mythcon in August -- trying to find a bit more material now that I've narrowed down my paper topic for Mythcon.

And hopefully much good reading, gaming, and otherwise having fun.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:52 AM:

A winter's tale...

each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire
this year will pass we know from old to new
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we hear the legends passed from dam and sire
of how great hero the dread monster slew
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire

each song is much repeated by each choir
the warming cup each time is thick as glue
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we watch the sparks fly higher ever higher
we walk outside on frost instead of dew
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire

both wine and wit are much better drier
we tell ourselves as our spirits renew
listen to the tale of hope and desire

we all to higher purpose could aspire
instead we pause and take in all the view
each phoenix vanishes in burst of fire
listen to the tale of hope and desire

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Sarah S #14: Congratulations! That's nothing but the truth.

#27 ::: Sarah S ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:05 AM:

abi, Bruce Cohen, and Fragano Ledgister--

Thanks so much!!

abi--She's scheduled to arrive on March 14--pi day--so I'm already into third trimester stuff, but feeling good and cheery, thanks!

#28 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:08 AM:

Pete @ 3: Melbourne's the same. Strange weather even for Melbourne. Rain all over the place, and muggy-hot at the same time. I'm sitting here at three in the morning, sweating.

I can't get over how long the days are. I guess they must have been the same length this time last year and every year before that, but it's still a surprise.

#29 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:17 AM:

Fragano Ledgister @ 25

Lovely. Somehow the images you raised in my head are from "The Wake" section of Sandman, where travelers through the universes regale each other with strange tales while what could well pass for the Wild Hunt rides escort to Sandman's catafalque. Phoenix indeed.

#30 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:26 AM:

we leave so many matters of true art
to folk whose souls have never taken wing
or think that they're fit subjects of the mart
we want to think that we hear the sharp ring
of honest gold the clear and decent ching
of metal as we strike down from above
the message we all know is not the thing
but the securest bond is human love

we cannot go back now and just restart
with the initial energy and zing
since time and age will urge us to depart
but we desire to see another spring
for summer's light upon the purple ling
to cast away from us the cumbering glove
hope's in the child we push upon the swing
but the securest bond is human love

we can't forget that each must play a part
one plays the fool while you just play the king
the final word is kept safe in the heart
we listen while another plucks the string
upon the winter winds our blessings fling
and give the happy child another shove
joy gives each note an extra sweeter ping
but the securest bond is human love

prince what you want is what the people bring
while over each head floats the morning dove
each knows the happy moment when we sing
but the securest bond is human love

#31 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:31 AM:

Bruce and Fragano: Frankly, I can't think of a better way to celebrate the turning of the year than in an Outbreak of Villanelles . . . . a Burst of Villanelles? a Villanelle Rush? Thank you both.

#32 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Thank you to the poets, and congratulations, Sarah.

For good reason, and no reason at all, I am having a very melancholy, thoughtful season. Last year at this time I was watching my mother die. (She died on Christmas Day.) I'm cold, and it's grey: I love the sun, and miss it. Still, I will celebrate the holy day, go to Midnight Mass if I can keep my eyes open that late, bake cookies -- I, the non-cook! -- for the joy of experiencing that wonderful aroma, call my brother in Arizona, and join my dear friends to celebrate the New Year. Maybe I'll see Sweeney Todd.

Blessings on you all; may your year be blessed, your days filled with light, and your dark nights with peace.

#33 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Sarah S @ 14... My best wishes to the family.

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Serge: if you can... :)

Me, I was talking (over a greek supper in Graf) about things and it seemed to me that the Solstice shows, in the world, the theme that Easter is all about (rebirth, renewal, etc.) and that might be why the Christmas season is more joyful than the Easter.

It's also why those who don't know the religion might be forgiven for thinking it's the bigger Holy Day.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:37 AM:

Mary Frances @ 31... An Outbreak of Villanelles? Sounds like salmonella.

#36 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:38 AM:

Bruce Cohen(SpeakerToManagers) #29: Thanks. I've never read The Sandman. I just started from the tale of the phoenix as a myth explaining the cycles of time (the Great Year that you mention), and it grew from there.

#37 ::: shadowsong ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Susan Cooper's "The Shortest Day":

And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year's sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us - listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.

#38 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Trry Karney @ 34... Thanks. My fingers (and my toes) are crossed.

#39 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:40 AM:

31: "The Fluorosphere. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villanelles. We must be careful."

Also: "Listen, kid, hokey religions and ancient rhyme schemes are no match for a good Go Bag by your side."

#40 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:48 AM:

With a mighty leap, Sen. Dodd cleared the pit....

#41 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:55 AM:

"My ship is the Friggin' Millenium Falcon. It made the Kessel run in less than 12 verses."

#42 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:56 AM:

I love the turnings of the year. Autumn is probably my favorite season, but the solstice are my favorite days. The light is low, and warm; when it's here. It is more angular, harder and possessed of more depth in the shadows.

It's days of, "golden time" (this is different from my memories of youth, when I lived in snow and the light was golden, in a bath of white and blue. A promise of joys to come; in the midst of joys present).

And the solstice is always a time of awareness. The slowing of the summer, the passing of the winter. In those times change is ever-visible (where the spring and autumn are more quiet. The plants appear, and grow, and do it with deliberation. Then they slow, and go dormant, with that same deliberation).

And people are (barring those who suffer from the seasons) happy, at both times of the turning.

Then again, I just like the world.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:00 PM:

Mary Frances #31: Thanks.

#44 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Here, the Solstice is the beginning of the end of winter. If we're going to get horrible sticking-and-staying snow, it'll be in the next two weeks. After that we can get some horrible windy days with sleet and snow that falls and melts and falls and melts and falls and freezes overnight, making the streets dangerous and walking an adventure of the not fun sort, but every day there's less chance of it freezing and staying frozen until the evening commute.

Every day that the sun goes down a little later and the Arctic freezes a little harder, the Japan Current flows a little further south. The early crocuses should be showing green sprouts by Epiphany, buds swelling on Indian Cherry by Valentines day. I have to start checking the cows once a day right after the New Year; the first calves will be born in late February.

I still have to small sacks of bulbs which must be planted, but today is the day we put up the Christmas tree, and there's six boxes of random R family stuff from Waco which my sister kicked out of her spare bedroom after ten years. Imagine. Just because it's our stuff.

How did we get so much stuff?

#45 ::: alkali ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:14 PM:

Url, qbrf gung ybbx yvxr na nfgrebvq gb lbh?

#46 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:19 PM:

I find myself, at the Turning, unemployed and contemplative. And hopeful and more at peace.

It’s not a bad thing, my über-boss was trying to make my position so unpleasant that I’d get mad enough to walk out the door and then they’d not have to pay unemployment or anything else.

I rode it down. I got laid off the 13th, will be on payroll until the end of the month, then 10 weeks of severance, plus I can collect unemployment. And that will be in Kansas, were I work, which is much better than Missouri Unemployment.

Plus the person who is helping me with my job-change (I’ve been looking , in a fairly non-hard-core way, since mid-October) says that after the new year there will be more opportunities. Plus some others that I’ve applied for that take a while (IRS, etc.).

It’s all a good thing, the stress was getting really bad.

I’m also going to use my free time to get back into the daily writing habit, so that it becomes a habit and once I go back to work I can keep it up.

And I forgot how luminous and pretty my house is during sunlit winter days. It’s like being in a lantern. It’s oriented to take in more light now, less in the summer.

Susan S, your bébé is coming at a good time. My b-day is 3/16 and my sister’s is 3/15.

p.s. we saw a preview of Sweeney Todd last night. Holy crap. It will be worth paying for, we got to see it for free. Aha, just came across what is my dilemma with it, but I’m going to post it at my LJ, as an addition to the post I made last night.

#47 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Paula Helm Murray... I think you mean Sarah S, regarding the bébé.

As for your employment situation, my best wishes.

#48 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:37 PM:

the sunset on a gloomy day will burn
with fires that each will echo on the tree
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

dark night short day the wages that we earn
give us a chance to go upon a spree
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn

for warmer days and nights each heart must yearn
but for a while with green and red to see
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

the ashes of the old go in their urn
we wait with knowledge that all will agree
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn

from all the evils that we seek to spurn
the kind and gentle heart at last shall flee
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

we bid farewell to old care and concern
from pains and sorrows for a time shake free
the sunset on a gloomy day will burn
we celebrate with joy the sunreturn

#49 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:47 PM:

alkalai @45:

Gung'f ab nfgrebvq...gung'f n fcnpr fgngvba.

#50 ::: Yatima ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Lizzy L., I am so sorry for your loss.

In 1994 I was in Newgrange, with my mother, for the solstice.

In 2002 I got my best Christmas present ever. I called her Claire, for the light. She'll be five on Tuesday.

#51 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 12:54 PM:

This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the poems
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so radiant
and so warm.

Thank you all for the poetry, in this thread and in others!

#52 ::: Andrea ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 01:07 PM:

My little girl was born on the winter solstice four years ago. As a wiccan and as one who is particularly attached to the solstice, it was the best present ever (though I didn't know it at the time--she was one month early). She is a little light-bearer. Her birthday symbolizes her perfectly.

And my husband and I recently separated, so I'm looking forward to that getting easier, too.

#53 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 01:09 PM:

The day of the dead is gone and past,
We reach the heart of winter at last --
The days grow shorter,
Towards dwindling light we yearn,
When, hailed by Night's daughter,
The Sun, in glory, returns!

Hail, King of Winter!
Holly King, Farewell!
The Child of Oak once more with us will dwell.

#54 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 01:10 PM:

I've gone on at some length about my feelings on the Solstice and the season here (assuming it isn't terribly gauche to link to myself); other than that, I can only say I hope everyone has a happy one, and a lovely and merry Mithras-mas as well.

And with that, I'm off to West Virginia for the next few days, hopefully to do some light-making of my own. Stay well, all, and here's a full and flowing holiday cup raised to you.

#55 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Vatima, thank you.

From a poem by St Clare of Assisi:

What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir no dust,
go forward...

#56 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 01:48 PM:

A lyric I wrote a number of years ago. Got a solo bow from the stage of Carnegie Hall out of it (someone else wrote the music).

A Song for Yule

Old Sun is gone. His fading light
Is swallowed by the Solstice Night.

This night—His coronation—Dark
Proclaims the youthful Sun His heir;
The two Gods, clasping hands, remark
The one so black, the one so fair.

(In Spring and Fall the Lovers feed
Their lust before the sunset fades,
And being Gods, release Their seed
Across the sky in vivid shades.)

And we the Long Night Vigil keep,
And softly chant the night away;
And some the raging bonfire leap,
To bring the long-awaited day.

The Sun is born. Behold: the night
Is driven forth by brilliant Light.

#57 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Mary Frances @ 31

Thank you. How about a Vortex of Villanelles?

#58 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:15 PM:

You guys are a bunch of optimists. It's nice to see, but I can't really live it right now.

My annual Christmas reading suits my winter mood. To condense it, perhaps:


We have taken
the journey
You had traced out
in the stars

and which
You were probably
for more happy men

Forgive us
it was miraculous
but miracles
are hard.

#59 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:16 PM:

It's turning into A Very Making Light Solstice over here. Every year, we open the doors at sunset (well, unlock; "open" and our cats would be running loose in the neighborhood) and invite everyone to drop by anytime all night long. We burn a Yule log, we make eggnog, and I break out the fruitcake.

