The Winter Solstice is almost here. The shortest day, (and hence the longest night) of the year in the northern hemispher occurs generally on December 20th, 21st or 22nd.  Most of my early years were  spent at a town 13 degree North. Back there, solstice, or equinox, there isn’t much of a difference :)  June 21st, supposedly the longest day of the year, was in the early rainy season and so the chance of seeing the sun was rather dim.

Later when I spent a few years in a city located 19 degree North,  it started making sense why they said that the days were much longer in the northern hemisphere in June🙂.  I was thrilled to see the evening twilight last till 7:45 pm. 

All my elementary Geogrphy text books told me that between the tropic of cancer and the arctic circle lies the “temperate” zone. It was translated in Kannada as “ಸಮಶೀತೋಷ್ಣ ವಲಯ” –  a region where cold and warmth are balanced. These books had also told me that between the Equator and the Tropic of the Cancer where  I lived was called the Tropical zone – ಉಷ್ಣ ವಲಯ – “a hot region”.  

As a nine year old, my thinking was that our summers were hot because it was located in thetropics.  The word ‘temperate’ suggested me some kind of ideal climate where it is pleasantly cool in winter, and warm in summer. Later I discovered  many places in North India located north of Tropic of Cancer,  did not actually fit my dreamy discription. But since I never visited any place north of Vindhyas, my mental imagery of a temperate paradise had remained somewhere deep in my brain. 

The real weather shocker came when I moved to a city in the western hemisphere, located at 38 degree north. Wow! It was July when I arrived here, and the he Sun set at 8:50 pm.  To top that the days were hot as hell. Six months later – in December, it was bone chilling cold ( well, at least to a person from tropics!). Now I understand the meaning of temperate = sama-sheetOShNa = ‘ equally cold and hot’. My text books were accurate to the dot.  Temperate was indeed equally balanced between winter and summer! : “Hot as hell in summer, and Bone chilling cold in winter”!

Surprisingly, in the USA the winter solstice is called the first day of winter. In my opinion,  it seems little illogical. The  days will get only longer from now on.  If this is not mid-winter, at least I should say it is a month into winter. But can it really be the first day of winter? I doubt. But I am not a weather man. So  who am I to have a say anything about this matter? But, if you want to know about the origin of the winter solstice festival in India, and can read Kannada, you may like to read this link, and this link.

Anyway where I live now,  winter is generally characterised by denuded trees. Typically this is what I expect to see is this in my neighbourhood. Quite a bleak sight indeed.

A Winter Street

Here, winter also happens to be the  rainy season.  So we see lots of dull, cloudy windy days. More like the one shown in the picture below.

Typical winter day

But why would we call it “Mother Nature” if not for her whims and  quirks?

I found an opportunity to photograph some really nice “fall foliage” just around the corner from my house today, the 20th of December.  Olny two days to go before winter solstice, and perfect colors so typicall of Fall! 

Some of those snaps are here.

bahu-roopi.jpgfierce-red.jpgyellow-maple.jpgperfect-fall.jpggreen-yellow-red.jpg

This  reminded me of the 500 mile road trip I made two months ago to see fall foliage in northern California. The quality here in my neighborhood is as good as “The Road to Paradise” . Quantity?  I wouldn’t try to compare!

-neelanjana