Friday, 11 December 2020

Dark Days

 This post title could easily relate to the disastrous and ongoing world-wide coronavirus pandemic that, in spite of punishing restrictions on socialising and hospitality, the human race seem little closer to getting under control now than we did nine months ago. Maybe the introduction of a vaccine, which is just now very gradually being rolled-out, will bring about some improvement in the situation, but I don't see a lot changing any time soon.

But, no - the dark days to which I refer here are the northern hemisphere winter-time days of short daylight that have happened every year since time began - and indeed, would have happened before time existed. It is about 4.30pm here now, and completely dark outside. It won't get light again until around 8.30am tomorrow morning. On cloudy or rainy days, it barely gets fully light at all. For something like a month every year, we pass through this period of perpetual gloom.  It is quite a challenging time - not least for the birds and animals that have such a short day to forage for enough to eat to keep them going through the long and often cold night. 

It was as recently as 1952 that a hydro-electricity scheme brought electricity for the first time to much of the Isle of Skye. Before then, it is hard to imagine how people coped with candles and oil lamps for their lighting, and no electrically-powered entertainment. It is little wonder that story-telling and the playing of fiddle, accordion, pipes and tabor were (and still are) so popular.

To offset the gloom - just occasionally we get a glorious day of winter sunshine, which very likely begins and ends with an orange, pink, purple and blue sunrise and sunset. Even at mid-day, the sun has only climbed a short way into the sky, so its dazzling rays shine directly through the windows of the houses and cast long shadows on the hills. It is a special and spectacular kind of light that really needs to be experienced to be understood. Sadly, sunlit December days are all too rare.

Of course, the bonus is that in six months time, we will bask in very long hours of daylight, with the sky never going fully black at all during much of June.

I wonder if by then, the dark days of coronavirus will also be behind us...?

Winter sunset, Loch Dunvegan

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