Approaching Solstice

fingers of darkness curl and uncurl
around the dimming light
seeking to steal the stars
wide-eyed and speechless
ancestors linger
elongated
stretched beyond their capacity
to capture fleeing suns
taut as bowstrings
drawn across the dreaming land
they reach and rise
their wooden song grown graceful as the falling of the leaves

Comments are welcome. To leave a comment or respond, please click below.
Special thanks to Susan Scheid, whose photograph at “Dreaming in Swedish” gave rise to this poem.

36 thoughts on “Approaching Solstice

    1. shorelineclusterpoets,

      Thank you so much. I’m a great lover of the interplay of shadow and light, and this is the best time of year for such ponderings.

      I’m glad you stopped by, and hope to see you again. You’re always welcome!

      Linda

    1. Andrew,

      The image really is a kind of street photography, I think – albeit a very different street. I’m glad you liked it. Writing the poem was an interesting experience – it arrived almost fully formed. That rarely happens!

      Linda

  1. That picture made me think of a series of time-lapse images from Central Park that are featured in the NY Times’ “City Room” blog. I can convince myself that it’s still autumn until there’s snow on the ground. Then it’s winter, no matter what the calendar says. So far, so good.

    1. Al,

      Ms. Anzelone’s blog’s are lovely and informative, and time-lapse always intrigues me. It’s especially nice to see a healthy park. We’re losing about 2,800 trees in our biggest park because of the drought – 15,000 in all Houston parks and esplanades.

      Glad to hear you’re getting your extended autumn. We’ll hope you don’t have to make up for it later!

      Linda

      1. Here in central Texas we’ve lost plenty of trees to the drought, and another large number to the summer wildfires, but with the cloudiness and drip-drabs of rain over the last few weeks the land has slowly, imperceptibly been shifting into a more-accustomed mode. Like blinded Samson’s hair growing back unnoticed by the Philistines until he pulled down the pillars of the temple, suddenly the mane of earth here has filled back in, green and vigorous, newly covering what until recently was our dead and dry Gaza. I hope your coastal region has been coming alive again too, Linda.

        1. Steve,

          In fact, I stopped varnishing at 3:30 Monday afternoon because it was apparent that fog was beginning to form. It did come in, and since early yesterday morning there’s been almost zero visibility around the water.

          The good news about all this is that December fog passes for “normal weather” around here. The same steady stream of Gulf moisture that brings the fog may bring both of us rain by week’s end. The last two Decembers have been completely bereft of fog. Seeing it again’s like finding an old friend on the doorstep.

          Linda

  2. I am so glad to see your lovely poem again, this time properly displayed, as it deserves. Is the photograph yours? It’s marvelous, the way the shadows of the limbs twine together. Trees this time of year do have their own kind of magic, don’t they? (And of course I’m terribly honored that my own photograph of trees helped to inspire this wonderful poem.)

    1. Susan,

      Isn’t the twining of the shadow-branches wonderful? They remind me of the way the branches outside my childhood bedroom would twist and sway in the wind – they were between a street light and the house, and it took me some time to stop being afraid of them.

      I’m not certain where the photo was taken, or by whom. It was a print I found in a box of ephemera after my mother died. I scanned it and took out some of the creases – I’m really quite fond of it.

      As for Dreaming in Swedish, I’m delighted to have this poem to post on this night – tomorrow, after all, is the day of Santa Lucia.

      Linda

    1. Georgette,

      Like Susan’s photograph, this one certainly evokes many childhood memories – including memories of a grandmother who told stories of forests inhabited by marvelous and not-so-marvelous “beings”.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem and the images.

      Linda

  3. I like your figure of a “wooden song” and the alliteration of “grown graceful.” There really is something magical about the elongated shadows of trees stretching down a “street” lined with the bare trunks and branches of late fall.

    1. Steve,

      I heard a different sort of “wooden song” Sunday afternoon, at a Houston Chamber Choir concert. It featured a truly magical marimba solo whose sound swelled to fill the space – one of Houston’s most perfect.

      There’s a particular sort of weather that leads to what sailors (and others) call “cloud streets”. Cloud streets or tree-lined paths, they’re inviting and enticing. Like a good country road, they’re made for travel – even if only in imagination.

      Linda

    1. Bug,

      All of us pick and choose when it comes to seasons, don’t we? I love snow, but to live with frozen auto door locks, the need for snow tires, city snow plows with schedules that fill in the drive just minutes after it’s cleared? No, thank you.

      I love bare branches, too. I brought back branches of dogwood from Minnesota. They’re in a cylindrical clay vase now, hung with a few baubles of silver and gold. They’re a perfect example of “less is more”.

      Glad you enjoyed the poem!

      Linda

    1. sherri,

      I still remember the time and place where I discovered the word “chiaroscuro”. The interplay of light and shadow here isn’t quite that, but still – it was wonderful to know there was a word for something I find infinitely fascinating.

      I’ve always thought that late autumn and winter light was the best light of all. Shorter days is a small price to pay for that light.

