On June 21, the summer solstice, my wife and I were awaiting the arrival of our firstborn. We mostly wished for a healthy child, but we hoped, too, that perhaps he or she (we didn’t know at the timeturns out his name is Oliver) would be born on the longest day of the year. He was born nine days later, on June 30.
A lot has changed since then, seasons included. Summer has gone, and so has fall, and now we move into the depth of winter. This most recent solstice signified the beginning of winter, true, but it also signified another changeevery day forward will mean more daylight. It’s a different way to celebrate New Year’s, I think.
As the daylight diminished during Oliver’s first six months, his personality inversely grew. For every one or two minutes of sunlight lost, he’d hit a new developmental pointa giggle, being able to pass a toy from one hand to the other and, actually on the winter solstice, the ability to screech a series of syllables that sounds a lot like, I promise, “Dad-dee.” “Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces,” George Harrison sings in “Here Comes the Sun.”
Paralleling developmental milestones with incremental sunshine seems like a fair trade, to the point where it becomes a little like an addiction. With just a small amount, you constantly want more. Just when Oliver starts repeating one sound, we encourage the next”Ma, ma, ma,” “Pa, Pa, Pa,” Stacy and I say. As soon as he hit his hands and knees, trying to crawl, we picked him up and shifted him back and forth, using his body like a puppet, trying to illustrate to him that surely he’s just trying to walk instead.
And it’s the same with the sunlight, really: We push the boundaries of daylightworking in the garden at 5 p.m., even as the sun fades, trying to make sure that all of last year’s crop has been pulled and the soil is ready to hibernate for the winter. We start to project planting four months into the future, wondering if Oliver will be walking enough to plant a seed or two.
So we think about the next six months, heading into the next growing season, and to Oliver’s first birthday, too. With each new day, there’s more sun in the sky, and I ponder what will be next in his development. It’s nice not to know exactly what the future holds, though. The surprise aspect is part of the journey. Like choosing not to read the tide and sun charts on the back page of the local paper each night to know precisely when the sun will rise and set, there’s something Zen about letting each day just happen. After all, these transitions in the sky only happen once a year and once in his lifetime.
So be patient, I tell myself: Here comes the sun once again, progressively higher in the sky.