This year, it's Troll-Bait Fruitcake and Savory Pie. Home-made pie crusts using the butter-grating and ice-skin tips from the thread. Vegetarian sausage this time for our vegetarian guests. And the fruit for the fruitcake got a good steeping in the brandy before being mixed into the batter. And instead of sprinkling, the brandy refreshes the nicely soaked cheesecloth that's wrapped around the cake. There will be cheese, but I'm not sure that it's particularly sharp.

Other than that, it's Tree's Best Eggnog, and the Orange Juice Tomato Soup recipe from the Wiccan Cookbook.

Bless the light! Bless the returning day! Sol invictus!

#60 ::: DarthParadox ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:22 PM:

The word "Villanellapalooza" comes to mind. But that may be going too far.

Or maybe not. I love this place.

#61 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:36 PM:

In the days of quick-dark two sun-circles ago, my beloved gave me an early solstice gift of blue LEDs.

Ah bright, bright blue, the color now proven to reset you circadian pacemaker: a color great for the morning, but not at all healthy late at night*. The light receptors that go straight to your hypothalamus have a peak sensitivity at 480nm, that is, blue. These control your circadian rhythms, and are entirely separate from your visual system of rods and cones.

It was a golite, which I can highly recommend. Its only fault is not having an automatic-on ability. Perhaps other/newer models have timers?

You can also build your own blue LED lightbox.

Staring at your monitor before 8am** may also provide a bit of benefit. And of course if there is a winter blue sky, use it.

(a corollary of the circadian rhythm research is that we probably ought not expose ourselves to too much blue light before bed: hard to do considering the color at which our TVs and Monitors, on average, glow. One can take melatonin at night, but that has risks***.)

* Melatonin at night: sleepers delight. Melatonin at morning: drivers take warning.

** can't find the study. iirc getting the blue-light dose before 8am (or 9?) maximized the melatonin-clearing benefits. You can always go to sleep again after. I read online and have the lightbox, and then may go back to sleep. Much easier to get up after a lightbox session than without it.

*** can't find the study... iirc taking melatonin makes the body dependant on taking it (lowers the natural production), and can cause memory problems. I think I might purchase a blue-blocking yellow-screen for my monitor.

#62 ::: Kate Y. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:39 PM:

On reading the original post: OK, now I'm worried about the writers' strike. This is not someplace we want the series to end, or even linger unduly.

#63 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:46 PM:

I love Solstice Week!

I love that stretch from around the second week of November through New Year's, here in Manhattan, where the light is just at the slant, and the density of the frequent cloud cover, that the combination creates shimmer of silverly, luminous magic in the air from about 3:30 to dusk. It's beautiful, and points up what a beautiful city NYC is.

After that though, I wanna be in the Caribbean.

Love, C.

#64 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 02:53 PM:

Kate Y. @62,

Fear not, for reality shows can be expanded during a strike season.

I hadn't been watching this one, but was drawn in. I know that Janus was an early favorite, but his duplicity makes me think he'll be voted off soon enough. So far nine are gone, the tenth nearly so.

#65 ::: Noelle ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:05 PM:

To mark Soltice and the first day of winter we're going to take our little ones out to a wonderful wetland preserve near us and feed birds. Chickadees, jays and the occassional downy woodpecker. These birds will come and eat out of your hand if you are quiet enough. A hard thing to convince a three-year old to do, so failing that we'll scatter the seed on the ground. The birds and chipmunks will enjoy it.

That is, if the snow that was dumped on us last week hasn't turned to absolute slush from the rain and possible plus eight temperatures this weekend. Would you believe this is in Hamilton? Not as much snow as Ottawa, but still. Plus eight?

#66 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:22 PM:

Thanks for the correction Serge, you're right (I'm horrid with names...)

#67 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Ah, the joys of language drift. Tonight is mid-winter, when winter begins.

I'll have to ponder the light in the dark question, and perhaps shift my gamma in the evenings.

#68 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:24 PM:

abi #58:

The solstice has a promise: winter's end.
The shortening shadows are a cheering sight,
hope and rejoicing still our human right.

We do not break, but in great pain we bend,
not dreaming of the ones who share our plight;
the solstice has a promise: winter's end.

Warm messages brother and sister send
bring us together in the cheering rite;
dawn comes to finish even this long night.
The solstice has a promise: winter's end.

#69 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Toronto is falling out of the domain of the Lady of the Ice and into the warm south; we have snow, but there will be rain, and warm day this week. I wonder how soon it will be that we get the southland arthropods, and what out of the green world will succumb.

Some of the best memories of my youth are of walking out into snowfields beyond the lights and sounds of man, looking up into the winter stars, and listening to that ancient silence.

There is good in silence, and in darkness, as much as in cheer and light, when you want them.

In, oh, about five minutes I'll be starting to put the boar shoulder in the oven -- honey apple ginger glaze, shallots, small potatoes, carrots -- and deciding what to do with the mushrooms.

Eala Earendel engla beorhtast,
ofer Middangeard monnum sended,
and sodfasta sunnan leoma,
tohrt ofer tunglas þu tida gehvane
of sylfum þe symle inlihtes."

#70 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Constance Ash #63: In that last, you are not alone.

#71 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 04:06 PM:

Edinburgh. Sunrise was around 8:40am; sunset was around 3:45pm. We had approximately seven hours of daylight. The weather was cold -- didn't get above a couple of degrees above freezing all day, sub-zero before and after nightfall -- with added fog coming up off the Firth.

Yes, I am gulping vitamin D supplements and sitting in front of a 20" LED-backlit monitor shining sky blue in my face. Why do you ask? (Yawns ...)

#72 ::: Kate Y. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 04:18 PM:

#64: I am much heartened.

Now, can anyone here point to soundtracks or compilation albums for the Winter Solstice Show? The radio stations keep pumping out holiday music, but they're all from the sappy TV-movie remake....

I'd like to have winter songs to sing, without pledging allegiance to gods I don't believe in.

#73 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 04:31 PM:

#61, Kathryn from Sunnyvale -

I have my light-therapy box on a standard lamp-timer. I think it cost less than five dollars, and it has been totally worth it in increasing my compliance with using the lightbox.

#74 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 04:37 PM:

Kate @ #72, do a search at iTunes for Winter Songs. There are over a hundred listed, some Christmas-y, many more not (Joni Mitchell's River?).

It's been gratifying to be able to use iTunes even without an iPod or even a Mac, but my song library (mostly copied from already-owned CDs) is endangering my disk capacity.

#76 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 05:25 PM:

Linkmeister @ 74: Joni Mitchell's River?

I'd say so:

It's coming on Christmas
They're cutting down trees
They're putting up reindeer
Singing songs of joy and peace

#77 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 06:13 PM:

We watched the sunrise from bed this morning; I was actually coherent enough to remember, and so spouse opened the blinds. At this time of year, the sunlight comes straight in the big southeast-facing window, and falls all over the floor and the bed, to the great delight of the cat, who is giving her solar cells a real workout. On weekends, when we get up later, it shines into the bathroom just right to reflect off my bath water and make all sorts of dancing reflections.

I've been spending the last two days making enough tiramisu and madeleines to take to a party tonight, while spouse made chocolate meringues.

(Sorry, Xopher, the test run of buttercreams proved too rich and got nixed, although the hand-rolling worked quite well. I think I'll figure out some way next year to riff off the whipped-cream-filled meringues I got addicted to in Venice and produce tiny molded ones filled with exotic flavors.)

After tonight, I'll take a couple days off, and then the cooking cycle begins again: on Monday, more tiramisu for a Christmas buffet at friends, along with apple chutney and bread pudding for Christmas Eve dinner, and then more madeleines on Christmas afternoon, for that fresh-baked sensation.

#78 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 06:33 PM:

Does this qualify as a winter song?

Winter is icumen in,
Lhude sing Goddamm,
Raineth drop and staineth slop,
And how the wind doth ramm!
Sing: Goddamm.
Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us,
An ague hath my ham.
Freezeth river, turneth liver,
Damn you, sing: Goddamm.
Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm...

Ezra Pound

Maybe not...

#79 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:21 PM:

Lizzy, if that one goes in, then "The Second Coming" should slouch in as well.

#80 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:23 PM:

One moment of eternity that comes and goes;
its line of passing points to light from dark.
The still point of the year upon which turns the arc.
The nadir of the day is reached and now it grows.
The cold, electric air suffused with blue-gray glows,
that gather at the turning point to spark
the change that will make lush from stark,
and turn the year's ebbs once again to flows.
Around the hearth the air is golden warm;
filled with smells of feast and season's cheer,
the talk stays close to earth, and kith, and kin.
The outer world turns on moment arm
about the fulcrum of the departing year,
as here inside we live in moment's skin.

#81 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 07:46 PM:

Tim @ #76, that'll teach me to misremember the song.

#82 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:12 PM:

Oh, dear, it's even worse. Mitchell's River is on Blue, which I own and have since its initial pressing back in the early 1970s.

#83 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 08:27 PM:

A number of years ago I filked "White Christmas":

I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas
Just like the ones I had at home.
Where pohutukawa and lilies flower,
And surfers ride the milky foam.

I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas
Even if those mozzies bite!
May the sun shine into the night,
And may all your Christmases be bright!

In fact it's traditional for it to rain on Christmas Day, probably because people persist in scheduling barbecues for the occasion. But the Christmas lilies in my parents' garden are flowering, a friend and I watched the surfers at the beach the other evening as rata (a pohutukawa relative) flamed along the coast road, my colleagues have been rubbing lotion on inflamed mosquito bites, and for quite some time it's been light long after my nominal bedtime and even longer before I aspire to be awake. Only please God no worse earthquakes and we're all set for the big day.

#84 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:26 PM:

I had great hopes for this year, despite coming into it crushed by seasonal depression. I was writing more than ever, spurred on by a close friend that I adore. The year has a 7 in it, which is my favourite number. It was supposed to be a wonderful year.

Six months ago, when the days were getting longer and brighter and my mind was whirling with the joy and the light, the death of my cat Izzy ripped a hole into it. My constant companion for nearly six years, across four moves, two states, and to another continent was torn away from me by a sudden and disasterous illness. It dimmed the bright, happy time I'd looked forward to since the past December.

Now I'm still struck by bouts of guilt and grief, but this winter weighs much less heavy upon me than the last. I have more to worry about, but this winter I have a light therapy lamp that keeps the darkness from flattening me, I have a clear (if uncertain) path to follow, and above all, I really, truly know what I want to do with my life.

All the same, I wish my little friend was still here to share it with me. This wasn't the year it was supposed to be.

#85 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Renatus, I have an idea of you how you feel.

Skyler was an old friend who left my wife and me far too soon.

#86 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Renatus, I have a great deal of sympathy. A lot of things have happened recently that make me think of my long- and short-term deceased cats (if we get a cat as a kitten, they tend to live nearly 20 years). They were all a joy, each in their own way. But we have a continuum of cats, which may be impossible in your situation. (we had all the severely geriatric cats pass on a year ago in November so this spring in may we got two kittens from the same litter, they are giving great joy as well as occasional great trials...)

Blessings and peace for the new year.

#87 ::: glinda ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 09:52 PM:

Linkmeister @ 82:

You too?

