Solstice

Solstice: from Latin solstitium “point at which the sun seems to stand still,” from sol “sun” + sistere “to come to a stop, make stand still” [1]. The highest or lowest excursion of the sun, relative to the Earth’s celestial equator. [2] 

Today marks the winter solstice for us here in the southern hemisphere. The shortest, darkest day of the year. Here in Hobart that means an 8 am sunrise and a 4:30 pm sunset (not counting the few minutes when the sun is supposedly up but is hidden by the hills and mountains surrounding this little city). It’s a day where I’m in the office at dawn and leaving at dusk; a day that means winter.

These days, the solstice is easy to forget: busy, indoor lives and electric lighting mean we pay less attention to the passage of the sun across our skies. In the rush to juggle work, family, chores and hobbies many of us don’t give much thought to the turning of the seasons as this little ball of water and rock wobbles it’s way through space.

Solstice – equinox – solstice – equinox; the pattern of the year, the dates by which the seasons were once measured, times to stop, to reflect on our place in the great planetary dance. Ancient cultures paid a lot of attention to such dates, building temples and tombs that align to the quarterly positions of the sun and marking the dates with ceremonies and celebrations. While we may no longer believe in the death of the Green Man or the Tying of the Sun[3] I think it’s still important to observe the solstices and equinoxes, taking time to connect with the cycle of the seasons and reflect on what they mean to us.

Dragon dreamining

Winter: I exhale, the introverted self prevails. It is time for me to slow my life down, conserving my energies. Time to think a little more and do a little less, reflecting on what the previous summer brought and making plans for the next. It’s the season for planning and preparing for the growth ahead, time to contemplate and dream a little of the shape of things still to come.

As within, so it is without: winter is time to rest the soil in my garden, prepare the soil for spring plantings and plan what I will grow. I’m mulching and composting, feeding the ground, and this weekend (weather permitting) I’ll bury my bulbs to lie dark and dormant until spring warmth provokes them into growth.  Rain and time will work their magic, life underground preparing itself for the return of the sun.

I like winter. Having grown up somewhere sub-tropical I find myself enjoying the distinctive change of the seasons. Winter in Tasmania means waking up to the wonder of snow on the Mountain, it means enjoying the sunrise as I walk to work and curling up in front of the fire in the evenings. Winter is time to catch up on the books I’ve been meaning to read, to catch up with friends over a quiet night in and a home-cooked meal, to catch up on sleep and re-energise myself.

I’m ready for the months of cold and dark, for my fallow season. It feels strange, instead, to be busy preparing for a big holiday, to still be busy, no time to reflect.

I like winter. It’s the best time to watch the stars as they glisten, ice-bright.

Crystalline

[1] www.etymologyonline.com
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solstice
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_solstice

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