A Period of Adjustment
The year does not turn evenly. I don’t mean this in an astronomical sense. I know that there are little fluctuations due to planetary gravity, cosmic wobble or whatever, but these are too small to register on the casual observer. What I’m noticing is that the year seems to proceed in fits and starts. Sometimes the days and weeks will hang on some unseen shoal of time, and then they will suddenly dislodge and rush giddily forward. There’s no logic to it.
For example September, one of the shorter months of the year, seems to linger forever. I often recite to myself the trope, “It is September; it has always been September; it will always be September” (for the record, I also recite this for January). Some months, it seems to me, just hang around forever.
Not so for October. Despite the room it takes up on the calendar, October is a month of acceleration. It is a sprint that builds momentum to launch us all through the eye blink that is November and on through the end of the year. But October is over quickly, and I think this is a good thing.
Where I live, October is our time of trouble. It is the month that has hosted firestorms and temblors. What people elsewhere might welcome as “Indian Summer”, a brief reprise of the glories of warmth and sunshine, we view with apprehension. Sunny, windless, preternaturally quiet days in October we call “earthquake weather”. There is a lot about this time of year that is disquieting. The sun, ignoring the dictums of artificially decreed daylight savings time, sets at busy, active times of day. And it does so in the wrong places and at crazily blinding angles. This does not seem like a prolongation of summer. It feels ominous and out of whack. It will actually come as a relief when we can eat supper after dark.
It does not surprise me that Halloween, Samhain and Dia de Los Muertos all fall at this time of the year. Holidays that focus on mortality fit perfectly with that part of my spirit that is already feeling edgy about the allocation of light and dark.
And rain. We haven’t had any for six months. Of course, we never have any for six months- light sprinkles and heavy fog excepted - but every year at this time, we have to wonder when it will come and when it does, will it be too much or too little. Paradoxically, as I write this, heavy weather is looming, both metaphorical and real. A furious storm is stalking the East Coast and may make landfall at Halloween, emphatically settling the question of “when will the rains come?” for those in its path. On another level, evenly contested elections next week will settle leaders and policies of many kinds onto a populace half of whom are bound to view the results with dismay.
And so I will be happy to leave October behind and forge ahead toward the shortest day. Mind you, I will be among the first to complain when the rains come and the basement floods, and I’m already grumbling that the darn rooster is going to start crowing an hour earlier by the clock. Yet that’s the way winter is supposed to be, slightly gruff and unpleasant, like an unwelcome visitor. But we know that all visits must end. We all know that just beyond the shortest day comes the gradual lengthening of the light, and this gives us hope.
We live in two universes, the one whose rules of operation we know about and accept and also the one that reflects our fears and desires. As people throughout history have done, we gather each year to observe the Solstice because doing so speaks of our fundamental optimism. It is a way of reaffirming our faith in possibility and the eventual return of blessings.
No, the year does not turn evenly, but it does ultimately parcel out darkness and light in the same measure. That is important to remember.
- David Parr, Artistic Director