My houseplants are well-watered and my good dogs are fed and walked, so I toss another log on the fire and pick up a book from the pile beside my bed to bolster my spirits from the plummeting temperatures outside. The book I grab just so happens to be Hal Borland’s Sundial of the Seasons (1964, Lippincott). This satisfying book contains 365 of Borland’s outdoor essays from The New York Times, one for each day of the year; and because Borland prefers the natural year to the calendar year, he begins with the vernal equinox, when “April whispers from the hilltop, even as March goes whistling down the valley,” and ends with the passing of “the long nights when the moon rides high over a cold and brittle white-world.” Borland was the Verlyn Klinenborg of his day, writing from his farm in Connecticut’s lower Berkshire Hills (plus, he’s the author of a book I loved as a young adult, The Dog Who Came to Stay). I’ve been reading each day’s essay from Sundial of the Seasons since I picked up the book, so I thought I’d share an eloquent entry from this week, for the first day of December: ”December is a blizzard in Wyoming and a gale on the Lakes and the Berkshires frosted like a plate of cupcakes. It’s fir trees going to the cities by the truckload, and red ribbon by the mile and tinsel everywhere. It’s so many days until You-Know-When. It’s the Winter solstice and the shortest day, and it’s a snow shovel and galoshes and a muffler round the neck. It’s 30 below in Medicine Hat. December is the hungry owl and the fugitive rabbit. the woodchuck abed and the crow all alone in the pasture. It’s soup in the kettle and a log in the fireplace and long wool socks. It’s a wind at the door and a whisper in the air and a hush on the evening when the carols are sung.” I feel warmer already.
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