You could feel how far away the Earth is from the sun, how far we’ve tipped in one direction. The night came on so quickly, like the day hardly put in an effort. The wind up the Taconic Valley was so cold, so achingly shrill, that it made you contemplate the same things Robert Frost did when he wondered how lovely, dark and deep those woods really were.
These are the nights that took young settlers from their parents, took fathers while they were hunting. It’s no surprise they would move the birth of the Christ Child from April to this cruel week, just to let the story luminesce from within.
When the ancient pagans and druids celebrated the solstice, they were not celebrating the longest night of the year, they were thanking their gods for letting the days get longer. It is a holiday of “this cannot get worse,” which gives freezing comfort to those looking out over the endless hills of ice.
I always look to one of my favorite poems ever, “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens:
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.