Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, a brilliant, oversized, eccentric armchair detective created in 1934 by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe was born in Montenegro and keeps his past murky. He lives in a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street in New York City, and he is loath to leave his home for business or anything that would keep him from reading his books, tending his orchids, or eating the gourmet meals prepared by his chef, Fritz Brenner. Archie Goodwin, Wolfe’s sharp-witted, dapper young confidential assistant with an eye for attractive women, narrates the cases and does the legwork for the detective genius.
Stout wrote 33 novels and 41 novellas and short stories from 1934 to 1975, with most of them set in New York City. The stories have been adapted for film, radio, television and the stage. The Nero Wolfe corpus was nominated for Best Mystery Series of the Century at Bouchercon2000, the world’s largest mystery convention, and Rex Stout was a nominee for Best Mystery Writer of the Century.
January is a long, cold month. Longing for a break I see The Old Farmer’s Almanac says the January thaw begins today. This phenomenon is no myth. Annual averages really do show a slight temperature increase, and subsequent dip, during the final week of January. On average, January 23 is the coldest day of the year in much of the Northern Hemisphere. Almost exactly six months later sits July 24, the warmest day of the year, on average. Between those two dates, average daily temperatures show a fairly predictable rate of increase. While there may be deviations from that pattern during any given year, the model holds true when looked at over a period of several years. During the January Thaw, which usually lasts for about a week, temperatures rise an average of 10° F higher than the previous week, then drop back down in time for February’s arrival. Though it’s called a “thaw,” the January Thaw doesn’t necessarily melt away snow and ice during its stay. In areas where winter weather is exceptionally cold, temperatures during the thaw may not even rise above freezing. More temperate regions, however, may even experience what could be described as a “false spring.”
Though predictable, the climb from cold weather to warm and back again, is not completely smooth. Small “blips” in the overall pattern reveal noticeable fluctuations that can be observed from year to year. These blips are called singularities in weather lingo. Indian Summer, a period of unseasonably warm weather that usually appears in mid-October, is one such blip. The January Thaw is another.
January 2oth will begin the period of Major or Greater Cold. It is supposed to be the coldest time of the year. In fact we had extremely cold weather a few weeks earlier and now we are having what might be termed “normal” colder weather interspersed with actual warm spells. On the bright side it means I’ll be paying lower utility bills.
It also means I can get out to cut up some of the firewood to replace what was burned when the wind chills took us below zero measured in Fahrenheit. If the weather continues to yo-yo in this way I want to be ready for the next dip. Since the floors get so cold and the house stays cold even after it starts to warm up outside I’m not really complaining about the warm spells. It’s getting close to the Chinese New Year, the one I like to celebrate and make a big production out of. The warm weather means I can get out to shop and open the doors and windows for cleaning without making the house feel like the arctic.
This year the 20th is also the day of the Kitchen God Festival. According to tradition the evening of this day he and his wife will return to heaven to report to the jade emperor on the management of the house hold. Offerings are made (some say bribes) so they will make a good report and the Jade Emperor will shower fortune on the family. Honey is dabbed on to the lips of the couple o the paper portrait put above the stove. This is also to ensure that the report is “sweet” although some suspicious types say it’s to seal the lips and keep them silent, instead of giving a bad report. Late in the evening the old picture comes down and is burned. It is replaced with a new one on New Year’s Day. My kitchen god and his wife are pasted on a cabinet door over the stove. He also used to be called the stove god and mine is pasted above my stove on a cabinet door and serves a special purpose. The electrics in this house are so dubious I am really concerned about fires and he serves to remind me to be careful around the stove and to be fire safety conscious.
Chinese New Year also cheers me up in another way. As it approaches the sun sets later and the sun rises earlier. Mi Sun is better than an alarm clock. Except when we have time changes she is meowing in my ear at precisely 6:30 AM every morning. Occasionally I will ignore her until seven but then she gets insistent. I am starting to see light on the horizon when I get up rather than total darkness. So in spite of the calendar saying it is Major Cold and the skies often dark and cloudy, I am not feeling the gloom of deep winter this year.