I still use my turntable now and then; there are things I've got on vinyl that either haven't been released on CD, or that I can't afford to acquire on CD...

#88 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:08 PM:

I've unfortunately been welcoming the waning solstice with the sort of headache that leaves me thinking anything else would be the lesser of two evils - but have somehow, in the process of trying to endure the wretched thing, finally figured out how to properly sharpen plane blades[0]!

[0] ... and on the grounds that it wasn't going to make anything worse, have managed to produce a sackful of light, fluffy, curly shavings of poplar! It's tempting, but almost certainly a bad idea to see just how well they'd burn...

#89 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:24 PM:

In five years the Mayan calendar ends.

Not-so coincidentally, in five years to the day (I'm West Coast!), the solstice sun's path will be perfectly aligned with the Milky Way.

Which is some pretty impressive calculating, to my mind.

Linkmeister @ #74: This is why we purchased a terabyte drive. What is scary is how much of it we got, legitimately, for free. I worked for a bookstore for three years and the manager liked people to take home the promo CDs— but no more than five a week. I got a lot of classical that way, and the entire collection of Dar Williams.

Renatus @ #84: Woobah.* I know I am going to be devastated when my kitties are no longer with me, but I'll keep being owned by cats because horrible though it is to lose them, it's worse to not have them at all.

*an expression of sympathy amongst my friends, as in "that's terrible and I don't know what else to say."

#90 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:50 PM:

Steve Buchheit #8:
The Year is mostly dead...

Pete #3 & Vassilissa #28:
The last three weeks in Auckland have been cloudy and overcast giving the light a migraine-inducing glare. Vassilissa, hope you weren't overly affected by the flashfloods.

The days are longer, hotter and more humid. Was woken up at 5am today by the morning chorus. The pohutukawa, a.k.a 'New Zealand Christmas trees' are blooming. Signifiers of Christmas are in evidence in the muzak & tinsel in malls & frenetic activity as folk squeeze in last-minute shopping.

#91 ::: Lisa Padol ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Oh yes, the other seasonal song I remember is John Myers Myers's "I Remember Gaudy Days". Well, it's sort of seasonal.

(And there's one that begins, "I shall go as a wren in spring", and works through a year of seasons, shapeshifting, and chasing. I found that in Mastering Witchcraft, but I'd not be surprised to learn it came from somewhere else.)

#92 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:09 PM:

R.M. Koske @73 re:61

With the GoLite one has to press a button to start it, and that's with the power on. I can program in how long and how bright it will be, but I cannot tell it to start at a particular time.

(I can imagine the designers saying: "Pressing a button can't be that difficult." They were not thinking about what extra-sleepy people need.)

Way back when I had a shop-light with two full-spectrum bulbs plugged into a timer as my lightbox. That worked ok, but the blue-LED device is magic.

#93 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Hogfather was adapted for TV last year in the UK, rather successfully I thought. I think someone's broadcasting it here in the US, or use the usual Dr Who watching techniques.

#94 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2007, 11:57 PM:

Even in tropical Hawaii the days get shorter and I still get a touch of SAD. I have done much better in recent years, after I realized that I need to talk to my neurofeedback practitioner to seasonally adjust the frequency range in my EEG feedback sessions.

We've settled on the solstice as our main winter holiday to celebrate; what holiday would be better suited for a marriage of a Jew and a Zen Buddhist/Subgenius/atheist/Crowley-influenced wanna-be occultist to celebrate? Usually we give our gifts on the solstice, but this year my daughter won't be back from college until late Sunday night, so we'll wait until Monday to exchange gifts.

I have received some early gifts from the universe this year.

In our last therapy session together, our foster daughter told us that she was grateful for our "putting up with all her shit", and that she appreciated that we'd stuck with her when her family wouldn't. It feels like she is slowly starting to get herself together a little more; she recently managed to get a holiday season job and hold it down for a little while, though she quit after a few weeks.

And this week I was offered a permanent position at the company where I've been working on contract, and made the decision to take it. It's been a difficult choice, because I've been attracted to the variety, better pay, and sense of independence in doing contract work, while at the same time maddened and frustrated by the long lulls between work. I like the people here, though - they seem to believe in treating each other well, and I've been offered profit-sharing. Really, though, I think the clincher is simply feeling that they actually appreciate my work.

So I'll be crossing this solstice into the new season with, perhaps, a little extra stability in my life. I'll see in the new year. Sol invictus.

#95 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:25 AM:

Clifton, I wish you well. I may have a position at a friend's place of employment performing a new position for which I keep thinking of issues to deal with. And then my mind stretched to go, 'why, if you get this position, don't you try to train as a safety manager".

So it goes.

#96 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:28 AM:

#93: It's running on the ION (Previous PAX) network on Sunday the 23rd at 7:00 pm (PST . . . I assume that other time zones have their own showing at that time.)

#97 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Sol Invictus to all here!

I worked until about six this morning (December 21, US) on my chocolates, slept for about three hours, packed them, then went to the mailbox store and sent them out Next Day Air, at a combined cost of over USD 300. Remind me, please, to write on my 2008 calendar "Begin Christmas chocolates" on about August 15.

I then went home and crashed like a 747 hitting Mount Everest. I woke up only on the several occasions my boyfriend called me, the latest being about 11 PM EST. This time I decided that eating some actual food (I'd had about 4 chocolates and a piece of gum all day, nothing else) might be a good idea, so I ate a little. Fed myself another way by reading Making Light; thank you all for making it so nourishing.

I have a couple of other random comments to make, then I'm going back to bed. Still feel exhausted.

joann 77: What is this "too rich" of which you speak? I must be unfamiliar with that concept.

#98 ::: . ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:35 AM:

[Posted from]

#100 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:40 AM:

glinda @ #87, I found an Audio Technica turntable with outputs for a laptop for $87 recently, so I bit the bullet and bought it. I admitted that rehabilitating my 1973 Pioneer turntable was probably not going to be feasible for less than that, and more than likely a lot more. Out here I don't have access to local repair people who know what they're doing in quite the same way that a resident of a big city might, so I'd have had to find someplace to fix the Pioneer and then ship the thing to that place.

#101 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Congratulations to those with new family and jobs.

Renatus, we lost a good friend this year who had been with us for her entire life -- Marian, a siamese and my wife's favorite. We were down to one cat (we have had as many as 10), her brother, Robin. While replacing her was impossible, we did adopt a new calico, Tikka, when a friend was not able to keep her.

This was the year when I recognized if my life had a classic three-act structure, Act III was well underway. We hesitate adopting because we are not sure about how to handle cats that would survive us.

Lizzy L., I lost my mother two years ago at the same time that I was deathly ill from pancreatitis. In fact, we were both in the same hosptial at the same time, not too far away from each other. Not being able to help with the various arrangements made it hurt a bit more, but there was some healing this year. My sister and I finally were able to charter a boat out of Moss Landing to scatter her ashes where she wanted out in the Pacific. It was a good boat and crew, and we headed out on grey Sunday morning. Not far out from the harbor entrance we picked up a close escort of three humpback whales, which swam from side to side, diving under the boat as we motored due west. The crew was astonished and said that they had never seen anything like it that close to the harbor.

Knowing how carefully Mom planned every occasion, my sister and I were not surprised, somehow.

You and your family will remain in my prayers this season.

#102 ::: Heresiarch sees (Chinese) spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 01:32 AM:

@ 98.

#103 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 02:31 AM:

Does anyone else get delayed onset SAD? I can usually make it through December and the beginning of January all right, but after that everything goes downhill. I don't recover until the end of March, went the warmth comes back.

#104 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 04:39 AM:

Bruce@29: I think you mean "Worlds' End" rather than "The Wake". (Note the apostrophe, btw...that is where it goes.)

abi@49: Ha! And, for the first time ever, I've understood a rot13'd comment without having to decode it. It helped that I've done enough cryptograms that when I see a four letter word with the pattern xyzx, I automatically think of "That".

Bruce@80: Very nice.

#105 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:23 AM:

Forgive me - my muse just discovered Villanelles, and wouldn't let me sleep until I wrote him one.

Big Bang

Two thousand twelve, December twenty one
The world ends, not in fire, or in ice
An asteroid comes hurtling 'round the sun

The KT boundary marks the best known one
The dinosaurs snuffed out, survived by mice
Two thousand twelve, December twenty one

We came, made fire, steel, spear, knife and gun
Built cities, empires, tamed the sand and ice
An asteroid comes hurtling 'round the sun

Tunguska - 'bout a dozen megaton
That time it was just trees that paid the price
Two thousand twelve, December twenty one

We counted cold war days off one by one
In fear we'd end by nuclear device
An asteroid comes hurtling 'round the sun

The Mayans, counting since this world begun
A long count - thirteen baktuns would suffice
Two thousand twelve, December twenty one
An asteroid comes hurtling 'round the sun

#106 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:36 AM:

and there's six boxes of random R family stuff from Waco which my sister kicked out of her spare bedroom after ten years.

One of the things I hope to get done this holiday season is to finally liberate the bulk of my library, which I left on the shelves in my old room when I moved out of my parents' house a couple of years ago.

The main challenge (and both the reason why I keep putting it off and the reason why it increasingly seems necessary) is that, rather than become for instance a spare bedroom, that room has become the-room-that-you-dump-stuff-just-inside-the-door-when-you-can't-think-where-to-put-it; moving the books will likely require mountaineering equipment and possibly a team of sherpas.

#107 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:41 AM:

Paul A @106:

We brought our book collection across from the old house at the beginning of this month. The bulk of it had been boxed up in our loft for a few years.

Having the books around us is even more pleasant than I thought it would be. We both go through phases of gloating and cackling* as we survey all these easily accessible volumes.

Having your library around you is good. It will be worth the effort.

* OK, the Hub doesn't actually cackle. But I do enough for two.

#108 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:42 AM:

Pete @105:

Love it. Is that really your first villanelle?

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Re #105:

There's apparently a 1-in-75 chance that Mars will be hit this January by a 50-meter object.

#110 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:51 AM:

#92, Kathryn from Sunnyvale -

Ah, yes, that would make a timer completely useless. Drat.

#111 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Cut to: Darkseid, gazing at the return of the sun, hands behind his back. His face inscrutable, but knowing that his time will come again.

#112 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Though the sinus headaches aren't pleasant and my digestion's definitely off (none of those elaborate winter cookies or feasts for me!), the views from my window are magnificent: the low light just after sunrise and before sunset gleaming on the snows atop the San Francisco Peaks, revealing the complex folds of the Rim, and casting gorgeous shadows on the weird hillocks and hoodoes out on the plains. Then there are the winter birds -- juncos, sparrows, and a small falcon that likes to sit on trees a long way across the street from our place. The ravens have taken to hanging out in larger groups, sometimes half a dozen all flying at once (though never more than three in close formation). And, in the afternoons, the cat loves to lie in bright sunlight with his white tummy fur seeming to glow.

We didn't get the promised bit of snow yesterday morning but had some in previous weeks, just enough for me to ogle for a while. Though my husband has to work on Christmas Day, he has the 24th off, so we can open presents then (definite goodies, if few surprises).

All in all, I like this time of year.

#113 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 10:41 AM:

Steve C. @ #85: What a lovely boy. I'm sorry you lost him. I know what you mean about far too soon--Izzy was only, at most, six and a half, and such a trooper before she fell so suddenly ill.

