Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Shortest Day

Yesterday was dull and overcast, though not cold.
I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the lunar eclipse but the sky was too cloudy for it to be visible.
I lay awake as light filtered through the bedroom shutters slowly turning the darkness from grey to discernable colors.  I've always loved to watch for the moment when daylight arrives.
Yesterday I lay quietly noticing the deep reds, golds and greens of the quilt hung by my bed as they became colors rather than dim patches.
All day the cats were alternately restless--as above with Charlie glaring out at Willis--and then retreated to cushions in the dusky rooms, curled up tightly with tails over their faces.


J. had an errand at a nearby lumber supplier, so while he was gone I put on my wellies, a hooded jacket, and went out along the road with my camera.
There is almost no verge to the narrow black-top road which loops to follow the creek.  No really safe place to get out of the way of traffic in a hurry. I walked beneath several oak trees which over-hang the road.
Acorns lay in shiny heaps on the damp ground.

More acorns, which should provide food for some sort of foraging creature--although the proximity to the road would make for dangerous feasting.

An old tobacco barn on a neighboring propery.
I beleive this is the time of year when the cured tobacco has to be stripped and bundled, taken to the tobacco broker.

The creek below the road.  This is the same waterway which over-flowed its banks at the beginning of May.

Knotty branches of a redbud tree.

Can you see the bulky nest built in the crotch of the tree?
In early summer both robins and cardinals were busy round that tree.
I wonder which bird family built the nest.

Whenever I walk about in the yard I trip over the kittens--who are really half-grown cats.
Sally sitting on my boot and attempting a hike up my leg.
Good thing those are heavy jeans.

In the perennial border the foliage of spice pinks is still crisp and appealing.

As neighborhood trees shed their leaves we wondered about these evergreen clumps clinging to the branches.
I've learned this is mistletoe.
Driving home from the local post office this morning I pulled into the drive of a vacant house and took these photos from the car window.

Close-up of a mistletoe clump.

Beyond the mistletoe laden tree is a bare field which surrounds the historic
Gradyville Baptist church.
The church, built near the path of the 1907 flood, is not regularly used.

A few words about the poem below:
High O'er the Lonely Hills
Jan Struthers

I found this years ago tucked in the section of Christmas hymns in the Pilgrim's Hymnal.
I've never heard it sung although it has a lovely plaintive melody.
Several of the phrases "speak" to me as they describe simply and beautifully those moments of dawn when light seeps into the spaces that have been dark, bringing back warmth and color.
There is the familiar Christian allusion to Christ's birth as a light-giver but the imagery is solidly that of a keen observer of nature.
Since I was too lazy to laboriously type the verses from the faded hymnal I did an internet search and found the poem.
I also learned that the poet, Jan Struthers, was none other than the author of the tales of Mrs. Miniver.
I remember my Mother reading those.
Of interest to me was the biographical note that Jan Struthers though considered an agnostc, penned a number of hymn-poems.
I hope that whatever your spiritual persuasion you'll skim the verses--the word-pictures are particularly descriptive of early winter.

High o'er the lonely hills

Black turns to grey,

Birdsong the valley fills,

Mists fold away;

Grey wakes to green again,

Beauty is seen again–

Gold and serene again

Dawneth the day.

So, o'er the hills of life,

Stormy, forlorn,

Out of the cloud and strife

Sunrise is born;

Swift grows the light for us;

Ended is night for us;

Soundless and bright for us

Breaketh God's morn.

Hear we no beat of drums,

Fanfare nor cry,

When Christ the herald comes

Quietly nigh;

Splendour he makes on earth;

Colour awakes on earth;

Suddenly breaks on earth

Light from the sky.

Bid then farewell to sleep:

Rise up and run!

What though the hill be steep?

Strength's in the sun.

Now shall you find at last

Night's left behind at last,

And for mankind at last

Day has begun!


  1. I enjoyed your shortest day walk, I sitting here waiting for our daughter's flight to get here, she was delayed an hour at the start so who knows when she'll get here.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  2. How beautiful nature is if one looks closely ...thanks for showing us. Wow that is a lot of mistletoe on that tree.

    I love the inside /outside cat one ...Smudge often taunts those who do not go out, through the window.

    Christmas hugs to you all ... including the felines xx

  3. I enjoyed your beautiful photos of your wonderful area you live in. Love kitty too.
    Wish you and your family a most wonderful Holiday season and a promising New Year.
    As Always a faithful reader