Thursday, December 11, 2014

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

I like watching the flow of nature’s cycles. I’m so inspired by Earth’s beautiful and amazing and intricate creatures and rhythms. Right now, it’s ten days until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year for us northern hemisphere folks.

The word solstice comes from Middle English, derived from the Latin solstitium (sol sun + -stit-, -stes standing; akin to Latin stare to stand). The sun actually seems to “stand” at the solstice. It pauses for about three days, rising and setting at nearly the same points on the horizon. 

Where I live, sunrise is currently around 6:45 a.m. and sunset about 4:45 p.m. So, fourteen hours of darkness and ten of daylight. Sometimes those nights feel long. (Nothing like the constant dark at the North Pole though! Not sure I could handle that.)

People have been thinking about the winter solstice for millennia. Ancient stone monuments like Stonehenge mark its alignment. It’s no wonder that many cultures have traditions to celebrate it. Some stay awake throughout the longest night and welcome the next morning’s sunrise as a new beginning.  Some decree bright, noisy celebrations to drive back the dark. For me, the winter solstice is a good time to take stock. I think about the year past, consider what’s ready to wither away in my life and what might be waiting to unfold. I remember that no seed sprouts without a time in the dark.

Here’s the gift of a Margaret Atwood poem about this time of year.

This is the solstice, the still point

of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year's threshold
and unlocking, where past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.
Taking hands like children
lost in a six-dimensional
forest, we step across.
Margaret Atwood

May your holidays be wonderful!

Jane Ashford

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  1. Winter Solstice marks when the tide of night has crested. It's the first sign that spring will come. It's an essential time mark if you depend on either hunting/gathering or agriculture to survive. It gives you a reference point for when to expect herd beasts to give birth. It also gives you a warning to finish getting ready for spring planting. Keep in mind also that before cheap reliable artificial light, most cultures feared the night and operated by daylight as much as possible.

  2. I like it when it gets dark earlier in the day. It makes it easier to get my daughter to bed at night. During the summer we have to talk A LOT about how it really is bedtime and it's just the time change making it look earlier. Give me winter over that any day!

  3. I like the quality of light on that day. It's somehow more calming.
    May you have a wonderful holiday too, Jane.