That's one of the things that hurts the worst--it was much too soon. I was supposed to still have her around in five to ten years, a charmingly grumpy little old lady cat who kept me company while I wrote and laid over my forearms when she thought I needed to be done.

Paula @ #86: But we have a continuum of cats, which may be impossible in your situation.

I'm afraid so--small (52 square meters, about a quarter of which houses the washroom and the sauna) flat housing two continually broke young people. Not that I wouldn't take in a herd of them if I happened across any needing homes. Right now, though, my biggest obstacle is my worry and paranoia that another health disaster would happen, that I wouldn't catch it in time, that I didn't do enough with Izzy, and that I wouldn't be able to handle the too-young death of another cat under my care. Someday, I'll get better, or find out about a cat that desperately needs a home...

Your blessings are much appreciated.

B. Durbin @ #89, Claude @ #101: Thank you for your words. It really, really helps me to see that others know and understand.

For now--I try not to think about it too much because it leads to chasing my own tail around a rut. The hole in my heart is healing around the edges, and things are pretty good. I have books to write and, in the immediate, chocolate truffles to experiment with.

Luthe @ #103: I sort of had the same thing before I got my light therapy lamp and after the extremes of Finnish seasons brought my SAD into undeniable force--the long days of Finnish summer gave me enough steam to run off of momentum when the days started getting very dark and I could manage until sometime into December. Around Christmas I'd slam into a wall and not recover well until about April. Having that lamp to mitigate the darkness before it had a chance to drag at me has done wonders, even though I did have a couple of weeks this month where I had to vegetate.

#114 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Renatus @113:
the long days of Finnish summer gave me enough steam to run off of momentum when the days started getting very dark and I could manage until sometime into December. Around Christmas I'd slam into a wall and not recover well until about April. Having that lamp to mitigate the darkness before it had a chance to drag at me has done wonders

This reflects my experience in Scotland. From October until April, my emotional state was one of steady erosion of any emotional strength I'd build up in the light half of the year. A light box helps to slow the erosion. So did a desk lamp at work.

Last year was particularly bad, because I lost access to my regular desk during October. This meant I had no lamp, which sped up the erosion. I ran out sooner than in previous years.

This year, having moved somewhat south and to a clearer climate, I am hoping to slow the gradual wearing down of my joy. I will miss the overflowing energy of summer, though.

#115 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Xopher #97:

I personally don't believe in "too rich" either, but both spouse and the host for the party in question have well-defined opinions on the subject. It seems to involve a combination of too much sugar, too much butter, and too much flavor all rolled, as it were, into one.

My own opinion is that solstice season is a time for excess, a time of warmth and flavor and substance.

#116 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:17 PM:

Especially without SAD, the solar procession strikes me as less a story arc than an ostinato; the procession is perfectly cyclic, but chains of events have only a loose connection to it. (Sometimes very loose; witness the last named tropical low of the 2005 season being in 2006.)
     In Boston, after a couple of false starts winter has come early; there have been several years with snow earlier, but I don't remember any in my 36 years here that had 2 feet fallen in the city before the solstice. (Even the record 1992-93 season (~100", vs ~40 average) wasn't this big this early. We're expecting Graydon's mild-wave tomorrow; \maybe/ the piles will shrink a little.) We've had a triumphal lunch for a release that AFAIK is \still/ not ready to ship -- followed by the departure of a long-term colleague who was the only person with overall vision of the product I work on. Yesterday I couldn't find anyone willing to ship a seasonal gift of wine; last night I again saw someone who's been coming to my chorus's holiday concerts as long as I've been singing them (31 years now), and in three days I will have dinner with people I've known just as long. I can no longer ride either life or a bicycle as well as I used to -- the physical and mental shock absorbers aren't what they once were -- but I'm fit enough for most things (went whitewater rafting this summer for the first time in a decade!), and certainly more fit than my parents were at this age; so that will do.
     So there's no personal arc either, beyond the fact that I'm thinking of retirement in the nearer term; my father (who worked to 65.5) would be shocked, but I don't think he ever realized quite how different a world this is. (And for all his scholarly focus, he was far better at people than I am, which allowed him to start a third career after the war's end smashed his first two.)

shadowsong: I \may/ have been present when that was first read to an audience (memory is tangled -- I'm on the record that Lurtsema recites it on); I still think it's one of her best works. She spoke here last spring about what it was like being "Jack [Langstaff]'s tame writer"; I will always miss him, but it was warming to hear the recollections of an aspect I saw little of in real time.

Paula: I was ]lucky[ enough to be in a similar situation many years ago. (The ueberboss was so bad I'd already picked the fractional job that would slightly stanch the wounded bank account while I searched full-time, but I had less unemployment comp.) May your fortunes brighten with the year.

Durbin@89: a purchasable terabyte drive? God, that makes me feel old; I was in my late twenties when I was introduced to "the Whale", which could hold a terab\i/t in several refrigerator-size cabinets if fully instantiated.

     @107: yes, very pleasant. For a decade I had \one/ bookshelf unit; I boxed books that had been read last year to make room for ]new[ purchases (mostly cheap-used, in those days). Having enough space to shelve everything (and enough money for the shelves) was woonnderful.
     general: I've seen just enough of mild SAD to have some idea how bad it can be. OTOH, I'm envious that you find summer energizing; even moving to New England from the near-South hasn't gotten me completely free of a level of heat that I find debilitating.

#117 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:27 PM:

Claude, thanks. My heart to yours. Renatus, so sorry.

#118 ::: coffeedryad ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Kate Y. at 72: Steeleye Span have recordings of "Gower Wassail" and "The King" somewhere, although I don't know which albums off the top of my head. Wassail songs are just what this time of year needs.

As for poetry... villanelles aren't my thing, and what I did come up with turned out awfully trite, but...

Cold is snow; cruel, ice.
Wind bites to the bone.
Winter's harshness - white, forbidding -
Darkness sets in soon.

Warm is hearth; welcome, kin.
Feasts bring friends together.
Lights and laughter, long awaited
Banish winter's woes.

#119 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 01:08 PM:

ChiP @ #116: Yeah, I was pretty impressed too— a terabyte drive for about $400. My family's first computer was a Vic 20, where 20 stood for 20K. These days you can get freebie calculators with more memory than that...

#120 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 01:19 PM:

Linkmeister @ 82: On the plus side, you now have a perfect excuse to listen to Blue again.

#121 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Pete #105: Nice job!

#122 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Yesterday the sea was halfway between calm and whitecaps, the Farallones Islands sharp on the horizon. There may have been a green flash as the horizon rose over the sun, one not visible to the eye but to the long lens.

We will have ripe garden-grown strawberries but no garden tomatoes this week for our feasting days.

The last tomatoes had hinted they'd turn in time, but they turned from green to mottled brown. Two weeks ago the vines were thick and higher than my head. Today they are shriveled thin ropes. Tomorrow they'll be in the green waste bin.

I could be not only a locavore but a westovore this morning, eating foods from west of me (I'm 50 rods from the ocean). My neighbor the fisherman brought two giant Dungeness crabs by, caught the day before and cooked not long after. However, I'm not so sure about strawberries and Dungeness together, compared to one of the most perfect two-ingredient meals of butter and Dungeness.

#123 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 03:40 PM:

the water in the pond is still and green
reeds on the edge are bending in the breeze
in the far distance sounds of a machine

the pathway fails to reach a place unseen
by human eyes unknown what the toad sees
the water in the pond is still and green

we climb on upwards since we’re young and keen
and at this point not very hard to please
in the far distance sounds of a machine

each of us here is in a place between
what we once were and where we’ll find our ease
the water in the pond is still and green

in front of us nothing acts as a screen
nor tells us that all change comes by degrees
in the far distance sounds of a machine

the moving air just makes the rushes lean
once we are gone others will laugh and tease
the water in the pond is still and green
in the far distance sounds of a machine

#124 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Grins. Tim @ #120, you think I haven't?

#125 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Paula, thanks for your good wishes, and the same to you. Good job sticking it out when you knew you were in the right, and best of luck in finding a new job which allows you to grow. (And the same wishes for others who may be in difficult straits with work.)

I'll also be flying to Oregon just after Xmas to see my brother and sister and mother. This will be the first time I've seen her since her memory problems started this spring. Matt says she's doing a little better, and I hope that will continue to be true.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 05:33 PM:

joann 115: Good, I'm glad we see eye-to-eye on that.

#127 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Abi @108 and Fragano @121: Thank you for the kind words. It is my first one - I usually stick with the simpler forms, but when my muse gets an idea, it's best to let him take me where he wants to go.

#128 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:47 PM:

Pete @ 105

That's very nice, if one can say that about a Level 1 extinction event. Care to try one about CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN?. It was scheduled for 2014. last I heard.

coffeedryad @ 115

I don't think that's trite; not everything has to come in tricked-out packages with fancy bows. Sometimes plain language is the best.

Fragano @ 123

Yes, I like that very much. Have you ever tried watercolors? This poem reminds me of one.

#129 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:52 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) #128: Thanks. I've never tried my hand at painting -- mainly on the grounds that I'd not be good at it.

#130 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Good Yule to all!

My coven ritual was last night. This morning in Minneapolis, it was 33 degrees and snowing at sunrise. It is now around 16 degrees and dropping. Odd weather; we've never had a Yule thaw before that I can remember. I hope we didn't do something backwards.

Shawdowsong @37, thank you for posting the Susan Cooper poem; it's one of my favorites, and we recited it in as part of our celebration.

Xopher @ 56, may I show that poem to a couple of friends? It's wonderful, and I will be sure to attribute it to you. We may ask for permission to use it in the coven.

The King, or at least the version I know. We sang it last night, so it's fairly fresh in my mind.

Joy, health, love, and peace
Be all here in this place.
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.

Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best,
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.

We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles,
In search of of our King
Unto you we bring.

We have fiddle and bow
To play as we go,
We have lantern and candle
As Light for us all.

Bold Yuletide is past
Thirteenth Night is the last;
So we bid you adieu
Great Joy in the New.

(The last 6 lines my coven brother Steven revised. I believe the original lines we something like
"We have cannon and shot, to pay for the lot," which he thought too violent, and something about Christmas, which he changed to Yule. And he prefers 13s to 12s.)

#131 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:07 PM:

Magenta 130: Of course! With pleasure.

That song lyric, btw, is sung by country kids in England as they go around with a dead bird in a box, usually with a red ribbon tied around its neck. People come up and give them a shilling and say "please to see the King."

One of the grossest Christmas customs I know of.

#132 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:14 PM:

We grew up near the Rift, where days don't change.
The cold and dark of winter never touched our hearts.
Now far beyond the warmth and light we range.

Given where we're from it's not so strange
that shortening of days unease and fear imparts.
We grew up near the Rift, where days don't change.

The things we've done since then have caused some change:
We're not the ones we were when we first made those starts.
Now far beyond the warmth and light we range.

Yet when we find the fearsome and the strange,
all we are conflicts with our new arts.
We grew up near the Rift, where days don't change.

Who once were prey are masters who arrange
the world, and order all its parts.
Now far beyond the warmth and light we range.

For all since then our origins estrange,
when faced with winter, reason oft departs.
We grew up near the Rift, where days don't change.
Now far beyond the warmth and light we range.

#133 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:22 PM:

Bruce, 132: That fits very creepily with A Fire upon the Deep, which I just read for the first time.

