Timeless Observations of the Sun and the Season from Americans Henry Beston and Charles Burchfield

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the sun shines through a frosty forestAfter what Charles Kingsley just gave us, would it harm to tarry on the phenomena of nature–and our responses to them–just a little more? In 1927, while living in a two-room house on Cape Cod, recent Harvard graduate Henry Beston would muse that

A year indoors is a journey along a paper calendar; a year in outer nature is the accomplishment of a tremendous ritual. To share in it, one must have a knowledge of the pilgrimage of the sun.

That “pilgrimage of the sun” is followed, as he said, more closely by some than by others. In A Hat Full of Sky (2004), British author Terry Pratchett would observe, breezily wresting a bit of imagination from the mundane, “The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it.” A writer as brilliant as Alexandre Dumas could not have put it better. In February 1946 artist Charles Burchfield wrote in his journal,

The other day, starting with December 21, and working in opposite directions in time, I placed opposite each other the corresponding dates in their distance from the solstice. Thus today is equivalent in the slant of the sun’s rays to November 2–and yet, what a different quality to the sunlight; now it is powerful, waxing and expanding, and in November it is fading, and waning. It cannot be just a state of mind. Read more

Feel the Chill but Savor the Season with a January Sonnet

a scene of Russian hero Ivan Susanin in a snowy forest with spruce trees
Ivan Susanin receives a vision of Mikhail Fyodorovich
Mikhail Nesterov (1906)

[I was surprised to find many references to Hindu culture in this poem along with many from the holy book that is the foundation of the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths. Feel free to discover those connections through the links and make what you will of them.]

O winter! frozen pulse and heart of fire,
What loss is theirs who from thy kingdom turn
Dismayed, and think thy snow a sculptured urn Read more