The solstices get all the glory. Western calendars include both the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, despite the fact that most people don't celebrate pagan holidays or care a whit about astronomy.
Maggie Settler often wondered why those two dates garnered so much attention. People seem stuck on the idea of there being a longest day and a longest night, a beginning and an ending, a climax and a dramatic end.
She knew deep down that it was all nonsense. Life wasn't as exciting and ironic as a Greek drama and the universe was hardly ever so simple as the flip-flopping of the solstices. She'd tried explaining to her family last year at the Independence Day cookout that July 4th was Earth's aphelion, the day the planet was farthest away from the Sun. They scoffed at her like she was a mad woman selling sanity pills at twenty bucks a pop. If they were the farthest away from the sun we will be all year, why the hell was it so hot?
It seemed to Maggie that the most significant days were the ones unheralded. Often the moments you mistake for transitory are actually when the fuse is being lit. She didn't know anybody in this strange city she could talk to about it, though. There were a few familiar faces from college and one very busy editor friend, but these were people who were already very successful and engrossed in their own weekly schedules; they didn't understand that Maggie was at the very beginning of her journey and as much as they might have cared, they didn't have time to listen to the uncertain and insecure when they had very real deadlines to meet.
How did some people manage leave college and immediately pick up where their dreams left off? That world of fast-paced creative and social strokes was locked away from Maggie and a small part of her was grateful for that. As much as her future was tenuous, she wasn't on tip-toe with her head in some corporate noose for the next ten or twenty years. The city she had at first railed against, with its imposing architecture and crowded streets, now seemed almost like a welcome roommate whose annoying bad habits were simply quirky and endearing.
Despite her sense of freedom, Maggie felt she had lost her sense of promise long ago. She'd signed on with too many "will not think" things, jobs that required two hands and a bucket: inquisitive minds need not apply. Life used to be this big mysterious thing, but now Maggie had mastered the art of waiting for it to catch up to her. She waited for her next paycheck, her next false compliment or managerial chastisement (did it matter which one?), her next dramatic life crisis that would last about a week until the hideous bill was paid or cockroach invasion exterminated. One could hardly blame Maggie for not seeing the mysteries life has to offer in a swarm of cockroaches in the kitchen sink.
She'd left the town she'd been born and raised in without feeling like she'd left her home, she'd left college without a degree, and now she was leaving the blue collar underground without her stripes. Why she felt motivated to do it she couldn't say; she was as bewildered as her parents the day their young daughter asked what the big deal was about Winter Solstice. And although there was nothing really linking her to a some variant on the American dream, she did intend to honor that idea, even if no one would know or care that she invested some small part of herself into her work to make her life count for something more than minimum wage.
This practice was what Maggie called active waiting. She was still waiting, still not completely in control of the circumstances in which she found herself, but she was being more careful and precise about it now.