I welcomed the sunrise on the morning after the winter solstice in the solitude of my still-sleeping house. The first cup of tea of the day was beside me on the window-sill, making miniature mist on the cold glass.
Slowly the long, long night – the longest night of the year – burned away into grey dawn. The first light pierced the antique glass above our front door, now pink, now gold, and soon the whole room swam with morning. Upstairs, my family began to stir, and the day began.
My winter coat, draped over a chair to dry, still smelled of damp earth and woodsmoke from the previous night’s solstice bonfire (a bonfire which, thanks to a week of rain, had taken a lot more coaxing to ignite and somewhat lacked the primal oomph of last year’s fire, but was nevertheless beautiful and brilliant in the end).
On the solstice night there had been a tiny break in the clouds as we waited for the bonfire to catch alight and, seeing it, Ralph had yelled “The moon! I want to touch the moon!” We showed the children the Southern Cross, and the two Pointers that show the way, and, glowing steadily directly above the moon, we found Venus. Ancient fires and rocks, all of us, spinning and hurtling through millennia, marking the dark days. And the light ones too.
As the morning’s temperature crept into double digits, I ventured into my frost-melty garden to dig and plant and prune, and to think some alone thoughts about winter and hibernation and stillness, and about all the quiet rest and rejuvenation that happens underground, for life to burst forth life in spring.