January

As we begin a new year, I thought it might be interesting to look at the month itself. As the second month of winter (northern hemisphere) or summer (southern hemisphere), January is either the coldest month of the year, or the warmest. Where I am right now, it is definitely cold, and the temperatures don’t look like going up anytime soon. Brr!

The month is associated with the god Janus, the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. As a god of transitions, he had functions pertaining to birth and to journeys; doorways were often named after him. The worship of Janus traditionally dated back to Romulus and a period even before the actual founding of the city of Rome. There were many jani (i.e., ceremonial gateways) in Rome. These usually freestanding structures were used for symbolically auspicious entrances or exits. The beginning of the day, month, and year, both calendrical and agricultural, were sacred to him.

Conventional wisdom says that January was named for Janus, It was the first month of the Roman calendar, as it is of our current one. It was added to the Roman calendar around 700 BCE, replacing March as the first month of the year around 450 BCE.

In January, besides New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate such holidays as Buffet Day (2), Drinking Straw Day (3), Trivia Day (4), Bird Day (5), Epiphany (6), and Bobblehead Day (7), during just the first week. It is Book Blitz Month, Get A Balanced Life Month, International Brain Teaser Month, Hot Tea Month, Polka Music Month, and Soup Month to name a few.

So stay warm (or cool) and celebrate this first month of the year.

Quotes about January

January has only one thing to be said for it: it is followed by February. Nothing so well becomes its passing.–Katherine Tynan

The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour.–Vita Sackville-West

January is the quietest month in the garden. … But just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants.  The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come.–Rosalie Muller Wright

Bare branches of each tree on this chilly January morn look so cold so forlorn. Gray skies dip ever so low left from yesterday’s dusting of snow. Yet in the heart of each tree waiting for each who wait to see new life as warm sun and breeze will blow, like magic, unlock springs sap to flow, buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow.–Nelda Hartmann

To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June.–Jean-Paul Sartre

It is deep January. The sky is hard. The stalks are firmly rooted in ice.- Wallace Stevens

The Old Year has gone.  Let the dead past bury its own dead.  The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time.  All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!–Edward Payson Powell

Come, ye cold winds, at January’s call,
On whistling wings, and with white flakes bestrew
The earth.–John Ruskin

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Winter Solstice

Somewhere between December 20 and 22, we have the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. It is also called midwinter, which is somewhat ironic because it is also the official start of winter. I like the term midwinter myself because it reminds me that we are now halfway out of the dark, and the days will slowly be getting filled with more light. For my friends who love the deep peace of winter, the solstice is not a day to celebrate, but for those of us who love the summer, it is a celebration and a relief.

As the precursor to spring, midwinter also reminds us that all life begins in the dark, although we won’t see it until the days get longer and warmer.

For people in times past, the solstice was filled with significance. We see that most clearly in the monuments they left behind, such as Stonehenge and Newgrange in Ireland, which are situated with respect to the solstice. The Solstice, of course, held special significance for people who relied on agriculture, with its promise that spring was coming, even though the worst of the winter was yet to come. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a plentiful supply of fresh meat was available.

Many festivals are or were held at this time of year. Ancient Rome celebrated Saturnalia. Scandinavia called this time Yule, or Jul, Many modern Christmas traditions, such as the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, the Yule log, and others, are direct descendants of Yule customs. Gods of death and rebirth are also associated with the solstice, as Mithras in Rome.

Wishing you a happy solstice today.

Quotes about the solstice and winter

The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time – a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken.–Frederick Lenz

The winter solstice has always been special to me as a barren darkness that gives birth to a verdant future beyond imagination, a time of pain and withdrawal that produces something joyfully inconceivable, like a monarch butterfly masterfully extracting itself from the confines of its cocoon, bursting forth into unexpected glory.–Gary Zukav

Now, near the Winter Solstice, it is good to light candles. All the nice meanings of bringing light to the world can be beautiful. But perhaps we are concentrating on lighting the world because we don’t know how to light up our own lives.–Ralph Levy

I celebrate the spirit of Christmas. It’s the winter solstice celebration, rebirth and new possibilities.–Ian Astbury

Heading into the night of the winter solstice, every spiritual tradition has some kind of festival of light. We’re all just whistling in the dark, hoping against hope that someone up there will see these little Hanukkah candles and get the hint.–Lawrence Kushner

In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner thing happens, the resurge of nature.–Edna O’Brien

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.–Pietro Aretino

There is a wilder solitude in winter
When every sense is pricked alive and keen.–May Sarton

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.–Sara Coleridge

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.–T. S. Eliot

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.–Anne Bradstreet

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Winter

I hadn’t yet done a post on winter, and this seemed like a good time.

Anyone who knows me knows that winter is not my favorite time of year. In fact, I often say, “I don’t complain in summer no matter how hot it gets because I reserve the right to complain all winter long.” And I do. Right now I am heartily sick of snow. I feel like I’m living the Mary Dodge Woodward poem:

It is shovel, shovel, snow,
Shovel everywhere you go,
Shovel high and shovel low,
Shovel, shovel, shovel snow.

But of course, winter is important in the seasons of the year. It is the time of year when nature rests, when the seeds in the ground are getting ready for spring. It can be a time for reflection and quiet, for sitting before the fire, or wrapped in a blanket, drinking cocoa and reading. When the snow first falls, it brings a clean, quiet, white world.

Winter can also be a time of surprises. I was out walking a couple of days ago, looking down at the ground to help keep the sun out of my eyes, when I saw something that looked like deer tracks. I followed them with my eyes, and there standing not ten feet from me were a doe and two young deer. And yesterday, I had two other deer just outside my dining room window, eating my bushes. That’s not something I would see in summer.

So for those of you who love winter, I salute you. And for those of you more like me, it’s only a few weeks until it’s officially spring.

winter

Quotes about winter

The cold spurred her ambition. When frost came, you had to decide things.–Ruth Suckow

Come lovely Morning, rich in frost
On iron, wood and glass…
Come, rich and lovely Winter’s Eve,
That seldom handles gold;
And spread your silver sunsets out,
In glittering fold on fold.–W. H. Davies

I am younger each year at the first snow.–Anne Sexton

I love the scents of winter! For me, it’s all about the feeling you get when you smell pumpkin spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, gingerbread and spruce.–Taylor Swift

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.–Anne Bradstreet

In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold.–Ben Aaronovitch

In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages, long ago betid…–William Shakespeare

January has only one thing to be said for it: it is followed by February. Nothing so well becomes its passing.–Katherine Tynan

The large white snow-flakes as they flutter down, softly, one by one, whisper soothingly “Rest, poor heart, rest.” It is as though our mother soothes our hair, and we are comforted.–Ralph Iron

Let us love winter, for it is the spring of genius.–Pietro Aretin

Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder – no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.–Candace Bushnell

There is a wilder solitude in winter
When every sense is pricked alive and keen.–May Sarton

There seems to be so much more winter than we need this year.–Kathleen Norris

What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter’s day?–Henry David Thoreau

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.–Edith Sitwell

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