These days, as those of us in the Northern hemisphere are slouching toward the winter solstice, I find myself spending a lot of time brooding on small details in the celestial calendar. For example, today, December 12th, is one of the days that stands out in my mind because in Boston it’s the day when the sun sets a minute LATER than it has for the past few days. Specifically, it will drop below the horizon at 4:12 rather than 4:11 as it has been doing. I grasp at this straw and tell myself that things are looking up. From now until June we can look forward to ever more light at the end of the day.
It might strike someone as funny that I attach importance to this milestone. After all, the days are still getting shorter and it will be another three weeks before the morning light starts arriving earlier. As any New Englander knows, real winter hasn’t even begun yet. Light is useful, but it doesn’t make life any easier when you’re buried under a foot of new-fallen snow.
I remember reading somewhere that in the Boston area December 1st marked the beginning of the 100 coldest days of the year. Ever since, I have approached the beginning of December much the same way a runner approaches a very long and arduous hill, with a mixture of dread and relief. Dread at what’s to come, and relief to be taking those first few steps on the incline knowing that the battle is joined at last. I don’t know if this is a runner thing, generally, but I personally find it much easier to cope with a tall task — like surviving another winter — by breaking it up into segments and focusing on getting the next one done. So on December 12th, I take solace in the fact that I have “turned the corner” by enduring the earliest sunset, and now it’s time to focus on getting to the solstice.
It was also a happy occasion to see the sun this morning for the first time in several days. The rain that fell so heavily on Tuesday and lingered in fog and drizzle through Thursday didn’t make it a very cheerful week. I did every one of my runs in the dark, but even if I had run at noon, I would merely have been trading black for gray.
By Wednesday, I considered myself extremely fortunate to have an indoor track workout to look forward to. Running on the fast and forgiving banked track at BU under the bright fluorescent lights felt like paradise, and being able to run in dry shorts and a t-shirt instead of laboring under the weight of several layers of sodden winter gear made me positively giddy with the speed of it all. The unbearable lightness of sprinting, you might say.
Anyway, for now I’m content. The sun is shining this morning and I’m looking forward to that one extra minute of having it remain above the horizon, lighting the last moments of my afternoon run.