My own New Year's party

It’s been a good year to view the night sky. Jupiter has been brilliant most of the year, Venus recently joined the southwest sky in early evening and Mars is gaining strength. Early in the year, Jupiter rose low in the east late at night, and we night owls saw it after midnight or so, but now it shines high overhead early in the evening so even those who retire at a normal time can see it. A lunar eclipse was visible in the West and the Pacific Ocean, but I couldn’t convince The Review to send me to the Society Islands to cover it, so I content myself with the visible planets and the stars.
As the year closes, as darkness and cold rule our days, we take heart in the winter solstice having passed, because now days are getting longer. During these dark days, I have trouble remembering the intense heat of summer, such as when I played at Plymouth Street Peddler Days in Hanoverton in July, three weeks after the summer solstice, and I stained my Southern planter palm hat with sweat, or the Hale Farm Civil War encampment, where I played for a wedding of Civil War reenactors and afterward strode through the lantern-lit camps as dusk deepened into night.
Now I must hunker down under wool to keep warm. I recently read James Michener’s “Space,” and I enjoyed ensconcing myself in our big green easy chair under my blue wool blanket after work to read for a bit before venturing into the cold for my walk and my visit to the goat, and indoor cat Angus comforted me by lying atop the blanket and sharing his body heat, enjoying some chin scratching while I read. He was never a lap cat in his youth, so this lap sitting still surprises me, although he’ll lie on my lap only if it’s covered with a blanket.
I’m a lover of summer. I would be happy if warmth began its return on Jan. 1. The holidays are over. Snow and cold are nice at Christmas, although this year we had little of either, but after that, bring on the sun. The high summer sun and hot days can’t arrive soon enough to suit me. But I enjoy winter nights, those few when the sky is clear. I don’t know most of the stars and constellations, but I have learned to recognize a few, and winter brings us Orion with his belt, one of the few constellations that to me looks like what it’s meant to represent. (Those Greeks must have had good wine to concoct all those people and animals out of vague star patterns overhead.) Winter also brings twinkling blue Sirius, rising low in the southeast, the brightest star, next to our sun.
I like the pattern of movement in the sky. New Year’s Day is an arbitrary manmade holiday, but our year is based on Earth’s travels about the sun, our months are based on the Moon’s travels around Earth, and our days and nights are based on Earth’s rotation. We turn our arbitrarily set calendars this weekend while Earth turns faithfully on its axis and revolves about the sun, and this year we’ll add an extra day, Leap Day, to adjust for that approximately extra fourth day per year in our obit around the sun. Those celestial patterns mean more to me than a manmade date-change.
I’m also not interested in artificial manmade celebrations of the turn of the page from December to January. I won’t watch a ball drop on New Year’s Eve, and I won’t travel city streets in some First Night celebration. I played music during Akron’s First Night on Dec. 31, 1999, riding the Cuyahoga Valley Line from Akron to Peninsula and back. The trip was cold, noisy and diesel-smelly, and I wanted to finish the job and get home before midnight just in case the change from 1999 to 2000 upset the computers of the world, as some predicted, and all the traffic lights turned off. Many people don’t know the law governing intersections when the traffic signals do to out — imagine a city full of New Year’s drunks and no traffic lights. But all was well: I got home at 11:45, civilization did not grind to a halt, and I was happy to be home rather than out with the masses.
That’s part of being older, perhaps, or just my dislike of crowds, noise and chaos, which has increased with age along with trouble reading fine print. But I prefer a visit to the goat and a look at the celestial stars in my somewhat dark backyard to an evening fighting crowds and being jostled on a packed bus in an artificially lighted city.

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