Walking Waverly on the Winter Solstice

By KM Huber

Every year, I am mindful of the light and the dark of the days leading up to the actual date of the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, and the day of least light. After the 24 hours that is the winter solstice, every dawn that follows offers more light and less night.

The autumnal sleep culminates in the pivotal moment of the winter solstice, as the slumber stirs toward the light day by day, growing and warming to the spring solstice. For me, there is an ending of one in the beginning of another for what is an ending if not a beginning.

KMHuberImage; Cooper; Beagle mix

Almost daily, Cooper and I greet the light of each day at Waverly pond. It is Cooper’s favorite time of day and these days, his best time, for the drier winter mornings are preferable to the usual humidity of northern Florida. His discomfort from arthritis is increasing as is his inflammation but there are still some mornings when he decided to trot a bit. He has taught me that any day improves with movement.

Waverly is a marvel in any season but this is my first winter with her. Her waters have receded so that the turtles no longer feed under the bridge that Cooper and I still cross more often than not. He is in the winter of his life but not yet in the deep sleep of the solstice, while I remain on autumn’s edge.

Jack-o’-lantern orange needles thicken Waverly’s diminishing green carpet of earthen brown leaves, tamped with damp, a vibrant show of brown, green, and orange. Most of the needles are from what may be a golden larch–-so very like a pine with swooping, willow-like limbs—an elegant blanket for winter.

KMHuberimage; larch in autumnBy the spring solstice, the larch’s velvet needles will re-dress every limb and branch in sweeping splendor–such is the life of a larch–slumbering in these days preceding the winter solstice, assured of what is and what will be.

On this morning, Cooper takes us across the bridge and to the gazebo where I am to sit while he roams close by. When we make it to the gazebo we stay longer at Waverly, especially if I have brought the camera. From Cooper’s perspective, the camera keeps me occupied while he seeks scent.

In the winter, the geese return to Florida, and Waverly pond is a favorite. This year, a pair of wood storks visited one morning; a crane, possibly a sand hill, also stayed for a few days. It was a wet year for Waverly and the pond offers much to its residents as well as travelers. In the last three weeks, a Great Blue Heron has come to stay as has a snowy egret, which Wikipedia says is a white heron.KMHuberimage; Great Blue Heron

There was a time when I thought such distinctions important but now I’m happy just to see waterfowl. Cooper is a Beagle and other kinds of hounds–I am German, Russian and French and more—waterfowl, canine and human living out who and what they are in the shadows of the winter solstice.

Even as I attempt to photograph the egret and the heron, I am only able to capture their mirror images softened in the morning mist, their clarity beyond my lens, more a painting than a snapshot. In my autumn years, my focus blurs distinctions in any species.

KMHuberImage; Snowy EgretOn another morning, one when Cooper and I do not cross the bridge to the gazebo, we watch an anhinga drying its feathers on turtle row. Outside the gazebo, Cooper and I are more noticeable–I like to think that our daily presence makes us a familiar scent but that is human silliness—Cooper keeps us at what seems an agreeable distance to all, much more interested in trees and shrubs than the water or fowl.

I watch him more than he realizes. Every time, I am glad that we are at Waverly on this day and that he is engaging with every scent he can find. Even in winter there are many. I do my best to stay as present as Cooper for far too easily my mind wanders to spring and whether or not Cooper will be with me at Waverly, gazebo or no.KMHuberImage

In the winter of his life, Cooper pays the season no mind for every Waverly morning we have is the only one that concerns him.

However you celebrate the holidays, be present.


KM Huber is a writer who learned Zen from a beagle. She believes the moment is all we ever have, and it is enough. In her early life as a hippie, she practiced poetry, and although her middle years were a bit of a muddle, she remains an overtly optimistic sexagenerian, writing prose. She blogs at kmhubersblog.com, may be followed on Twitter @KM_Huber or contacted by email at writetotheranch[at]gmail[dot]com.

© 2013 KM Huber. All content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact me at the above links to request permission.

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