11pm - Driving on the A629 north to Huddersfield after our gig at the Harland Café in Sheffield. This quiet, two-lane road runs high on a ridge through rural Yorkshire connecting the two industrial, midland cities. Even at this hour sunset lingers and hesitates to give way. Brighter stars mingle with a rusty-hued dusk – pale colors, pulled like taffy across the distance. After a short dip below the horizon the sun will round its next ascent. By 4am blackbird song will fill the air as the world becomes fully light again. We will be sleeping – curtains drawn, and eyeshades on.
It is invigorating to be in this country during the solstice. Either solstice. Here, higher in latitude than we’re accustomed to in the States, solstice is more pronounced, more exaggerated. Here, it’s easier to imagine the great gears of the universe turning. Easier to perceive the great pendulum swinging, slowing… stilling… and swinging back again - our pulse quickens with its new direction. We are helpless witnesses at first until the high season wanes and the balance of equinox paces activity back to normal… for a time.
In the summer, all the world is making hay. Water flows, birds sing, and the mighty engine of photosynthesis hums along. Everywhere. Solar gravity pulls at any thing not bolted down into activity. During the day parades ensue, swimming and bar-b-q and festivals in open air. Cafés open their sidewalks to diners, and people fill the streets. Summer nights are barely a blink, a catnap, a short tunnel on a bright road that transits from one day to the next.
Then there’s winter: A couple of years ago we were in Scotland in December. Daylight came on by ten then departed by four. If it was raining (which it usually was), the long dawn would morph into an extended dusk. Often, streetlights never turned off. By the winter solstice, trees hush, soil rests, frogs burrow in mud, bears hibernate, breathing slows, and all the world pauses. People fetch potatoes, cabbage and canned goods up from the root cellar. The tunnel is inverted. We can surface for air and get out in whatever light there is, but mostly, it’s a good time to get quiet work done.
It’s always difficult to recall one polarity when absorbed in the other. It’s a mental exercise to remember how cold it was walking on a path in winter when the sun is shining hot on the very same path in summer. So, Sue and I hop from one gig to the next along our tour schedule, happy for the variety of wonderful rooms and generous people. We feel extremely lucky and fortunate for all the experiences and friendships. Soon we go home to our new place in Cabot, Vermont and begin a whole new life and find our seats, front row, to witness a Green Mountain summer ebb – past equinox, toward our first full winter. Time to order firewood!