#134 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:35 PM:


It's been awhile since I last read "Fire Upon the Deep"; I'm not sure what the fit is that you're seeing*. If you're talking about the way the intelligent sessiles who get around in wheeled pots evolved, then I agree it's creepy.

* random association: the sections of the Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark" are titled, "Fit the First", "Fit the Second", etc.

#135 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Bruce, that's lovely and shivery, too.

Tomorrow is the full moon, and tonight the moon is as-good-as full, gorgeous in the cold. There's no snow here, but I have a wonderful winter memory of moonlight throwing my shadow across the snow in another place, another lifetime. And I do love the northern winter stars, Orion and the Bears, though I see them seldom: cloudy skies. The sunset tonight was dim red and purple, hanging like a thick velvet drape over the twilight.

#136 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:41 PM:

Bruce--it's more a feeling than any textual parallels.

#137 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:48 PM:

Bruce Cohen #132: That's just wonderful!!

#138 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 08:52 PM:

Nothing to do with the solstice, but quite a bit to do with morning:

we listen for the watcher at the gate
to cry us up and bid us now to wake
proclaiming that the sun is in full state
it’s time for the last parting word to make
and slip out swiftly lest there be mistake
though heart and clothing alike may be torn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

some say that outcomes are products of fate
an utterance by those who lack a stake
or who don’t care a fig at any rate
each slumbering body into action shake
one must depart before the sun may bake
and though the heart feel both sad and forlorn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

each enters and then leaves with stealthy gait
when to all eyes the world’s dark and opaque
nobody thinks that time has a swift rate
and when you most will not your soul forsake
you think of all the risks of long heartache
and though we treat this fresh new light with scorn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

the greatest peril lies in waking late
and knowing you’ve got little time to take
one final kiss as the rules still dictate
then swiftly down the wall and to the lake
unworried by the threat of fox or snake
if the desire’s to greet another morn
we must obey the warnings of the dawn

#139 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:11 PM:

Kathryn @ 122: "I'm not so sure about strawberries and Dungeness together" --> Try them together in a salad with fresh spinach and long slivers of toasted almond. I had something quite similar in downtown Seattle in 2000, and had forgotten how nice it was until your pairing the two reminded me.

I celebrated Solstice today by Finally Painting Dammit. About a wall and a half of the living room is now "december blue" and making me very happy. We have been almost-but-not-yet painting for several weeks now, and I took advantage of a day by myself to just go for it. Le Spouse, who hails from 2 generations of professional painters, will no doubt exhibit shock and "awww" later this evening at my just-gone-for-it style. Yet there is now blue, and it is making me very pleased.

[Yes, new here, reading quietly for a while. Hi whump, badgerbag, xeger, and other friend-folk known in RL too.]

#140 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:44 PM:

Maybear @ 139 !!!!
[Yes, new here, reading quietly for a while. Hi whump, badgerbag, xeger, and other friend-folk known in RL too.]

Knowing you're here and enjoying is an excellent solstice gift! :D

#141 ::: Pete ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Oh dear. This looks to be habit forming...

Climate Change

We mortals count the days 'til seasons come
One hemisphere cools while another warms
The earth, unhurried, dances 'round the sun

Up north, it's winter, when the year's near done
Waiting for spring - new life for trees and farms
We mortals count the days 'til seasons come

Our calendars record life's finite run
We stretch our days with lights and clock alarms
The earth, unhurried, dances 'round the sun

Down south, it's summer, and a time for fun
Then autumn follows, with it's coloured charms
We mortals count the days 'til seasons come

To music subtle, audible to none
Immune to pleading, threats, and force of arms
The earth, unhurried, dances 'round the sun

I lie here in the glow of setting sun
In gentle warmth while held within your arms
We mortals count the days 'til seasons come
The earth, unhurried, dances 'round the sun

#142 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Maybear @139,

Ah, that sounds delicious, and would even keep up on the locavore theme.

(Speaking of local-'vores, Hi, Maybear! I'm a Kathryn who is in Sunnyvale.)

#143 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2007, 10:32 PM:

I seem to have reverse SAD.

Well, it's a little more complicated than that. As far as I can tell, my delayed sleep-phase problem means that as sunset gets later and later, I go to sleep later and later, and end up either on vampire hours or (should I happen to have any social or professional life at the time) chronically sleep-deprived. Usually some combination of both -- getting two or three hours in when I have a commitment, making up for it with twelve the next night. This cycle and mental stability aren't on speaking terms.

I do seem to go more inward in the winter, but can generally den up with no ill effects. This year I have had a few days where the only thing worse than braving the outside world is not braving the outside world, but this is much to do with the outside world not having English in it.

All the poetry here is a wonderful antidote.

Should anyone care to see pictures of my surroundings and the kitten, I've put up a small collection [link broken].

#144 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 12:40 AM:

A.J. @ #143, those pictures take me a long way back to when I lived in Japan in the early 1970s while in the Navy. I alternated between enjoyment and amazement at everything I saw and at how things were done in a completely different culture.

#145 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 01:47 AM:

Claude, #101, I have money set aside in my will to care for the cats who will survive me. I have a person in charge of the caring. If I had normal cats, it might be a person to find new good homes for them, but two of mine are mentally ill and not the kind of cats that get adopted.

A.J., #143, great pictures!

#146 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 02:09 AM:

A.J. Luxton @ 143

I second Marilee's enthusiasm. Those are good photographs: strong, but not rigidly regular composition. A couple of them have the kind of asymmetrical-but-balanced masses that particularly appeal to me.* I especially like the nighttime shots. And bless you for taking care of the kitten.

#147 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 02:13 AM:

me @ 146

In case you were wondering what happened to the footnote referenced in the previous comment it was intended to say something to the effect of "but I'm somewhat unorthodox in my photographic aesthetic, so others may not agree with me. Of course, they're wrong."

#148 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 03:56 AM:

Bruce C., Linkmeister, Marilee: Oh, thank you! Glad to see they're well-received.

More photos will assuredly follow. A very sweet friend sent a camera which fits in pockets and responds well to the lighting, and it gives me a way to break the isolation.

#149 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 05:06 AM:

So, this thread isn't actually about an IRL movie, book, or radio or TV show named "Solstice", right?

#150 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 07:15 AM:

Earl@149: Well, no.

#151 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 09:48 AM:

On Seasonal Affective Disorder, there's a small thing that seems to have helped my case, a bit, even though I'm procrastinating about buying a light box: In my light fixtures and lamps I use a combination of compact fluorescents (both "soft white" and "daylight" style) and incandescents. (And I have a couple of extra lamps around as well.) The mixture of light seems to come closer to daylight and makes me feel less sluggish.

#152 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 10:35 AM:

AJ Luxton--let me add my voice to the others revelling in your pictures, both with and without kitten.

#153 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 10:50 AM:

The thread's title makes me feel like it's a reference to an episode of a TV show that we've all seen although we can't remember the exact title. For example, if we talk about The Outer Limits and make a reference to the brain-house episode, or the vacuum-cleaner creature episode, most of you will know what I'm talking about.

#154 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 11:21 AM:

Serge @ 153 - If it was an episode of Friends, would they have called it "The One With All The Druids"?

#155 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 11:36 AM:

Steve C... "These are not the Druids you are looking for."

#156 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 11:46 AM:

I've just hung the suet out for the bids; we'll see if the cats at the window scare them off or not.

I get SAD, too, as my mother does, but it's nothing like Luthe's or Abi's. I can usually make it go away by surrounding myself with full-spectrum lightbulbs, regular exercise, and vegetables.

#157 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Cassandra @ 156 -

"I've just hung the suet out for the bids; we'll see if the cats at the window scare them off or not."

Those cats jack up the bidding every time, and that's why they can't come to the auctions anymore.

#158 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Oh, man, what a relief finding out the thread wasn't about a show I hadn't seen and all the cool kids knew about but didn't specify because they just, well, they just knew. So much cool poetry was being spawned I overextended my search-fu and nearly pulled a googlemuscle trying to figure it out. heh.

#159 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Finally in and settled at my in-laws' place after a rather delayed journey. The KLM baggage handling system broke in Schiphol, and we didn't get through the resulting queues until the flight was closed.

However, all went well after that. I found a quiet corner for the kids to play Game Boys, and the Hub found a friendly ticket desk staffer who - quite undramatically and entirely without additional charge - booked us on a later flight. The baggage problems melted like yesterday's ice and we checked in in plenty of time.

So I spent the day in Schiphol rather than Scotland, but I spent it with the people that I value most in the world. Once I got my head out of "achieve achieve achieve" mode and took the trip as it came, it was a day made of win.

Tomorrow morning I'm down in Edinburgh. Then it's family and holiday time for the rest of the week. (This does include Making Light time.)

#160 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 04:48 PM:

For My Niece

Fire, song, food, gifts: we celebrate your years
Now you are four, by an ancient measure
You whisper wishes: the candle's smoke clears.

We are our years, and held by this tether
One more gear of the antikythera
Now you are four, by an ancient measure.

Our measures tie to Gaia and Terra
I shall measure my life in eclipses
One more gear of the antikythera.

I too am four, in octaeteridis
Not yet one Halley, but two in Saros,
I shall measure my life in eclipses

More than one light comes from nature's pharos
Giving us a billionth anno mundi
Not yet one Halley, but two in Saros.

You dance, the center of our orrery
Fire, song, food, gifts: we celebrate your years
Giving us a billionth anno mundi
You whisper wishes: the candle's smoke clears.

#161 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 05:00 PM:

raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat
no change we're told but just the turning year
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

winter has rushing but not heavy feet
we see much further when the trees are bare
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat

a host of cars are parked right down the street
and imitation music fills the air
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

the wheel must turn but no one could complete
that longer cycle almost in despair
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat

armies of clouds advance and then retreat
after some rain the world appears more fair
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

and yet some things remain that are still sweet
we have some joys and pleasures left to spare
raw wind and cold replace the pounding heat
but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat

#162 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Paul A. @ 106 that room has become the-room-that-you-dump-stuff-just-inside-the-door-when-you-can't-think-where-to-put-it;

That happened to my old room when I finally stopped using it. Every time my husband and I go to visit I think I'd like to do some sorting out and bring some old memories back to our house. The heaps of things between the room door and the cupboards keep foiling me, although I have managed to liberate all the books over the last few years.

#163 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2007, 07:07 PM:

Paul A @106 and dcb @162, my barn and the storm-trashed greenhouse are both suffering from the dump-stuff-just-inside-the-door-when-you-can't-think-where-to-put-it sorting criterion preferred by my husband and son; the contents of the boxes from my sister's house were too fragile and precious to put in the barn.

I'm a tidy sort, myself, or at least tidier than those sharing the R DNA (unlike Marge Simpson, I did not take Mr. R's DNA when we married). My books were always alphabetically by author, and then by date of publication within the author list, shelved neatly in peach boxes that could be stacked to make a bookcase, and then I married. Now there are books everywhere in piles resembling haystacks in size and shape and viscous fluids in structure. I spend dark wet days trying to move things about without getting crushed by an avalanche, but somehow what progress I make is undone overnight. Penelope may be somewhere in the R bloodline.

#164 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Kathryn from Sunnyvale @ 160,

OOh, shiny!

Fragano Ledgister @ 161

but somehow matters don't seem quite so neat
Maybe not, but the poem sure is. I think you've captured ambiguity here in an unambiguous fashion. Or something like that.

