Yet another definition of midwinter

A group met on the third Monday of the month, which was January 18. They were few, and I said vapidly that the reason was the weather, to which someone added: “Yes, it’s D Day. You’ve heard of D Day?”

I had heard of D Day, and had a moment of embarrassment – had I forgotten that today was that great Day, the commemoration of the 1944 Normandy landings? (It was June 6, as you remembered instantly, if you’re more calendrically minded than me.) “Depression Day,” the jokester explained.

This D Day that I hadn’t heard of, is it popular? – well, obviously it’s not popular, but it may be in popular parlance, like Tax Day. Let’s add it to the list of definitions of the nadir of the year, along with the solstice and St. Lucy’s Day. (Click the “Index” tab above – or click this, which I think should take you to the same place – and look for “seasons, definitions of.”)

Is this D-for-Depression Day January the 18th? I didn’t get a serious answer to the question. Maybe it’s the middle of January, or any day in January; it certainly could be today. I wish I could really have gone out before sunrise to see this scene:


I wish there would be a sunrise, sometime soon.

“Day” has a capital-letter meaning in a land where there is too much sunshine. In pre-Islamic Arabia, the Days of the Arabs, Ayyâm al-`Arab, were battles between tribes. They were not very bloodthirsty, but they were occasions for the poets to insult their enemies and boast of their own heroism. For instance the Day of Bu`âth, between the two tribes who lived in Medina; the Day of Transgression, fought in the month when you were supposed not to fight; and the Day of Basûs – she was an old woman whose camel had been injured. That Day dragged on for forty years, as did the most famous of all the Days, the Day of Dâhis and al-Ghabrâ.  They were a horse and a mare who ran a race and whose owners, the cousin tribes `Abs and Dhubyân, quarreled as to which had cheated.

Ayyâm is the plural of yawm, “day,” and `arab also is a plural word, the singular being `arabî, “an Arab.” And Arabic has no capital letters.

While I was writing this – the sun burst out! I had to get outside for a ride, and to add a sketch.



8 thoughts on “Yet another definition of midwinter”

  1. By the way, we finally had a break in the clouds for the rising full Moon last night. She was full only 15 minutes after moonrise, and I think she looked noticeably brighter yesterday evening than 12 hours later this morning. The sky was clear again this morning, so I was able to see all five classical planets from the top of Bernal hill — all seven if you include the Moon and Sun as classical planets, or the six innermost modern planets if you include the Earth, although the Earth never rises above the horizon.

    1. I like that – surealistic – sets us thinking of mirages, Jack and the beanstalk, Earthrise from the Noon, Laputa (the flying island)…

  2. You got me thinking about the astronomy of D-Day. Eisenhower planned the invasion for the new moon of June. The airborne troops who landed the night before had cover of darkness. The dawn high tide brought the amphibious landing craft closer to shore and gave the infantry less beach to cross to get to the German defenses. The long days around the solstice provided plenty of daylight for warfare.

  3. If I recall correctly, you made a similar point a few years back. You wrote that a real astronomer is someone who likes to look up; not only to observe the night sky but also to appreciate the beauty of the clouds during the day.

    I especially like partly cloudy days. Cumulus clouds seem to make the sky appear more blue. Cirrus clouds produce sundogs and sun pillars which are also visual treats.

    1. I loved clouds long before I learned to love the stars.
      Sometime I may find my childhood poetry about them.

      1. My first love of nature was precipitation. I was fascinated by rain, snow, hail, etc.

  4. Maybe it’s called Depression Day because we’ve just come through the darkest 60 days of the year, so Light Deprivation Syndrome is prevalent. Not only are the days short, but only about 25% of the days are partly sunny or sunny, at least in Cleveland.

    Actually there is lots of light. I’ve found that if I gaze at the zenith on a cloudy day it’s so bright that the eyelids tend to shut. Maybe that’s the cure for light deprivation depression.

    Rather than getting depressed this time of year, I always look forward to January 16th, which is the meteorological center of winter. This is when the average high temperature and low temperature begin an upward trend. Like all living creatures, I like being warm.

    1. More constructive ideas from Rick. (Or, rather: further constructive ideas. This is one of the worst of english ambiguities.)
      Whereas cloudy night-time skies are disliked by astronomers, I find cloudy daytime skies often the most interesting. From indoors, it may appear that the world outside is just gray, but out under that sky you can see in it endless overlapping forms and clues as to where the sun is.

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