Today, I celebrate the seasonal transition as we approach, in the Northern Hemisphere, the celestial demarcation from fall to winter, occurring in an imperceptible moment on the winter solstice. Fall’s colorful glory has passed and most hardwood trees stand bare and leafless now. Crops have been harvested and fields lie fallow or marked only with stubble, remaining to be plowed under.
The two woodcuts below executed by Bertha Boynton Lum add another element characteristic of this time of year as the first frost or two are likely to have left a glistening upon the exposed tree branches as pictured so well, on the left, in the simply titled “Frost.” On the right, Lum portrays O-Yuki, the Frost Fairy, drawn from Japanese folklore, plying her cold magic.
In Peter Moran’s late 19th century etching below, I choose to see that the farmer, accompanied by his free-ranging chickens, is plowing under the fall stubble in the autumn (although taking into account such factors such as latitude, elevation, and instruction passed down through generations, the farmer may have been plowing this stubble in springtime).
This time of seasonal transition, occurring late in the year and following on Thanksgiving’s expressions of gratitude, strikes me as an apt moment to take a reckoning of the year’s events, accomplishments, and failings ahead of resolving to do better in the coming new year.
- Warm up your vocal chords or lace up your dancing shoes if the notion strikes after reading Songs for the Solstice, a 2009 post from In the Muse, the Performing Arts Blog from the Library of Congress.
- Get the full-tilt explanation for: “Why is it hot in summer and cold in winter?” from the Library’s Science Reference Services’ series that sheds light upon Everyday Mysteries.
- After a frost or two, snowfall may follow as Bertha Lum pictures in her color woodcut (below) of kimono-clad pedestrians, armed with parasols, trudging through a “Winter” scene. Lum was influenced by centuries of Japanese printmaking. See some 85 pre-1915 Japanese prints with snow in the scene from the Library’s collection of 2500 Japanese woodblock prints and drawings. Examples to be viewed include Koishikawa yuki no ashita (Snow at Koishikawa) by Katsushiki Hokusai and Yuki no watashiba (Ferryboats in snow) by Uehara Konen.