For those of us residing in the northern hemisphere, today marks the darkest day of the year. The sun rose today at 7:13 AM and will set at 4:12 PM, affording us less than 9 hours of daylight. December is a month of anticipation as we await the Winter Solstice and its paradox of light and darkness. Over the past month, the deep blue and purple of late-afternoons transition almost immediately to pitch black skies before dinner is even served.
Being in Northern New England at this time has been a revelation. For the one-hundred and thirty of us new to Proctor this year, the routines are still new, but thankfully not as much as they were in the fall when they were “shiny” new. As we head into winter, we find more of our rhythm in this second trimester. We ground ourselves to our obligations and the joys of our time together as a school community as we creep up on the longest evening of the year.
As we dive into this second week of the Winter Term, we feel ourselves rediscovering the comfortable routine of our classes, advisory groups, meals, practices, and extra help sessions. The first week of each term is spent settling into campus routines. Classes often have slightly different rosters, dorm compositions have shifted, new personalities introduced and social dynamics must evolve.
Yesterday was the darkest day of the year. The sun rose at 7:16 am and set at 4:12 pm offering less than nine hours of sunlight to the village of Andover. Living in northern New England we are used to this physical darkness, and learn to cope with it by embracing the outdoors (read more about that here). But this year is different as the emotional darkness of a global pandemic matches the physical darkness of the Winter Solstice.
As young parents raising small children, my wife, Lindsey, and I were frequently reminded by our colleagues and friends with older children, “The days may be long, but the years are short. Don’t blink.” In the midst of endless diaper changes, waking up five times a night to night-parent, dealing with toddler tantrums, and then showing up at work as if we were well rested and ready to think creatively, we found ourselves blindly trusting our friends and repeating their advice as a means of maintaining sanity.
Our family’s favorite holiday movie is the 2018 version of Dr. Suess’ The Grinch. This animated film, more than any other we have watched, speaks to reason we celebrate this season. Unlike other versions of the story, the writers offer a more complex look at the trials of Donna Who as a struggling single mom raising three young children, the loneliness of the Grinch rooted in his complicated past, the persistent optimism of Mr. Bicklebaum, the selfless love and mischievous grit of Cindy-Lou. It reminds us that while we are each imperfect and our existence messy, we can make a difference in the lives of those around us. We are more capable than we believe.