by Doctor Science
It's snowing lightly and sticking, for now, so we're seeing something a little like a White Christmas. Hopefully it won't be around tomorrow, when the Christians are driving down from Long Island.
Normally me, Our Guy, and the Sprogs celebrate on the 25th in the Tradition of Our People: Chinese food and a movie, which was going to be "Les Miz" this year (so I'm keeping away from lj's post for the nonce). Then the Christians arrive and we have Xmas dinner on the 26th. But this year they'll be here on the 25th itself, so Jewish Christmas is postponed until the weekend.
16 Kambara:This was the first edition of Hiroshige's famous series.
A mountain village at nightfall under deep snow, through which three people are toiling, one with his head buried in a half open umbrella.
Over the last 300 years, our relationship to winter has turned from one in which winter called the shots to one in which we do. The season once exerted a brutal grip on the populations of the northern hemisphere. The only correct attitude, Gopnik says, was to hold it at bay, to survive it.This reminds me of At Day's Close: Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch, which made me aware in a way I hadn't been before that pre-modern people had, on average, nights that were fully 12 hours long -- and in the winter much longer. That was an awful lot of time to sleep, hang out, and not do anything you really need good vision for (=sex, gossip, nursing the baby, story-telling, sex). So when you're reading a story and travelers are keeping watch in shifts? That's *totally easy*, it's not like anyone's losing sleep, they're in the solid dark for 10-12 hours or more. Ekirch argues that in pre-modern societies most people slept in two 3-6 hour stretches, with a break in between for conversation, sex, or just thinking.
... for Gopnik, the Romantics essentially invented winter, largely because they were living inside and looking at it from the comfort of their drawing rooms. ...
This would be even more the case at high latitudes in winter. Remember, humans are evolved for tropical and sub-tropical locations, where nights are from 10-14 hours in length. In England, though, nights may be 16 hours long in late December, and in Scandinavia longer still. That's enough time for monkeys to get *really* antsy, sitting in the dark. No wonder my Viking ancestors are famous for things like really long epic poetry, alcohol abuse, blackout rage, and vacations in Byzantium.
The Spectator review says that Gopnik writes
with deep regret [about] the banishment of winter by the insulating comforts of modern life. We have left behind the magical transition zone in which the culture lived from 1750 until 1950. ‘As safety grows, the sense of season flees from us. A sense of security is excellent for civic capital, bad for sensibilities.’ Winter is now over. All we have is shopping and television. ‘We have all gone inside, and may be some time.’