Tonight . . . we celebrate the winter solstice . . . the longest night of the year. For me, in my little corner of the world, that means the sun will rise this morning at 8:07 am and it will set this evening at 5:12 pm, giving me . . . just a few minutes over 9 hours of daylight today.
For contrast, at the summer solstice last June, we had 15 hours and 16 minutes (and 35 seconds, but who’s counting?) of daylight. So we’ve “lost” 6 hours of daylight over those 6 months. Or I guess you could say we’ve “gained” 6 hours of darkness. Either way you look at it, it’s awfully dark for an awfully long time these days.
I really do like a lot of things about winter. I like snow. I like it when it’s really cold out and you get all bundled up to leave the house . . . and then feel all that warm goodness inside when you return. I like twinkle lights and candles and a fire in the fireplace. I like soups and chili and glögg. I like sweaters. I like the sunsets.
That said, I’m never, ever unhappy about the days getting longer. Because I really (really) like those long summer nights.
In yesterday’s advent calendar offering, I explained that I’d recently read Winter Solstice: An Essay by Nina MacLaughlin. She explained, much more eloquently than any science textbook could, just what happens at the winter solstice . . .
“The whole earth spins tilted on its axis at 23.5 degrees. That tilt delivers us our seasons and it slants us now away from the sun and into winter. A seasonal and celestial paradox: we’re closer to the sun in winter than we are in summer. It’s not like lowering your palm toward a candle flame. The midday sun rides low during these solstice-close days. Low above the trees and the sea, low between the hills on the outskirts of town. The arc the sun describes has been flattening since its high peak on the summer solstice six months ago. Stand outside at midday in this short-day time of year, you’ll see your shadow at its longest, darkness stretching out from under you over the surface of the earth, reaching for something and inviting you to follow. Our shadows achieve their great height these days; they come into their power. “
— Nina MacLaughlin, in Winter Solstice: An Essay
If it’s sunny where you live today, try to get outside at midday. Look for your shadow. See what it’s inviting you to follow.
Welcome back the light.
That photo of me and my shadow? I took it in early December, when we had some snow. It melted quickly, and then . . . no snow until we had a “lake effect” surprise earlier this week. But now it’s warm again. Not a snowflake in sight for this winter solstice!
If you’re wondering what this “advent calendar” is all about, you can read my “intro” post here.