Tuesday, 21 December 2010

O Oriens

The antiphon for this the shortest day of the year, Winter Solstice, does not curse the darkness, but rejoices in the light that is. Oriens / Dayspring refers to the sun, for without the sun no life on earth could exist. The church at prayer has never worshipped the sun but does see Christ's presence symbolised in it - He who is the light shining in darkness, which darkness cannot overcome. The light of hope, the light of trust, the light of love that gives meaning and purpose to all that exists.

O Daystar, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

We didn't wake up and watch the eclipse in the middle of last night, too tired after the party. There's cloud in the sky today and snow is forecast. Looking out of the window on rising I saw a freight train passing on the other side of the valley, a mile or so away I guess, and the best part of a mile long. The first night we were here and several times since, I've heard the rumble of freight trains in the distance, but this is the first time to see one, this thin thread of brown trucks moving steadily across the horizon just below the perimeter of the forest. The sound of the freight train is one of the great sounds that evoke the spirit and ethos of North America in my mind. 'Freight train, freight train goin' so fast ...' by Chas McDevitt and Nancy Whiskey was one of the first American folk songs I ever learned to play on the guitar. Over fifty years ago. It's taken this long to get around to hearing one running for myself.

I was up and eating muesli and taking my pills before everyone else this morning, so I went out and skiied up and down the fairway before joining the others for more coffee and a croissant. It was cold, around minus thirteen, and it took me ages to warm up. After lunch, John and I took Jasmine up the ski hill to get her kitted out for the snowy season and re-familiarise her with the nursery slope. I hired some equipment to try out, not knowing if I'd be confident or have sufficient control to enjoy an outing on the new short waisted skis. Instead of an afternoon pass - there was only an hour and a half left to ski in - I bought a couple of lift pass tickets, and went twice on the drag lift to access the easy slopes to see how I got on.

I was delighted with the outcome and then took the chairlift to the top, and skied down in a leisurely fashion, thoroughly enjoying the ease of it all. Yes, like getting back on a bike again after a long spell, but in this case, like getting on a rather posh new bike that makes the most of your efforts. I had enough time to do another run, but no ticket, and maybe not quite sufficient reserve energy to make a good job of it, so I quit while I was ahead - i.e. before I fell, or began to hurt with exhaustion - the way I used to ski. I joined John and Jasmine in the restaurant, and then we headed for home, mission accomplished, undamaged and looking forward to the next outing. I'm pleased to think that I can still do this without difficulty, despite being five years older than when I last did ski alpin. But I'm also fifteen kilos lighter, and that makes all the difference.

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