General comment on the season from our non-primate friends:
I can has eggnog?

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 12:50 PM:

Bruce Cohen @ 164... I can has eggnog?

Eggnog what your country can do for you...

#166 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Getting back to the advertised topic of this thread, I just realized that, not only has this been a classic solstice for us, in that it's a mix of good moments, like the recent wedding, and bad stretches, like Eva's mother's long and increasing deterioration, but that there's a longer-term change that mirrors the seasonal one about to happen.

A few months back I had a long talk with my financial advisor and decided that it I would be in financially fair shape* for retirement next year when I turn 62. That was before the bills for the remodeling and the wedding started trickling in, and we're both somewhat in sticker shock right now, but I still think that the big day is going to be in 2008, or possibly delayed a bit to 2009.

This will be a sea-change in our lives, on par with a solstice' change to a year. The question that nags me is, will it be a solstice or an equinox? Are we moving to a long slide into winter, a turn into a peaceful spring, or what?

Well, a lot of that is probably just the normal Uncertainty and Doubt** that collects around any big change, but the question's still there when you peel all the other stuff off. I think it will be a good thing; I'm so ready not to work for other people anymore, or have to spend much of my time with people who have no conception of the things that interest and excite me†. I'm beginning to understand why the TV show "Dexter" attracts so many people. It's not that they identify with a serial killer, it's that they understand what it feels like to be surrounded by people who dont understand you, and wouldn't be able to follow your explanations, were you to try to tell them about your interests and passions.

So when the year, or the life, or the Great Year turns, it means you're heading in a new direction. Things don't change immediately, but you know that the change is coming, and there's a bit of a thrill down the spine: will this be adventure or heartache? Gotta go there to find out.

* Not really good, we won't be affluent, but we can live comfortably.
** Fear will no doubt follow as the time approaches.
† I hang around places like Making Light to find peopld who do. Lately, I've been begrudging the time I spend at work that I can't hang here.

#167 ::: flowery tops ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Merry Christmas everyone. The sour cream icecream is a-churning, my oldest son is playing with his permitted one early present, and of course it is cold today, and we have all hot weather food made and waiting. Happiness to all!

#168 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 05:45 PM:

What a beautiful gift, Kathryn. I hope she rediscovers it when she is old enough to fully appreciate it.

#169 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 06:08 PM:

JESR @ 163

I'm not tidy by nature, and neither is my husband. However, we keep the books organised, if only so we can find them when we want them. The novels are double-banked in alphabetical order of author. The non-fiction is shelved by subject, with a greater amount of organisation for subjects with many books. We keep databases on our Psions (handhelds) to prevent confusion when browsing book stores.

#170 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2007, 06:47 PM:

"But we who feel the weight of the wheel
When winter falls over our world
Can hope for tomorrow and raise our eyes
To a silver moon in the opened skies
And a single flag unfurled."

And you know the rest of Leslie Fish's anthem.

#171 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:24 AM:

Warning: long and probably boring story of holiday problems. Told not for pity or sympathy but just to show that sometimes the pall of the season is no more than annoyance, however bad it may seem at first.

The National Holiday Curse has struck again. The Curse holds that no holiday shall pass without a medical or mechanical emergency; this time it was mechanical, but the Fairy Godmother Department was on the case too, and the result that could have been downright disastrous was merely inconvenient and annoying.

Our car* died early this afternoon. Just wouldn't start again, after about half an hour of running errands.† That was when I discovered I hadn't taken my cellphone with me. After a black moment of cursing and gnashing my teeth, Eva convinced me to consider one of the FGD's gifts: we had been getting gas†† at a local station and were just around the corner from a neighborhood Chinese restaurant that we both like. Since it was lunchtime, we had Pea Pod Chow Yuk with Shrimp and Beef with Black Bean Sauce while I cooled down and the car rested for one more try. We also discussed the FGD's assistance: we were about half a kilometer from home, so we could just walk up the street; the car was parked in a lot where the guy who worked the pumps knew me as a regular, and would let the car stay there without hassle until I could get it out; and there was a pay phone right next to the slot the car was parked in. Not least: it wasn't raining, and didn't look like it was going to start again for at least an hour or two. On balance, pain, but not serious injury.

It was Christmas Eve, of course, so it took me awhile to find a shop that answered the phone, and it wasn't my first choice, but I found one that had a keydrop, so it didn't matter that they would be closed by the time I got the car there, and they couldn't guarantee they'd be able to get to it on Wednesday, meaning I'd be three days, possibly four, without a car, but all that was solved by renting a car from a company that would drive over and pick me up, so I'd have a way to get to work, and by calling the AAA towing service‡ to get the car and take it to the shop.

Total score: 45 minutes of sitting in the restaurant, marked up to a good meal, and about 3 hours of mostly sitting and waiting while getting the rental car, waiting for the tow truck, and following the tow truck to the shop. Points off for a helpful service station attendant, prompt and cheerful rental car people, and a very helpful and sympathetic tow driver. Points added for the rain starting up while waiting for the two, but, hey, this is Oregon.

* We have only one, since Eva can't drive**
** And I do mean can't: sudden onset migraines that cause tunnel vision. She finally gave up trying to work around it when she almost ran down a pedestrian while taking the driver's test in Oregon. We're both much happier with the inconvenience of having a single driver than with the risk to the general population of having her drive.
† Including getting that book on its way to you, Linkmeister.
†† In itself a demoralizing experience for Eva, since she isn't usually in the car when I buy gas, and so was beset by sticker shock when she saw how much it cost to fill the tank of a relatively small car.
‡ If you don't have a second car and driver, this service is worth gold and jewels, let alone a few dollars a year. I've more than gotten the yearly fee in towing over the years, once when my car was quite literally lying in pieces around me because somebody had vacillated about making a turn until the water he was hydroplaning in made up his mind for him.

#172 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:28 AM:

And, of course, "waiting for the two" may be an interesting part of a spiritual quest, but it should have read "waiting for the tow". It's amazing how much you can see as the browser redraws the message you've just posted; pity I couldn't see it before that.

#173 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 06:36 AM:

Bruce @171:
You seem to have gone through much the same mindset shift I did in Schiphol on Sunday (when the baggage system broke and missed us our flight), from gnashing teeth to enjoying the lemonade. Well done.

We were a one-driver family for years, thanks to my failing the British driving test and getting so upset that I was unable to face retaking it. Although I did finally manage to pass, due in great part to the patience of my driving instructor*, I know how complex it can make life.

I also know how liberating it can be not to drive; I had to walk the kids home from nursery and school in Scotland, which was always a chance to have a good chat and play many silly games. I'd have missed that all if I'd had the option to drive. Has Eva found similar compensations?

I hope you both continue to find the good in this little predicament. It'll make good memories in future, and it beats the hell out of a medical emergency.
* I talk when I'm nervous, and he sat through many erudite little lectures on random subjects as I got comfortable with driving under intense observation.

#174 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 09:59 AM:

The trees stand stark with branches bare
The sun shines chill and seldom there
There is snow, and ice, and freezing rain,
A world of sorrow, death, and pain:
But in winter's heart, the dark turns back.

We burn our candles 'gainst the night,
Declare ourselves for love and light,
Though the world is great and we are small
We sing and gift despite it all:
In winter's heart, the dark turns back.

#175 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Jo Walton @ 174

Lovely. It fascinates me how often the shorter the poem the more meaning it contains, distilled to a form that can be unpacked to give more meanings and images. This is definitely such a poem.

#176 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 02:58 PM:

abi @ 173

We did most of the raising of our children in our previous house, where we lived for 25 years. We chose the neighborhood for 3 major reasons:

1. An excellent primary school system, and a good secondary school. They're still in better shape than most in the district after all the battering the anti-tax proselytizers have done to Oregon's educational systems.

2. A cohort of children in the same age range as ours, so they'd have someone to play with. Our kids were born during the "baby bust" when there were fewer children of the same age than when we were born, so this was an important factor.

3. Available mass transit. When we moved in there were 3 bus routes with stops less than 4 blocks away from the house. Two of them terminated at one end in downtown Portland.* And one of them terminated at the other end at the largest suburban mall then extant in the Portland area.

The result was that is was easy for Eva to get downtown with the kids to doctors' appointments, the central library, Powells, and lots of neat places to run around in**. It also gave her a chance for some missionary work, introducing fearful suburbanites† to the wicked city, by taking their children down there and showing them a good time. And in the other direction, she could take the kids to the mall in the morning, before the stores open, where they could run around and peer in through the windows, and get some of the exercise they needed with an appreciative audience of older people who were there for the same reason.

The result, something we had hoped for, was that our children are at home in the city, the suburbs, and the country, and are confident in their own ability to find their way around strange places. A second result was that Eva was not as restricted to going places where I could take her as she would have been without acess to mass transit; an important point because too much dependence in one direction is not good for a partnership.

* By the time we moved, there was only one, but we'd gotten a lot of use out of them while we were there.
** When you have kids in the age range of 4 or 5 to 12, the salient aspects of architecture involve things to climb on, places to run around, and neat forms of transport like elevators, escalators, and slidewalks.
† We didn't actually live in the suburbs, but the neighborhood was part of an area annexed to the city about 50 or 60 years ago, and somewhat cut off from downtown by geography (a really high hill, the one we currently live at the base of).

#177 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 03:47 PM:

The recently-reported upon Curious Incident of the Cat in the Nighttime (open thread?) turned out to have an explanation, which made itself all too apparent as we unwrapped presents this morning: Sophie's IBS had started up again, probably fueled by an injudicious choice of kibbles on the part of spouse, resulting in a deposit on the velvet tree skirt, mercifully behind, not upon, any of the presents. We laughed ourselves silly and protempore covered up the offense with cat litter.

#178 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Bruce, #171, I hope the dead car won't cost so much! My car insurance includes free towing and I've been very thankful for it. Since I don't work, I usually just stay home when the shop has the car.

#179 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:04 PM:

It was a gray Christmas Day, temperature close to freezing, but good visibility and ceiling over 3,000 ft. Shortly before noon the temperature dropped and light, fluffy snow began to fall, moved by light winds. At first it didn't stick, but then the temperature dropped a little more and the size of the flakes increased, and they began to dust the tree branches and the street.

The ceiling closed down to a few hundred feet, hiding the 1,100 ft transmitting tower above us, and visibility dropped to a few hundred feet. We went out to walk the neighborhood in the snow and admire the trees in their new finery. There are a lot of older Japanese maples around here; the snow forms a white cap over the reddish branches.

So we got a white christmas in Portland for only the sixth time in 70 years.

#180 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 07:11 PM:

Thanks, Marilee. It's about time for me to start looking at buying a new (to me) car; this one's 15 years old, and it's starting to cost more to keep it running than to pay for a new one. I wish the bus connections from my house to the light rail were a little better; I could use it to get to work, but as it is it would use up an hour and a half each way, and that's just too much of the day to give up.

#181 ::: Maybear ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 09:19 PM:

Allan @ 170: Will it be a Chinese flag or an Indian flag? I worry that the days of needing Gary Seven are coming back.

Note that I did not mention the cat. When *wouldn't* we need telempathic alien cats who turn into hot babes? That's a given.

#182 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:14 PM:

It's been seasonal flashbacks here. In a couple of days, I first shoveled out a car (which I hadn't done in ages, since our household has none) and then slipped on an icy sidewalk.