      Linda

  4. Great poem great photo.
    I’ve read the poem several times and each time I love it more. I like the way you make word images with your words:

    “fingers of darkness curl and uncurl
    around the dimming light
    seeking to steal the stars”

    whew.

    I like the photo even more now that I know you found it in a box of your Mom’s things.

    1. dearrosie,

      With all the writing I’ve done here, I’m unaccountably fond of the poems. They’re a bit like the stray cats that show up at the door. I haven’t a clue where they come from, but I can’t turn my back on them!

      I’m so glad you like it – photo and poem alike. Both make me happy, too.

      Linda

  5. This is beautiful.

    My grandson was born on the winter solstice. For some reason, Dad loves that. I suppose by marking the shortest day, it heralds spring and new hope during the darkest part of the winter. Each day will get a little longer until we see new growth. Always a gardener at heart.

    1. Bella,

      I certainly do know some folks who respond to the solstice with a hearty cry of “Bring on the seed catalogues!” The earth may be lying fallow, but they’re already plotting and planning, enjoying the anticipation of a new season.

      Our experience of solstice is a little different, since the darkest part of the winter often isn’t winter-like at all. We generally wait until January for cold, ice, and true gloom. That’s our “bleak mid-winter”.

      I’ve never known a solstice baby! I love that, and it makes me grin to think of your dad loving it.

      Linda

  6. One consolation for leafless, bare branches is that we can see through them towards the winter light. Further, as you’ve aptly described, they look like out-stretched arms to ‘capture fleeing suns’. With the leaves gone, we can enjoy warm rays and bright light directly, much needed in the winter days. Guess you lose some, you gain some, all in the balance of nature.

    1. Arti,

      It’s easy for someone like me, living at 29N, to forget what it’s like this time of year at the higher latitudes. Calgary’s at the same latitude as London, and my experiences in the London winter were amazing. Dark at 4 p.m.? It seemed unnatural, and made understandable the hunger for the light of those “fleeing suns”.

      Your expression, “you lose some, you gain some” reminded me of a favorite line in the song La Vie Dansante – “every stop there’s a place to start”. I suppose that’s what solstice is to me – a stopping place in the natural order of things, and a new beginning.

      Linda

  7. Beautiful, almost dimensional image and wonderful poem to go with mood. I love walking trails deep within the woodland and let my thoughts and muse roam around the trees.

    1. Anna,

      I confess to giggling at the vision of you taking your muse for a walk, much as my friends take their dogs into the woods. Maybe too many of us keep our muses leashed and don’t let them roam freely!

      Thanks for the kind words. There are times when words and images can complement one another, rather than compete. If only we could transfer that lesson to life more often than we do!

      Linda

  8. Thank you for not “turning your back” on this poem, Linda…a wee treasure for under the Christmas trees of those who wish to open it. And thanks, too, for the rummaging that unearthed the image!

    I am always fondest of THIS soltice that approaches each year! :)

    1. Ginnie,

      Here’s a tidbit for you, Ms. Solstice Lover! Sweden was slow to adopt the Gregorian calendar, so for centuries Santa Lucia Day (December 13) was thought to be the solstice.

      My dad’s side of the family was Swedish, so Lucia was a big deal for us. My grandmother’s table looked like your Christmas markets by the time she was finished baking.

      This is a wee treasure, isn’t it? Rather like your pile of tops. Wouldn’t it be fun to hang the tops throughout this woods, to startle some walker witless?!

      Linda

  9. Linda,
    Your poem matches that photograph perfectly and both are so mysterious and beautiful and contrasting.
    You are a very talented lady.
    Thank you for sharing!
    Patti

    1. Patti,

      Different from what I usually do, but there it is. I’m glad you like it!

      I was telling a friend about how easily it came, and how strange that seemed, and she said, “Well, maybe it was a Christmas present from your muse”. The more I thought about that, the more I liked it!

      Thanks so much for stopping by – it’s always a treat, and I know this is your busy season!

      Linda

  10. Any reference to the solstices and equinoxes makes me stop and wonder at how closely people long ago paid attention to the sky. Would I have ever noticed the difference in the position of the sun as it rose and set from one day to the next? Enough to predict the cycles so precisely? I doubt it.

    Beautiful poem, Linda. I especially loved this line:

    “…seeking to steal the stars.”

    1. bronxboy,

      You might be surprised. The real reason I have trouble with daylight saving time changes is that I become so accustomed to the position of the sun during the day I use the light for telling time.

      With electricity to light our nights, appointments to “do lunch”, work deadlines and a general inattentiveness to the natural world, we’re not as sensitive to the such things. But if we’d lived “back in the day”? I’ll bet you would have noticed.

      And I’m glad you like the poem. Merry Christmas!

      Linda

  11. Lovely. A perfect way to begin the solstice, which I believe is actually tomorrow, despite tradition of being on the 21st. I love Solstice. Celebrate it in my quiet way. Bring on that light!

    1. jeanie,

      And I love the conjunction of solstice with the words of John’s gospel – “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness never has put it out”. The turning sun, the star of Bethlehem – it’s all wondrous.

      Celebrate on!

      Linda

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