The streets of Chinatown are jammed during the week before Chinese New Year, as everyone stocks up before businesses close on New Year’s Eve. Most of your shopping will focus on food and decorations. Common items in your shopping list will include ingredients for your reunion dinner, flowering plants and paper decorations like spring couplets for the home, red envelopes for gifts and the makings of a Tray of Togetherness for visitors. The Chinese believe that abundance at Chinese New Year will carry forward into the next year, so make sure your rice bins are full.
The Kitchen God is believed to look after a family’s nourishment and well-being. About a week before Chinese New Year, on the 23rd or 24th day of the 12th lunar month, the Kitchen God ascends to the heavens to report on the family’s behavior from the previous year to the Jade Emperor. In most homes, the Kitchen God is honored in the form of a paper image hung above the family’s stove. On the appointed day, take down this image, smear the Kitchen God’s mouth with honey (to sweeten the report) and then burn it to send the spirit off. On New Year’s Eve, hang a new image of the Kitchen God to look after the family for the upcoming year.
In Chinese traditional culture, the Kitchen God will report to the Jade Emperor about the daily affairs of each family. Based on the report, the Jade Emperor will decide whether or not to reward this family. People will sacrifice candy, water, beans to the Kitchen God to flatter him, so that he can report good things about the family. As a result, the Jade Emperor may not punish the family, which can live safe and sound during the next year. On the Festival’s Eve, the Kitchen God will go back to the human’s world, so he will get a warm welcome from human beings. After this sacrifice on this day, the ancestors will be worshipped by the whole family, and the sacrifice remains in place till December 30.
We’re just days into the new year and the universe is already treating us to a celestial phenomenon. During 2020, there will be 13 full moons to catch (see the list here) and on Friday, January 10, we’ll get to see the first one. But this ain’t just any full moon, my stargazing friends. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, legend has it that wolves were heard howling more frequently during this time of year, which led January’s full moon to acquire the name “Wolf Moon.” On Friday, however, there won’t just be a full “Wolf Moon,” but also a full “Wolf Moon Eclipse.”
Now, there’s some good new and bad news. The bad news is that the actual full “Wolf Moon Eclipse” will only be visible in Asia, Australia, Europe, and Africa— us folks in North America will not be able to see it since it will take place during our daytime. The good news is that North America *will* get to observe the ~rise of the full “Wolf Moon”~ later that day.
To fill you in, this “Wolf Moon Eclipse” is classified as a penumbral lunar eclipse, which occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s outer shadow known as the penumbra. It is the first of four penumbral eclipses scheduled to take place in 2020, according to Time and Date. During this type of eclipse, which is often subtle and hard to spot, the full moon appears slightly darker than usual as the Earth blocks some of the sun’s light from directly reaching the moon’s surface. Generally speaking, it’s not as exciting as a partial lunar eclipse, when a large chunk of the moon is blacked out, or a total lunar eclipse when the Earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon, resulting in a red-ish looking moon or “Blood Moon” as some call it. Anyway, the “Wolf Moon Eclipse” is slated to last around four hours on January 10 with the moon entering the Earth’s outer shadow at 12:06 pm EST (8:06 am AKST) and leaving the shadow at 4:14 pm EST (12:14 pm AKST). It will reach its full peak at at 2:21 pm EST (10:21 am AKST)—this is the best time to snap those pics FYI.
While this isn’t the most mind-blowing moon you’ll see this year, it’s still worth checking out. And remember, there’s still 12 other full moons this year to look forward to if you miss this one.
The first full moon of the new decade is headed our way, and it’s definitely living up to any and every monumental expectation you might choose to place upon it — because it also happens to be a lunar eclipse, here to rock our world as eclipses love to do. But it’s likely that the January 2020 lunar eclipse full moon will affect the new year far beyond this weekend. The changes taking place now are set to influence our lives over the first half of 2020, as we’ll see the themes and issues it’s bringing up linger up through the next set of eclipses that will begin in June of this year. This series of eclipses and their ongoing influence is known as an eclipse phase.
