The moon is down. The sun is not yet risen. It’s 5:30 a.m. on December 25, and there’s not a stitch of light in sight.
Too cold by far. The soil too stiff to bury anything, much less a dream, until spring. And with tender attentions by then, with any luck, the injured dream will revive. And anyway, dreams should be burned in a bright, hot pyre. Nothing worse than by mistake to bury a dream alive.
Top of the morning, County of Ulster. Here on the hills above the Rondout, the temperature is 10°, only the slightest improvement over the day before. Walk barefoot out to stand on a concrete slab to search for the stars, and it feels like unmelting ice, dry under the soles.
And no stars.
Science says there is no such thing as cold, only absence of heat. Maybe so. We may deduce that the heat is presently absent.
But the morning is busy with observable phenomena, no deduction required. The sun rises at 7:23 a.m. Then the low tide arrives at 8:50 a.m.Then the moon rises, a crescent at 9:42 a.m.
Will it rain today? It’s not in the cards. Nor sleet, nor snow, nor hail, nor wintry mix. The week is clear and free all the way to Friday. All winter sun and blue skies.
Will there be clouds? Occasionally. The congregation here or there. But the wind blowing still out of the southwest has herded most of the scudders off land by now to dump what water remains over the ocean.
Will it be humid? Nothing to penetrate to the bones, 71 percent and falling.
And the barometer? The millibars have climbed back up to 1010.
All the signs agree and portend a calm, cold day.
According to the rededicated fur trapper Dionizas who lives on Mount Tremper, there remain 75 days of winter temperatures ahead. A quarter of winter already enjoyed and endured.
With apprehension. then, we turn to the mountain snow report out at Belleaye, where things have gotten out of hand. Bjorn Jorgensen, what mayhem?
Jorgensen: Johannes, I am sorry to disappoint you. but there is no mayhem to report. The wind still bullies and blusters over the summit, but the temperature has ticked up a touch to -14° Celsius, which as you know is six degrees up above your 0° Fahrenheit.
Johannes: And have you received any snow?
Jorgensen: No I’m afraid there is no fresh snow to report. All the clouds that remain are stingy. But the snow on the ground is quite enough for now. The problem comes in when the sun heats up the surface, and it melts a bit before freezing again and leaves an icy rind. This is not the best for skiing.
Johannes: No, I imagine not. And how are your snowmen faring?
Jorgensen: The same as the snow on the ground. All a touch icy. But in honor of the fifth day of Yuel, they’ve brought the tenor of their discontent down a bit.
Johannes: Ah. And is this an important day in the development of the Yuletide celebration?
Jorgensen: Well, yes. Some would say this might be the most important day. It’s all a very musical arrangement, you see. Think of the first day of solstice as your root note. Think of the fifth day as, well, it will be your major third. And New Year’s Eve is your inevitable leading tone. The octave completes itself on the first day of the new year.
Johannes: That’s very peaceful, Bjorn. I didn’t expect a major key out of you.
Jorgensen: I must be sorry to disappoint you again. Major keys are pleasing, but there’s a bigger picture at work here.
Johannes: I see. Everywhere we look, it’s twelves all the way down.
Jorgensen: Now you’ve got it. The Yule log still burns. The snowmen are soothed, for the time being I would recommend to enjoy the day. No need to work so hard. Hang the weapons in the hall. Savor each bite and flavor. Remember your dead and the things they said. Raise a toast and get a little tipsy. It’s a day of gratitude.
Johannes: Don’t start rhyming, Bjorn. Things were going so well.
Jorgensen: Where’s Minerva, you want to ask? She’s went to honor the day in her own way. And the one with the flashing eyes in the woods? More about her later. My skis? They are strong. My ankle? In the end, I think I can sense weather changes. Anything else?
Johannes: Only thing, Bjorn. Not to be a stickler, but the solstice moves from year to year. This year you’ve lost a day in your scheme of things. This New Year’s Eve is a flatted seventh.
Jorgensen: All the better. To ending on a dominant seventh chord, Jojo. And starting the year again as a half-note full of tension, pulling towards completion or just hanging there in the air.