Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solstice yes, end of the world not

Yesterday we reached the winter solstice. We really notice such things in Seattle, where the sun barely rises in the sky-- when one can see it at all, that is. It's rained just about every day for the last three months-- which has put even those fortunate enough not to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder to the severest test. As you might imagine, because the days are mostly heavily overcast, we have to have the lights on during all our waking hours. And so we seize on sun breaks, when they come. And yesterday, we had one. (Actually, we had sun for about an hour today, too.) So out Tom and I went to the Lake Union fill, a piece of reclaimed land so wet at this time of year that boots are needed, even for the graveled paths. In past Decembers, more than a dozen swans have hung out in that bit of Lake Washington, but we haven't seen them yet. Yesterday we did see, in addition to the many mergansers, northern shovelers, and buffleheads usually to be found at this time of year, some spectacular wood ducks. Oh, and the red-winged blackbirds are back in huge numbers. Also, I was bemused to see three pied-billed grebes swimming together. Grebes tend to be loners, except during mating season. Their behavior changes completely, then.

Since I'm currently reading Susan Cain's book on introverts, it occurs to me that perhaps grebes are the supreme introverts of waterfowl... Certainly they're the opposite of American coots-- which form long noisy rafts across vast swathes of the lake, pivoting and shifting position collectively on a dime. This time of year, the coots are always to be seen at the fill. American coots strike me as embodying both instinctively compulsive groupthink and extroversion.

I also saw a lone woman, kneeling in the soaking muddy grass at the edge of the water, celebrating the solstice with a burning candle and some foodstuffs that couldn't be identified without violating her privacy (which I was unwilling to do). It wasn't exactly picnicking weather, but I suspect that didn't matter in the least to her. Nice for her, I guess, that the rain had paused, though perhaps she might have put up an umbrella to protect her candle's flame, if it hadn't. 

We have more 2012 Pleasures posts yet to come, but I'm pausing them for today. They'll resume on Sunday.

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