More pleasantly, yesterday I saw a canvasback duck on the local salt marsh, for the first time in several years. It wasn't there today, so I suspect it was just passing through--we used to get small groups wintering over.

#183 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2007, 10:25 PM:

Serge @ 165:


(I should know better by now than to read Making Light with my mouth full...)

#184 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Good God.

I had no idea, until I came back to Scotland, how very dim it is here. We've been here three days and I am barely able to keep my eyes open. Even at midday I seem to be peering through the gloom, and all this darkness is making me sleepy.

I am also, unfortunately, sinking into depression as a consequence. Mostly it comes across as snappishness, but I keep wanting to creep off somewhere and cry.

Straining desperately for an upside, I have to say that this really makes me see how much moving to the Netherlands has improved my life in winter.

#185 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Abi @ 184... I'm sorry to hear that. My best wishes to you for a safe return to Holland where the light will help your state of mind. Take care.

#186 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 02:28 PM:

abi--if I were Superman, I would change the Earth's tilt for you. Keep in mind always that time passes, and while it's hard now, soon it will be better.

#187 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 02:58 PM:

abi, I wish that all the light and brightness you create and spread would reflect back and brighten things for you.

::hugs abi, offers a handmade greeting card with a crayon sun on the front, caption You Light Up My Life::

#188 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 05:57 PM:


If you can help me figure out what to pack it in, I'll ship you some sun from here. We're south even of Amsterdam, so there should be some to spare for you.

#189 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 07:03 PM:

Thank you, Serge, ethan, Tania and Bruce. I appreciate the warmth of your comments, and the kindness whence* they spring.

I shouldn't complain about my winter moods online - it only brings the conversation down. The feeling was just so startling a contrast with the rest of this season in the Netherlands, is all.

* I love whence the way I love outwith and lest. They're the equivalent of the cute fluffy endangered species that WWF uses to drum up contributions. Contrast to aglet, the lesser spotted slime mould of the etymology world.

#190 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Bruce, I'll trade you some of our spare sunshine for some of your rain. That'll give you more sun for abi. (You don't want our wind, though. Neither do we, really.)

#191 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:06 PM:

P J,

Sounds like a good deal. We'll have to wait a day or two because we're out of rain up here. Forecast is for snow tomorrow, anywhere up to 4 or 5 inches in the hills here in Portland. I'm halfway up a hill, so I expect a couple of inches.

#192 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Bruce, then we should be getting something-or-other in a few days?

Actually, we do get snow around here, but you only see it if you're well above street level. (White stuff going in interesting directions (i.e. not down), usually small and in flurries.)

#193 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2007, 10:41 PM:

There's been a good amount of sunshine here in New York City, but we've gotten into another round of rain and slightly warmer (which is to say, overnight lows still above freezing). So I'm heading north, to the land of cold bright sunshine, but not very much of it. Still, Montreal is significantly south of Scotland. (No significant plot developments expected here, this is reinforcement of pattern. Then again, I might have said that three years ago [*waving to the woman I met in Montreal then*].)

#194 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:49 AM:

Lisa, #24: See you at GAFilk!

Pete, #105: Wow. Just... wow.

Coffeedryad, #118: "The King" is on Please to See the King. I'm not finding "Gower Wassail" under that title; might it be called something else, or do you remember any of the lyrics?

Bruce, #166: I know that feeling; it was one of the reasons that I never defined myself by my work the way so many people do. Work was not my life; it was only what I did to finance my life, which was fandom/SCA/contradancing. And when I got laid off, I found myself more and more reluctant to go back to the Corporate Weirdness even if I could have found another job. So I did something else instead. Almost all of my close friends, and most of my acquaintances, are people I've met thru my various interest groups. People outside all of those groups tend to be as alien to me as I am to them, and I don't want to spend much time around them.

And at #171: The other time that AAA card is worth its weight in gold is when you're traveling. Coming home from my last solo trip, I was a few miles west of Jackson, TN at 10 PM when my car's oil pressure alarm went off in RED! ALERT! STOP! NOW! mode. I risked pushing on to the next exit, where I stopped and called first AAA for a tow, and then my partner to do Internet checking for me. He found a AAA-approved repair shop in Jackson, with a motel only blocks away, and the catastrophic oil leak turned out to be only an inexpensive part, easy to replace. Without AAA, I'd have been in Very Deep Shit. We may have to skimp on other things, but we will NEVER be without that AAA Platinum membership.

Abi, #189: What's wrong with aglets? If you didn't have them, you'd never be able to get your shoes tied! (Let alone all the lacings for my RenFaire garb...)

#195 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:50 AM:

Lee @ 194: "Gower Wassail" (lyrics and info) is the first track on Ten Man Mop.

#196 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 03:57 AM:

Lee @194:
What's wrong with aglets? If you didn't have them, you'd never be able to get your shoes tied! (Let alone all the lacings for my RenFaire garb...)

It's not the item that's unloved and unlovely, yet still dying out*. It's the word itself, as its ecosystem is invaded by the unstoppable invader thing, the bracken of the vocabulary world.

* though the aglet itself is a dying breed in children's shoes - more and more of them are Velcro-fastened.

#197 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:26 AM:

It's nice to imagine exchanging bits of weather from different parts of the world -- even if it sounds disastrous from a more SFnal point of view! And I join the others in hoping you can get past those winter glooms, abi. Though I should have known from global maps, I hadn't realized Scotland was north of Montreal. (Not far enough for northern lights, I presume.)

Central AZ gets way more sun than Europe in December, but it's plenty chilly for this Bay Area native and weather wimp. Last night, our coldest yet, the heat kept coming on even though I'd turned it down at bedtime. The cat exploited this by avoiding the bed altogether (just when I needed him!) and staying on the living room sofa -- directly under a heat vent. Now that we're up, he's sprawled on the bed again, under another vent near my pillow.

#198 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:49 AM:

I'm not sure if I've ever read any of Bob Shaw's stories about "slow glass", but SAD treatment would be a wonderful use for it. Imagine, in mid-winter, having a big window blasting out the sunlight and scenery of six months earlier..! Though I'm not sure what the psychological effects would be of seeing a mid-winter scene in mid-summer.

#199 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 11:41 AM:

Joel, #198: You'd make it storm-window style, so that in the summer you could take it off and put it somewhere scenic to recharge. And IIRC, a 6-month thickness wasn't prohibitively expensive...

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Joel Polowin @ 198

I think the current record in delaying light is something like 30 nanoseconds. Only 14 orders of magnitude to go :-)

#201 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Slow glass.... hmmmm... if nothing else it would be a fine motivator to spend the few dryish short days digging in the perenniel border outside the dining room slider, to reduce the pervasive magenta plague of Geranium "Claridge Druce" in the soggy verdance of late June. Unfortunately, in the Puget Sound, the view just after the summer solstice is likely to be wetter even than the cruel (or, here, more like gruel) midwinter. Seven month's thickness might work better, although there's no guarantee that July, or even August, will be dry.

Oh well: almost no snow, and no venomous snakes; might as well be satisfied with what I've got.

#202 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 06:27 PM:

abi@196: it's not just children's shoes that are going from laces to Velcro -- at least in the U.S., where you have to take off your shoes to get on an airplane....

Faren@197: The aurora borealis is centered over the north magnetic pole, in north-central Canada; I've seen a two-level display in Boston (latitude 42+) and read of occasional displays much further south, but Scotland (e.g., Glasgow/Edinburgh latitude 56) might be too far east. (I've read that the Vikings were stunned by the aurora when they got far enough west to see it; they mostly would have started from latitude 60 or even further north.)

The worst of our snow was washed away by the wet end of the storm that hammered the midwest U.S. and some of southeastern Canada; Boston had at least half an inch of rain, leaving thinned cover (some bare spots appeared later in \very/ sunny locations) and blowing out before Xmas eve. I'm glad I got a day's skiing in before the weather shifted.

#203 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 06:32 PM:

CHip @202:

I have seen the aurora borealis from my house in Edinburgh. It was very vivid a couple of years ago, so much so that even the street lights couldn't dim the colors.

I shall miss them in the Netherlands, though the frequent and vivid rainbows there are substantial compensation.

#204 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 07:09 PM:

CHip, #202: Just this past summer, I was actively looking for a pair of adult-size athletic shoes with Velcro fastenings, and there were none to be found. Not a single pair, not at Payless or any department store or a couple of different athletic-shoe stores. Everyone told me the same thing: that fad is as over as last month's newspapers. Maybe not for kids' shoes; I wouldn't know, because that's not what I was looking for.

But there were plenty of "sneaker mules" (with closed fronts but open heels) in the women's shoe departments, and I suspect that's what people who fly are buying. Me, I just wear loafers.

#205 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 09:26 PM:

A gift from a friend, and passed on to all here with her permission....

Reflections on a Winter Solstice

Summer lights shine soft and lazy,
Long and lavish, hot and hazy.
Summer sun spends light we squander,
Profligate expense of wonder.
Thus prodigal, we cease to prize
The wealth of light that blinds our eyes.

Winter lights a different story:
Length of night gives light a glory.
Sunshine hours fewer measure;
Yet with less, how great our treasure
When with sudden clarity
Our eyes are opened and we see.

Darkness gives us second sight:
Illuminations of delight.


#206 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2007, 10:03 PM:

Lee @ 204, you need to go looking at places that advertise "therepeutic footware." There are several, dreadfully ugly, Velcro closure shoes available at the place I just got a folder from.

#207 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:23 AM:

I'll heartily second R.M. Koske @73's suggestion to put your light box on a standard lamp timer[1] -- they're cheap, you can buy 'em at hardware stores, and you can set them to turn on at, say, 8a and off at 8p. Though, yes, this only works if the light box has a hardware on-off switch.

I started feeling the usual black depression set in in October or so and finally in desperation bought a light box. It's helped a lot. My current room gets essentially no natural sunlight, and I'm not usually outside enough to compensate, especially when I'm waking up at 10-12a and the sun is setting at 5p here in Boston. 5-7 hours of daylight just isn't nearly enough for me. (Lest you think my wake-up time decadently late, I'm usually up until 2-4a, and often later... the life of an undergrad.)

Putting my light box on a timer did a lot to regularize my sleep schedule. For a while this term I was waking up and falling asleep at more or less random times -- falling asleep at 4p and waking up at 2a, falling asleep again at 6a and sleeping through all my classes. Some weeks I was averaging 12-16 hours of sleep. I was very well rested but not very productive. Having regular external input of bright light really helped resynchronize me with the rest of the world.

Even with the light box and an average dose of anti-depressants, this time of year is still a bit of a melancholy time. I prefer that, I think. Winter is a good time for introspection, denning up, even at the same time as there are celebrations. The turning inward is just much more enjoyable when it doesn't turn so toxic.

[1] A random oddment -- I believe the timers use the 60 Hz frequency of standard US household AC as a time synchronization source. At least, my 15-year old one seems to; I hear it humming gently.

#208 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:43 AM:

Lee @204:

If you are buying clothes for going through metal detectors, I suggest BuzzNot belts or suspenders. All the fittings are plastic so they cause nary a beep. They are just as useful for those of us going through security at prisons. Check travel or plus-size stores to find them.

#209 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 01:05 AM:

An equally reasonable substitute would be the webbing belts commonly sold at outdoor stores, with no metal parts to rust in the great outdoors.