“The January 10 lunar eclipse combines with the December 26 solar eclipse to form an eclipse phase that lasts until the lunar eclipse on June 5, 2020,” shared astrologer Jamie Partridge of Astrology King. ” The December 2019 solar eclipse was … very fortunate. But combined with this ruthless lunar eclipse it suggests the strong will consolidate their power, the rich will get richer, and the poor will get poorer.” This eclipse is dealing with issues of authority (Capricorn territory) and safety (Cancer territory), and there are some intense aspects that give off an authoritarian air. This simply means that in the areas where we do feel powerful and strong, we must use that power for good, and reach out to help others who need a hand during this rocky astrological time.
But let’s pause on that and discuss this question: What is an eclipse in astrology? During eclipse seasons, the Nodes of Fate (also known as the North and South Nodes), which represent lessons of the past and the fate of our future, are activated by the moon. Currently, the Nodes are in Cancer and Capricorn, which align with the recent series of eclipses (the eclipse during the Dec. 26, 2019 new moon was in Capricorn, while the upcoming full moon eclipse will be in Cancer). And the upcoming Jan. 10 eclipse is actually part of an even longer, nearly two-year eclipse cycle that began back in the summer of 2018. With this cycle finally concluding, we’ll see the themes, issues, and life changes that come up for us now linger through the lunar eclipse on Jun. 5, which begins a new eclipse series on the Gemini/Sagittarius axis —and we’ll want to be prepared.
Astrologer Nura Rachelle, also known as Moon Mystic, spoke with Bustle and broke things down further. “The January Full Moon Eclipse is happening at 20˚ Cancer,” she explains. As mentioned, the North Node (which represents the energy we should be embracing and striving toward as we move into the future) is also in Cancer, alongside the full moon. “Of course, the South Node [is also] considered here,” continues Rachelle, “as having the Full Moon within a close enough orb of the South Node (at 8˚ Capricorn) is what makes this an eclipse.” (Here’s an explainer on the North and South Nodes if you’d like to dig a little deeper!)
So let’s get back to how this affects us on a personal level. Because of the nature of this Cancer/Capricorn axis, the energy we are dealing with during these eclipses have to do with safety and security — and this applies to our emotional states of being just as much as it does our literal and financial ones. Eclipses always bring an air of unpredictability. Unlike a typical full moon, which is useful for bringing projects to a head or a conclusion, a full moon eclipse is more likely to bring realizations, often of the unexpected sort. Ask yourself: What was coming up for you during the last eclipse during the December 2019 new moon? You’re likely to see a continued thread of energy under this upcoming luminary, but with a shift toward the emotional and spiritual rather than the physical or financial.
With this full moon in Cancer (which is the sign ruled by the moon!), we’ll be dealing with matters of our emotional safety, comfort zones, and what makes us feel nurtured — and given the eclipse-y energy, these parts of our lives may feel a bit unstable, which can be scary and unsettling. “This eclipse will make us access our shadow self,” explains astrologer Lisa Stardust, who spoke with Bustle. “We can avoid personal drama if we embrace our emotions and sentiments. Being kind to ourselves and others is essential.” Allowing space for our feelings and sentimental values under the Cancer moon is a must during this eclipse.
Nerve-wracking as it may be, we can expect the events, realizations, and emotional breakthroughs that take place under this full moon to ultimately help align us on the right path — or perhaps put us on new paths entirely. That said, you’ll want to keep track of what changes are afoot and how you’re feeling: “On Friday it’s best to keep a journal by your side, especially with Mercury tightly conjunct the sun,” advised astrologer Six, who spoke with Bustle. “It’s possible that new opportunities and plans can arise, propelling some of us into long-term projects.”
We may feel a lack of control due to the effects of the eclipse, but should trust that it’s for the best — and know that it’s not over, either, because we’ll be dealing with these themes for the first half of the year. The energy that surfaces now will be worked on continually and revisited throughout the coming six months. Pay close attention to what matters arise for you emotionally and otherwise under this lunar eclipse, as you’ll find that things come full circle during 2020’s halfway point, marking the end of this Cancer/Capricorn eclipse cycle.