Take a walk outside any cloudless evening and turn your eyes toward the southern sky. Unless there’s a tree or a house in the way, you’re likely to see the constellation Orion, the hunter.
Orion’s outline is formed by four bright stars and, honestly, it takes more than just a wee bit of imagination to picture a hunter down on one knee holding up a lion’s skin. My guess is the ancient Greeks who named the guy drank more than just goat’s milk sitting around the fire at night.
It’s easy, though, to recognize Orion’s belt, three equally bright stars floating close to each other right in an angled row.
Did you know that when gazing at Orion’s belt you’re looking out toward the far edge of the galaxy and beyond?
It really is a wonderful sight, and I hated it for years.
Orion, you see, is a cold-weather constellation. He first climbs up over the eastern horizon in November and doesn’t disappear in the west until May.
He heralds a time of short days and long nights, leafless trees and brown or white yards, scratchy throats and runny noses, spinning tires and frozen door locks. No dining al fresco at waterfront eateries. No barbecues. No dropping a mortgage payment for a hotdog, Coke and bag of peanuts at Yankee Stadium.
I probably have a touch of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you know, depression tied to a lack of light. Which is strange because, with my skin, I get sunburned just by opening the refrigerator.
For most of my life, winter was time to hunker down in survival mode. Then the passing of Valentine’s Day means the defeat of Jack Frost and the opening of spring training are drawing nigh. Then comes the spring equinox and, at last, the glorious and blessed return of daylight-saving time.
Oh, dandelions, verdant, sweet and wild. How I love thee!
But as the years have passed, a strange transformation came o’er me and I began to view winter as a season to be embraced and enjoyed, not just endured.
A high tolerance for cold obviously has something to do with that. So does being busy. So was skating in the open air Thursday night in a 35-and-older hockey game. But most o’ the lads seemed to be 35 and a week, and breaking a leg or suffering a similarly serious injury would fall under the “not cool” category.
I’ll say this, though. When I came off the ice for a substitution, I stayed outside on the bench and didn’t run into the heated shed like most of ‘em.
Boy, they don’t make 35-year-olds like they used to, the big sissies.
No, I never did say that during a game. So what?
Then there’s me piping. And with the coming of St. Patrick’s Month — yes, there’s a parade or something every weekend in March — I now devote meself to practice, practice, practice. That’s what I tell the pipe major, anyway.
OK, so it’s not all dancing snowflakes and crackling fires. January also brings the return of American Idol. It’s a cult, you know. And I learned the hard way that retiring to a hot bath with a good book isn’t an effective escape.
The cats know that the bathroom door doesn’t quite latch all the way, and so any of them can easily push it open. Wherein they jump up on the sink and fix upon me a silent, whiskered stare. What are you lookin’ at? Meanwhile, the door is wide open, the heat’s escaping and woeful warblings from the TV intrude upon my private space and my “me time.”
But with the passing of each day now, Orion begins his nightly swing across the sky closer and closer to the western horizon. By April’s end, he’ll be chased off by Cancer the Crab and Leo the Lion and be gone.
In time, we’ll mark the robin’s return and the greening of the grass and … What in the name of Rutherford B. Hayes is all this? Where’d all these freaking dandelions come from? And why won’t the #$%&* mower start?
Ugh, fall can’t come soon enough.