#210 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 03:17 AM:

Claude, xeger -- thanks for the suggestions (and I'll file them away for future reference), but it wasn't for that purpose, and I found something else that would serve. My normal wardrobe is remarkably metal-free; I wear mostly knits, have very few things with zippers, and loathe bras with underwires. So being able to pass the metal detector, on the increasingly rare occasions when I fly, isn't much of an issue.

#211 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2007, 12:38 PM:

Lee (204): Easy Spirit has (or had last year) some Velcro-closure walking shoes for women. I'm wearing a pair now--very comfy. I think they're called "First at Bats," but that might be the other style I bought last year.

#212 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 11:07 AM:

I can take or leave Velcro closures on shoes, but what I've been looking for with no luck is colored but otherwise unadorned canvas slip-ons that come in Wide -- my oldies are all wearing out, and to this point my web searches haven't netted any results. So I'm co-opting this temporary turn in the discussion to ask, can anyone help?

As for the mentions upthread of summer views in winter, the NY Times Art section has an interesting piece about huge scenes of summer, painted on something like film, that the aristos could put up on their windows when the seasons changed. I won't try to go back for the link, but it should still be readily findable.

#213 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Abi et al. upthread on the topic of Light, Lack of Quality...

I had a quick thought last night* on blue LEDs, given the evidence that blue is the most effective morning-destroyer of melatonin.

The GoLite ($130+) and the "Dr. Sad" blue-LED light bulb ($60 on sale, marketed as a GoLite replacement) are expensive**.

Driving around at night, I saw a fairly inexpensive source of ready-to-use large sets of blue LEDs. Xmas lights could be a less-expensive way to test out how blue LEDs work for you***.

Following up on this thought- I'm seeing a 32 foot 100 bulb blue LED string at buy dot com for $20. Hmmm. Same thing on a UK Xmas light website is £35, but that's one sample.

* so quick, I commented it into the wrong thread originally.

**That blue-light LED bulb looks intriguing--it fits into a standard light socket--but I don't see reviews of it yet, only a few sales on ebay or direct sales from Hong Kong. LED light bulbs are a good idea in general--better than fluorescents--but I'd like see reviews.

*** not sure if they're the same color of blue: would have to look at specs. 470nm blue bulbs are used for the SAD lights.

#214 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Faren, #212, I don't know what colors you had in mind, but here's some. And these folks might have something.

#215 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:05 AM:

abi @ 189... I love whence the way I love outwith and lest.

I think the first and last time I heard someone use that word on TV in something that wasn't a Shakespeare production was in the original episode of ST-TNG.

#216 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:08 AM:

Lee @ 204... there were plenty of "sneaker mules"

...and nickering horses?

#217 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 11:42 AM:

Marilee (#214): Thanks for the links to shoe sites, but these seem to confirm that there's no current source of thin, cheap canvas shoes (in colors like burgundy or dark green) to replace the ones that are wearing to pieces. Still, the sites *could* be useful for other things, since they do have plenty of things in my size.

#218 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:13 PM:

Faren, if they're cotton canvas you could also dye them yourself--Rit dye is simple to use, and comes in dark green and burgundy.

#219 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:19 PM:

Carrie 218: Rit dye is not colorfast on cotton. It will rinse out onto your socks or feet. Reactive dyes are better for cotton.

Rit works very well for plastics and fabrics derived from them. I used a MASSIVE quantity of purple Rit to dye a cotton shirt; the shirt is light lavender, but the plastic buttons are an intense jewel-tone purple!

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:32 PM:

Xopher @ 219... I used a MASSIVE quantity of purple Rit to dye a cotton shirt

Because it was writ large?

#221 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:41 PM:

Serge @220:

That pun was so violet it should have dyed on your keyboard.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Abi @ 221... I feel mauved by your praise.

#223 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 02:56 PM:

Rit dye is not colorfast on cotton

Seriously? I thought that was what it was for. I've never used it myself; I do my dyeing with Jacquard acid dyes.

#224 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Serge @222:

As long as you're not lavender-ectly in my face, you can lilac that...but I know my comment may have pinked you a little.

#225 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:18 PM:

IIRC, a Spider Robinson short story featured a hit-man who dyed his sneakers a bright shade of purple. Supposedly potential witnesses wouldn't remember his face because they had been distracted by his shoes.

#226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:18 PM:

Abi @ 224... Yellow'll you want.

#227 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:34 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 225 -- something about "fuschia shock"?

#228 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 03:41 PM:

I just ducked into this thread after reading a bit of it over Mrs. Arkansawyer's shoulder.

abi @ 58: That's quite nice--and you know, that's the one Eliot poem I unreservedly admire and enjoy. The rest of his work...well, I've long thought that if he wouldn't eat the damn peach, someone might as well try and stick it up his tight ass.

Kate Y @ 72: If you can find the Ze Records Christmas compilation, I highly recommend it, especially James White and the Blacks*. (The song is not at all appropriate for your purposes; I just love the guy's stuff.)

Pete @ 141: Try not to get hooked on the hard stuff. I still diddle around with a sestina that I've never managed to finish.

*or was he James Chance and the Contortions that time around?

#229 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:18 PM:

Serge and abi: Orange you getting a little too colourful? That's how I red it, and I've been viridian for a long thyme now.

#230 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Fragano @ 229... I keep expecting someone to tell me to knock it off with the puns, that I'm puce-ing it too far.

#231 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Serge @230:
I keep expecting someone to tell me to knock it off with the puns

White would we want to do that?

#232 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:55 PM:

Maybe to sow confuschian?

#233 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 05:58 PM:

That's just peachy. But maybe I need glasses that aren't rose-colored.

#234 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:08 PM:

Azurely you jest.

#235 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 06:22 PM:

Serge: They're just feeling brown. Some people are just pastel-ling.

#236 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 07:51 PM:

About PJ's rose-olored glasses... I've got better. After all, cyan is believing.

#237 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 08:18 PM:

Rose-olored glasses? Nice!

#238 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 09:17 PM:

Re dyes: What you really want for cotton (and rayon and linen) is Procion dyes. People who just want to experiment with tie-dye can find kits in your nearest art-supply store; these generally have 3 primary colors, instructions for mixing other colors from them, and everything else you'll need in one box. They're very good for making the basic Rainbow Spiral pattern on a family's worth of T-shirts.

For the kind of colors Faren wants, I recommend Dharma Trading. If it's fabric-and-dye-oriented, they've got it -- and instructions as well. There, you can buy just the colors you want, pre-mixed, plus enough of the ancillary chemicals to serve your needs.

The general opinion of people who have done much of anything with tie-dye is, "Rit sucks." If it's made for polyester, that would explain a lot.

#239 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2007, 10:36 PM:

Faren, #217 & Carrie S., #218, Dharma Trading has dyes for cotton. These were recommended for me. The company where I get most of my clothes has a new owner who doesn't make pants in nice colors and I've been considering buying white pants and dying them.

Hrm. I just got to the last post and see Lee recommended the same thing. Well, I'll post this anyway.

#240 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 08:18 AM:

#223, Carrie S. -

My understanding was that Rit dye is supposed to be for nearly everything, and thus doesn't work especially well on much of anything. It isn't fiber-specific, definitely.

Nice to know that it does work well on some synthetics. (Anyone know which ones?)

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 10:59 AM:

Be aware that you need separate reactive dyes for plant fibers (cotton, rayon, linen) and for animal fibers (, various kinds of wool--not sure about silk). At least that's what I understood from reading many dye sites back when I was thinking I'd dye some shirts in nice colors.

OK, now I'm curious, you fiber-arts people. Is angora considered a kind of wool? A goat is not a sheep, but then neither is an alpaca, and I've definitely heard their fibers referred to as a kind of wool.

If angora IS considered a kind of wool, are there any animal fibers that are not? Other than silk, of course, which is the only "animal" fiber I can think of that isn't the hair of a mammal. Are there others?

#242 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:07 AM:

Xopher, I think of them as cellulose-based (plant) and protein-based fibers (animal).

#243 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Once upun a time.... I didn't expect the punfest that developed, but the riot of colors is a lot of fun!

[Brief intrusive seriousness:] I'm actually terrible with anything as hands-on-messy as dyes, so I'll probably just keep an eye out for the shades I want. (Designing and stringing a necklace is about as hands-on as I ever get.) Still, thanks for the tips. [/intrusive seriousness]

So yellow you like, good purple -- Rit into the New Year! I'll be sienna (fluoroscopically, at least) in all the old familiar places, when '08 rolls in.

#244 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 11:54 AM:

P J 242: A much more sensible approach! Thanks for that.

But are there other protein-based fibers that are not the hair of mammals? I can't think of any besides silk. Are there any fibers made from bird feathers, for example? (There are whole garments made of feathers, but that's not the same thing.)

#245 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2007, 01:36 PM:

Xopher, 244: I'm pretty sure silk is the only non-animal protein fiber. Oooh, no wait--there are sock yarns now that include chitin. In theory it has antimicrobial properties, but I'm not entirely sure I buy that.

For all your knitting-geek needs: the first half of The Knitter's Book of Yarn has an exhaustive rundown of where fibers come from. Also included are a discussion of different manufacturing styles, and patterns! Oh the patterns! Fewest duds of any book I've seen lately. (YMMV.)

[/end commercial]

#246 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:21 PM:

Repeating praise for Procion Dyes and Dharma.
Rit will dye nylon. I will not tolerate it around.

You can use fiber-reactive dyes for both plant and animal dyeing. Fix plant stuff with a base (soda ash) and animal stuff with an acid (vinegar). Rinse well.

They will NOT bleed, and are much more environmentally-friendly than so-called "natural" dyes.

#247 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:24 PM:

...for both plant and animal dyeing

...for FIBERS from both plants and animals for dyeing. That was not a suggestion to run your hamsters through the washing machine.

#248 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 06:31 PM:

That was not a suggestion to run your hamsters through the washing machine.

Good gracious, no. Wasteful of dye unless you've got a lot of hamsters, and of course you'd end up with dye residue in the washer. Use small bowls instead. The clothes dryer probably rotates too quickly for the hamsters to run in, too, so you'd probably have to use a clothesline.

#249 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 07:52 PM:

Texanne @ #245 Oops, you dropped a qualifier... well, that'll happen when people keep passing them around. ;-)

There's also spider silk, but AFAIK, nobody's managed to produce that commercially yet. There was reputedly one amusing French attempt, where they filled a barn with spiders -- which promptly started eating each other (territorial). I do wonder why nobody's tried that with the types that can go communal....

To digress a bit, I've known a couple of people who spun and knitted the shed fur of their Newfoundland retrievers. But that's hard to dye, being already black....

#250 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:16 PM:

David Harmon @ 249, there have been attempts to manufacture spider silk by adding the gene for that protein to goats, so that the protein is generated in their udders as part of the milk. See here, for example.

#251 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2008, 08:43 PM:

Joel @ #250: Yeah, but that's only part of the production... IIRC, spider silk has non-trivial nanostructure.

#252 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2011, 01:32 PM:

Joel @ #248

There was a recent item I heard (probably CBC Quirk and Quarks) on how dogs dry themselves so quickly. The scientist speculated that slower dryers might be more effective. A dog's "dry cycle" is about 4 Hz. I don't think any hamsters were involved, though.

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