The Daily

16 November 2022

I learned a fun medical thing today. Once COVID has had its way with your internal organs, apparently any infection that causes inflammation can trigger echoes of COVID. I started to think that this might be the case when I had strep and it felt disturbingly like the COVID I’d just shaken off. Now, I have “just a flu bug” and once again, it’s very COVID-y, particularly in the throbbing blood pressure and the accompanying throbbing headache. So… I guess all germs can now give me chest pains. Thank you COVID…

Hence I am home today but not thinking all that coherently.

Meanwhile, it’s more or less winter here now. The weather is cold. We’re facing the first nor-easter of the season tonight, with maybe 4-6″ of snow to fall overnight and into tomorrow. Seems appropriate for Hurricane Nicole’s backside… though I’m not sure if this storm is Nicole-derived or just another equatorial low pressure system hitting the northern Atlantic and spewing ocean moisture combined with Canadian air all over New England. In any case, this is surely winter weather!

Time is also slowing to wintertime. OK so not really, but as the earth swings closer to another solstice, the change in day-length is much less pronounced, until it hits nearly imperceptible in the middle of December. We lose a minute or two of daylight each day, not fistfuls of time as around the equinoxes. We are not far from the earliest sunset on 7 December. Not far in terms of time until that happens, just a few weeks, but also not far in terms of that earliest point. Today there are only 11 more minutes before the sun drops under the horizon than the earliest sunset of the year.

I don’t know about you, but I hardly notice those sorts of changes. One minute a day shorter, eleven minutes earlier. When change is negligible, we tend to perceive it as a slowing in whatever is changing. So time feels slower in these weeks around the solstices. And this slowness underscores the darkness, the cold, and the lethargy we naturally feel in winter. Our bodies want to go slower, to conserve energy and resources that we’ve learned are generally not abundant in the darkening days. I know most people call this the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder. But it’s really not a disorder; going full speed all year is the disorder. Slowing down is, I think, the proper ecological response to short days and cold weather and fewer available calories.

Other signs of winter… the calendula finally met their match. They’d held on beautifully until this morning. Now they are flopped over, limp and darkened, the hallmark of frozen plant cells. If it doesn’t warm up in the next couple days — and it’s not supposed to — I think that’s them done. Too bad. I like their pugnacious orange blossoms clinging to the growing season. But it is long past time for annuals! It’s sort of scary actually to have pot marigolds blooming in November in Vermont.

Son#1 is also gearing up for winter today, loading his winter tires into his car to be changed tomorrow. This is a Vermont custom, not widely practiced in the rest of the world. We need thick and heavily-textured tread to drive on snowy slopes, but that tread can’t tolerate summer asphalt. It breaks down quickly when heated. (Nasty pollutant, that is!) So every autumn we all haul our cars off to get the winter tires put on. Some of us can just do it ourselves. In fact, I’m pretty sure Son#1 can change tires. But it also serves as a good time to do routine maintenance like oil changes and so on. Then in late spring, before it warms up but well after the mountain roads are open again (another Vermont thing: closed roads), we go back and put the summer tires back on. Again, good time for tune-ups. I’ve already changed my tires; did that with the state inspection that came due in October. This sort of routine change encourages a car owner to pay more attention to the vehicle, to know what it needs and what it’s doing to the planet. But it also helps Vermonters keep track of time. It’s a little ritual that bookends the winter each year.

A Bit of Stargazing

The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the 17th and 18th of November. Look south in the predawn skies. At 10 meteorites per hour on average, this sounds like a dull show. But this patch cometary crud leftover from comet Tempel-Tuttle is known for generating meteor storms, which are just as they sound — sudden bursts of dozens of streaking balls of fire lighting up the night. So it’s usually worth it to get up before sunrise. And besides, before dawn is not particularly early this time of year. Most working folk are up well before dawn anyway. So just look out the window!

16 November is Hekate’s Night. I’m not sure how old this tradition is, nor am I sure which night it is, the night that begins the day or the night that ends the day. Either way, it feels right to pay respects to the goddess of liminal spaces and crossroads on this, the cusp of winter. So I wrote a poem… because that’s what I do.


she comes 
heralded by cracks and crows
incessant chimes on forsaken porches
she comes
a shivered whisper in obsidian skies
occluding stars in her inky cloak
she comes
stalking the heedless
the unwary wayfarer, no clover in his shoes
she comes
astride the last fallen leaf
laughter whirling through rimy woods
she comes…

and the morning erupts
o’er a coruscating shroud

©Elizabeth Anker 2022

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