A nocturne on St. Lucie’s Day.

Today is the shortest day of the year. In 1633 John Donne wrote in his Nocturne,

The world’s whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk…

The word “hydroptic” sounds means the same thing as “hydrophilic”, the word on contact lens boxes: water-absorbing, thirsty. The balm of life has been so deeply absorbed into the earth that it isn’t visible; the world is quiescent, dormant — seemingly dead.

Today, the world’s whole sap is sunk. Except in San Francisco, it isn’t. Living in San Francisco is like living outside of time. We don’t really have seasons. We have beautiful sunny days and riotous wildlife year round, and it never snows. I’d neglected a plant for a few days because of my surgery, and it was looking rather sad and wilted. I watered it and put it under a lamp, and in an hour it had perked right up, making me feel like E.T. with his glowing finger.

So for me, at any rate, the main cue that we live on a planetary surface at all is the changing length of the days. Today, here, it will be dark by 4:54. In London, where Donne lived, it will be dark by 3:52.

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of blindness. According to legend, she was blinded but miraculously got her eyes, or at least her vision, back. Today, we make miracles like this happen all the time. My right ear’s sap has been sunk for 25 years. But a seed’s been planted in it: a seed bustling with silicon and electrodes. It’s dormant now, quiescent. But it’ll germinate on January 24th, when it’s saturated, not with water or sunlight, but with data.

In other news, my latest story, The Naked Ear, just came out in Technology Review‘s Jan/Feb 2008 print edition. This is an expanded version of my web story on Otologics’ fully implantable hearing aid — it’s twice the length, and it’s written from a personal point of view. There’s also a video of me explaining how it works. I think this is the best video I’ve done so far. I feel like I’m really getting the hang of working with the camera – how to enunciate, how to use my hands, how to be expressive.

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