The longest night

rock in the snow

The solstice occurs in just a couple of hours, so I guess that makes this the longest night of the year. That strikes me as something worth celebrating. I am waiting for my friend Chris to show up, on foot, because the road up the hollow is probably too icy for his car.

We don’t get many vistors this time of year, apart from our hunter friends — and of course the birds for whom this is balmy weather: tree sparrows, juncos, siskins. This morning, my mother found a flock of common redpolls at the Far Field, the first we’ve seen in many, many years. Redpolls are Canadian birds that don’t tend to venture too far south of the border most years, unless forced to by hunger. They were gorging on birch seeds at the edge of the field, Mom said. But by the time I got there this afternoon, the flock had gone.

As I stood listening, a pair of military jets flew over just a few miles away. Yesterday, apparently, they were much closer: one of the hunters had gone for a walk to the Far Field, and wrote in an email,

Perhaps you are not impressed when the military fly their jets over the mountain but yesterday when I was walking 2 flew over so low I could see the whites of the pilots eyes. Literally feet over the tops of the ridges. It gave me the willies.

Ah, Chris is at the door! And look, he has a knapsack bulging with holiday beverages. First out of the bag: a dry Irish ale from Magic Hat brewery in Burlington, Vermont. Good things come from the north.

coyote tracks

Let my words
be bright with animals,
images the flash of a gull’s wing.
If we pretend
that we are at the center,
that moles and kingfishers,
eels and coyotes
are at the edge of grace,
then we circle, dead moons
about a cold sun.

–Joseph Bruchac, “Prayer,” from Near the Mountains

Happy solstice!

14 Replies to “The longest night”

  1. A gloggblog!
    Everything since I was last here is utterly excellent, I just can’t choose what to comment on; the birds on the canes, the silly pompous arse who invented the word blog, the log song video… and that poem is a jewel.
    Thanks for a wondrous bag of solstice goodies!

  2. Nice…. whose footprints are we looking at in that bottom photo? (Perhaps a cat’s?) It looks like their prior trip got melted….

  3. marja-leena – Cheers!

    Lucy – Thanks. Glad you liked.

    Peter – That’s not the whole poem, though – I left off the final six lines. It’s a good prayer all ’round. The book’s from White Pine, and it’s worth buying if you can find it online. (If I ever resume my Poetry for Naturalists series, I’ll be sure to include it.)

    David – Coyote. You can almost always get the the title of the photos by mousing over them, and/or clicking through.

    In one set of coyote tracks I looked at yesterday, new prints were laid precisely on top of old prints.

    Beth – Thanks. It was good stuff. We followed it with one or two others. :) And Chris gave his beer drinker’s seal of approval to the large qarrtsiluni mug, because the handle is big enough to get one’s whole hand through. So it’s a good dual-purpose beer and coffee mug.

  4. Happy winter solstice! It’s been exceptionally bright at night in the Boston area – the snowcover making everything blue-bright at night.

    Now in Michigan – the sun sets an hour later out here on the western edge of the eastern time zone, so, waking in Boston, I got a longer day yesterday than expected for the solstice. I guess I’d have to continue to move westward to continue the trend. I’ll make up for it by having my shortest day on the 26th. Anyway, hope you enjoyed your visit.

  5. robin andrea – Yeah, the tracks don’t always make very interesting photos (not much contrast), but it’s fun looking at them and seeing where the animals have been. We wouldn’t know we had coyotes here most of the time if it weren’t for their tracks – they’re much quieter than western coyotes.

    Leslee – Good point about the bright nights. I do actually think of winter as a season of light, both because of the frequent snow cover and the lack of leaves. The moon is as high as the sun in July, making the nights even brighter. Then because the sun is so low during the day, we get those fantastic deep blue skies.

  6. Hi Dave,

    I’ve only just now had enough time to get to the computer for longer than fiften minutes, so I wanted to wish you a warm holiday season from this borrowed computer in downtown Manhattan. Thanks for your friendship over the years! It’s weird to think that you are quite close, globally, right now as I write this. All the best.


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