This winter has been a strange and unusual one for us here in the mid-Atlantic. We have seen an unusually small amount of snow in the Philadelphia area, and even when areas to the north of us-the Poconos and New York City-have been hit fairly hard, we have been spared. We have had a series of above normal high temps including several days in February that we in the 60’s. Yes, we have had a few freezing days, but for the most part we have been way above our normal February temperatures. I am trying not to focus on what this says about climate change (smile).I can try to do things that attend to that later in the day. But at 5:30 in the morning, I am trying to enjoy the fact that I have been outside much more than normal this February. And that has been a quiet and wonderful thing.
I am an early riser. I like to get up between 5:30 and 6 and head north up to Chestnut Hill. Once upon a time I would walk all the way up to the top of The Hill, but I have gotten lazy in my old age (smile). I walk until a bus comes and then I get on. I ride to the top of the hill, get off, and walk 3 blocks back to the coffee shop where I get my first cup of the day. And it is a quietly delightful trip. love the quiet of that time; the stillness and the grandeur. There are few people out at that time, and we nod and or say,” Hi” to each other as our paths cross. I am a lover of night skies in winter as they are so intense and dramatic. That combination of waking and walking early and the presence of the winter night sky brings me quiet joy and wonder. I love watching the slow change in the locations of the constellations over the course of a winter, and I love watching the moon cycle through its phases. Both of these celestial happenings seem so much starker and definite in winter. Watching the day come into being earlier and earlier as winter goes on is also fascinating. I notice the way shadows shift, the way light is reflected off rooftops and grass, and on some mornings I get to see this wonderful eerie rolling fog move over some of the larger expanses of lawns. And as I get my coffee and head back toward Mt Airy, I am soothed and comforted.
Around the last week in February that starts to really change, however, and I have to adjust. It is lighter when I arise, and the sky at 5:30 is not quite as dark and dramatic as it was a week or so ago. The constellations are not as bright, and the light of the new day is visible earlier. It is a different sky now; we are relentlessly transitioning from one season to the next. Part of me misses the old dramatic winter night sky; I almost go through a brief mourning period. Then I notice that at around 6:15, if I am looking southeast, I can see the sun as a bright reddish-orange disk above the housetops and the day seems to rush into being, And if I am out for a nice long walk like I was this morning, I can watch that sun gradually become more and more visible and seemingly rise above us. This, too, is a glorious way to start the day.
it is the light at this time of the year that most lets me know that we are entering that next phase of that glorious cycle of seasons. It is undeniable. And when I am out noticing the light, I also get to look at lawns and bushes too. I notice the snowdrops and pansies as they make their first appearance of the year, and I also notice more bird activity. Species that have been around all winter-cardinals, chickadees, and finches- get more active, and some new ones are starting to be heard. And watching the different colors and aspects of a sunrise with that as the soundtrack can be joyous.to behold.
Yes, I still miss the winter night sky, and I probably will for a while. But I also welcome this new sky and the new arrival of light and color. Despite the weirdness of this February’s weather, this light tells me that this marvelous cycle is still in play and we are still passengers on its ride through the year. And if I pay attention to that ride, I can get some moments of real joy.