Thursday, December 20, 2007

Light Dawns in Winter

From an early age, I was, as my mother put it, "oblivious." I have spent my life on the pointy ends of bell curves, one of which must have to do with attention to certain kinds of external events. A childhood picture that always makes me smile shows me and Cousin Priscilla, both age four, dressed in identical yellow taffeta dresses as bridesmaids at Cousin Elizabeth's wedding. Priscilla is looking straight at the camera with intelligent attention; I am staring at the ceiling or the stratosphere or the sidereal ether, paying no attention to anything visible to anyone else.

When I was fourteen, a freshman in high school, we caught the bus at some godawful early hour necessitated by double shifts in the town's only excuse for a secondary school building, while they built the new regional high school. One winter morning, as the sunrise pinkened the new snow on the pine trees, I thought how pretty it was and wondered why I hadn't noticed before that the sun was coming up just at the moment we were waiting for the school bus.

I had lived in Massachusetts all my life. I knew Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about going to bed by candlelight in winter and being consigned to bed during the day in summer, but I thought that was some strange English custom. I think that morning, waiting for the bus at dawn, was the first time I really connected with the fact that the sun rises at different times of day, and that days are longer in summer than in winter.