Downhill

When I was in college I had an English professor who was then the most eclectic person I had ever met. He taught American Romanticism among other things and lived his work. When he taught Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter he came to class wearing his black professor’s robes with a red letter “A” sewn to it. I could have sworn he was an incarnation of Ahab when he taught Moby Dick. He smoked a pipe but not in the classroom. He just held it between his teeth as he bellowed his lectures and the professor who followed him at next period’s class had to blow/brush pipe tobacco off everything. In one of his lectures he suddenly stopped ranting and pacing and slowly turned toward the class of spell-bound students, “How do you visualize the calendar?” We were quiet for a moment and some of us called out what we saw… most said a large oval with summer and brightness at the top, winter and darkness at the bottom, fall and spring to the sides, orange and green, respectively. He considered our answer for a few moments. Then: “Do you go to the days or do they come to you?” Almost to a person we chimed “We go to them.” No idea what bearing this had on his lecture that day, he may have been trying to gauge what kind of people we were. There were very few right or wrong answers in his class, but that discussion made an impression and I’ve never forgotten him.

So now we’ve passed the summer solstice. The days are getting shorter. We are beginning the long slide down toward winter when the earth sleeps, in this hemisphere anyway. Almost like we have been riding a cosmic bicycle up, hard-pedaling to get to the top and now we pedal slower on level time, to the point where we brake-coast-brake down to the colder and dimmer months. Light fades earlier, grows later. We cut back summer’s spent growth of flowering stems. We rest then, we hope anyway, before we pick up the long push back into burgeoning spring and full-out bursting summer as noisy with crickets and bird chirping as it is bright with color.

Do southern-hemisphere places celebrate Christmas in their winter, July, or not?

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