Darkness Into Light

Winter arrives on Friday at 22:23 UTC.  From that time forward, the Northern Hemisphere will turn back towards the light.  It has been another warm Winter in Minnesota, painted in dull tones of brown and gray.  This piece from 2011 captures the feelings then and now as this time of light and reflection wobbles back through the grace of our tilting planet.

It is dark outside when the alarm goes off, not at all a time to wake up.  The usual 8 hours and 41 minutes of daylight we can expect on a Winter Solstice is never enough to keep us going, even on a relatively warm and sometimes even bright year like this.  The brown Winter of 2011 is just as dark as any other.

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Winter Solstice

It is dark outside when the alarm goes off, not at all a time to wake up.  The usual 8 hours and 41 minutes of daylight we can expect on a Winter Solstice is never enough to keep us going, even on a relatively warm and sometimes even bright year like this.  The icy Winter of 2017 is just as dark as any other.  The Solstice itself, that magic moment when the North Pole starts to wobble back towards the sun, comes on Thursday, 21 December at exactly 16:28 UTC/GMT (10:28 CST).

This is the end of the year traditionally. The new year should begin at Solstice, as is the ancient European tradition, just as the day begins at midnight. The only reason it doesn’t is that the Romans used a calendar, the Julian, that was off a bit by the time Pope Gregory XIII got around to revising it and everything moved ten days. No matter. The world since the Renaissance has increasingly been what we decree, not what we see.

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Solstice Greetings

On Wednesday, 21 December, at 10:44 GMT, the Winter Solstice comes to the Northern Hemisphere. It is the shortest day of the year, but this only means that the world is now turning towards the morning. It only gets lighter from here.

This may seem overly optimistic, but it is true. The biggest problem with this kind of faith is that when we are at the lowest point we also are changing the least. Light will return, yes, but slowly at first.

What is even less obvious at this time of darkness is that the dark is exactly what we make of it.

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Winter Arrives?

It is dark outside when the alarm goes off, not at all a time to wake up.  The usual 8 hours and 41 minutes of daylight we can expect on a Winter Solstice is never enough to keep us going, even on a relatively warm and mild December that developed late in the month.  Here in Minnesota the sky has been grey and the snow has gone, heralding a brown Christmas with muddy dog prints on the floor with every outing.

But today is the first full day of Winter all the same, even if it doesn’t quite feel like it.  The dark tells us so.

This is the end of the year traditionally. The new year should begin at Solstice, as is the ancient European tradition, just as the day begins at midnight. The only reason it doesn’t is that the Romans used a calendar, the Julian, that was off a bit by the time Pope Gregory XIII got around to revising it and everything moved ten days. No matter. The world since the Renaissance has increasingly been what we decree, not what we see.

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Light a Single Candle

Winter Solstice arrives right on schedule this Friday, 21 December, at 11:12 UTC – 5:12 in the morning here by mythical Central Time.  It’s being celebrated as the end of the world, probably not because anyone believes that’s going to happen.  No Mayan actually predicted such an event, but it is the end of their 13 Baktun cycle.  My guess is that the Mayans would have used this as an excuse to celebrate too, although their idea of a “party” often involved horrific acts of violence.  It’s a staple of the day.

What really happens is that this is the moment when the North Pole is pointing directly away from the sun and starts its wobble back.  The exact moment of change in the orbit is also the moment when the long nights change the least, in keeping with the nature of cycles.  Light defines the season for us even more than dark notions of destruction because it is the light that will return.  That is more worthy of a party to me.

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