Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nollaig shona dhaoibh

Maybe my age has something to do with it, but there is definitely something different about winter at a more northern latitude.

I was born and grew up in central California and have been working my way toward the North Pole ever since—apart from a year’s sojourn in South America. Other places I’ve lived—France, Ohio, Seattle—have always seemed to be that bit further north. My current location, the Irish republic, is the most northernmost of all. Latitude-wise we are roughly in the neighborhood of Juneau, Alaska. That means nice long days in the summer and long dark nights this time of year.

Because people here tend to stick to traditions more noticeably than in the States (and also because of the age thing I mentioned), one feels a connection going back a long time. One senses the earth whipping around the sun and plunging us through the darkest part of the year—and how that must have felt for people who did not have our modern scientific understanding. It must have been only their faith that the world had always come out the other side and re-entered the light time and time again that sustained them. The defiant artificial lights and colors of the season now seem to me perhaps somewhat desperate but also affirmatively steadfast in the face of the universe. The traditions really bring comfort—even for someone like me who grew up with no particular religious tradition. We reject perfectly good traditions at our own peril.

One speaks of the magic of Christmas, and the longer I live the more that magic seems to be real.

To all those reading this, I wish you the best on this journey through space and time.