Hibernation is not an overwhelming fatigue, a capitulation to the relentless drain of living. It is a calculated torpor to conserve energy when sufficient food is unavailable. In its broadest perspective it is Nature’s signal to shut down all but the most essential functions to permit a time to recoup.
My experience of the approaching Winter Solstice is that, like the ever-narrowing fragment of daylight, my focus correspondingly tapers and activity diminishes accordingly. There persists however three striking features which caste their long shadow over my wintry mind: my birthday on December 11th, Christmas on December 25th and the New Year on January 1st, not one of which though special is remarkable for any particular commotion. In fact we go to lengths to alienate ourselves from these events and as such our curmudgeonly behaviour strengthens the solitary nature of the affairs. It has been more years than I can recall that I attended a “birthday party”. We don’t share gifts on birthdays (or on any other occasion for that matter). Christmas and New Year are just two days on the calendar, no more family gatherings or celebratory socializing. Though the Winter Solstice is a comparative dormancy it is nonetheless for me a period of reflection albeit a largely passive absorption.
The context of this languid contemplation is a blissful maritime envelope, a serenity at once irreproachably stagnant and unfathomably sublime. The entire Island goes into a state of recumbent inactivity, off-season pottering. Serious thought at the end of the year and the beginning of the new is of course not extraordinary. Though my birthday does nothing to punctuate that particular thread it coincides with the misty view and brooding which so often haunts the Winter Solstice.
I recall my 21st birthday, a milepost which normally marks a significant and happy occasion but which for me was marred by despondency, self-absorption and depression. I was alone, an accident of the event occurring too closely to term examinations at university. It was importantly my awakening to the pungency of life, more especially its caustic quality. I was at last disturbed in my complacency, a Bildungsroman. Life became a solemn affair. This year I expect to further my education and to celebrate the event by bicycling on the beach to Marker 68 near Shipyard Resort. It is a metaphorical combination of progress, nautical delight and amortization. We have learned to translate “live for the day” into a palatable diet which is no longer fraught with the risk of subsequent regret. Admittedly the contrived restraint dampens the enthusiasm but is consistent with the heady advantage of temperance in all its exemplifications. Rationality is monochromatic and it lacks electricity, a hard but sustainable truth that comes with age.
The transition from cooler weather to darker evening skies is soon accompanied by the familiar and familial echoes and strains of Christmas and the New Year. In spite of our estrangement from the celebrations, their recurrent themes are impossible to escape or ignore. Only this morning for example I was listening to classical Christmas music. It requires no commitment to Christianity to swoon to the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel’s Messiah.
Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.
When my birthday has passed and Christmas is over the bow of the Clipper points to brighter horizons. It is time to dwell upon the assurance of the New Year, whether churlishly dismissive, preposterously embracing or something in between. Having effectively removed ourselves from the fray of New Year’s Eve we are spared the indignity of broken promises, false starts, monotonous repetition and needless despair. Though the mantle of winter remains we will have survived that low point that is the Winter Solstice when – as the word “solstice” implies – things stand still. There is no point trying to outrun the significance of what is justifiably called in the Christmas carol the Bleak Midwinter. It is a cold and slow reality in spite of its reawakening. But the truancy is a bromide for the Winter Solstice.
Post Scriptum (Saturday, December 10, 2016)
In conjunction with our regular Saturday morning breakfast routine we afterwards shopped at Belk and found precisely what we wanted, Nike “Dri-Fit” socks (for His Lordship) and a dark blue crewneck cotton sweater (for me). The small pleasures of old age! The automatic car wash was on the fritz so we returned home and prepared for our bicycle ride to Marker 68 near Sonesta Beach.
We connected with the beach at Tower Beach. The wind was from the NNE at 10 – 15 mph which was not negligible when pedalling a ponderous one-speed rental bike. When we reached Beach Club, I was finding the wind resistance too much so we detoured to the paved paths on the mainland and went to Coligny Park before regaining the beach and accomplishing the last mile to Marker 68.
The weather was spectacular today although “fresh”. Reportedly a high from Canada had blown onto the Island. We both wore track pants and a sweater, a departure from our normal shorts and Polo shirt. But when we returned home from Marker 68 the sun was in our faces, the wind behind our backs and we were warm as toast.
We sailed back to Tower Beach from Sonesta Beach. What perhaps took us almost two hours going north required by contrast about 40 minutes upon the return journey. Below are the details collected via GPS through my Garmin wrist device. The photo was taken at Marker 68 which is about 6.8 miles north of our place in South Beach (whence we began our cycle today). The Garmin in the photo shows 7.48 miles because we made some slight detours on our trip north. In case anyone cares, the speed on the return trip often approached 15 mph (applying a bit of energy, not just coasting).
Start: Sat, 2016 Dec 10 11:18 AM
Distance (miles): 14.32
Average Speed: 4.9
I am for the sake of convenience treating today’s outing to Marker 68 as the accomplishment of the necessary ceremony to mark my Sagittarius event. Not to mention the fulfillment of my 68th year.
Upon our return home we left by car to go to Delishee Yo (play on “delicious yoghurt) vegetarian/vegan restaurant for a pressed vegetable drink. We were able to order almost anything we wanted but we opted to go with the young chef’s suggestion for “Great Green”, a concoction of kale, parsley, celery, green apple and lemon to which he added at our request a shot of turmeric and ginger. The drink had a decided zing to it! Such is life as we approach the Winter Solstice!