Today is the Winter Solstice – an intriguing term, from those assiduous ancient astronomers, meaning figuratively “sun stands still,” or more literally, “sunstop.” Today the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator -- the southernmost point. Hence today is the shortest day of the year and tonight the longest. Hooray!
For those of you who tire quickly of winter’s shenanigans, this means that from now on, nights will start getting shorter — imperceptibly, at first, but assuredly.
I can see how this would have cheered the ancients – the knowledge that though the earth seemed irrevocably dead, and was going to be get deader before winter was over, at least you knew the tide of darkness was already ebbing, and in due course day would predominate again. This still holds true for most of humanity, and perhaps especially this year for my snowed-in friends back east who must make the most of the endless nights.
Naturally, though, imp of the perverse that I am, I love that it’s dark when I awake and that the night lasts so long. But then again I live on the west side of the mossy, damp Pacific Northwest, where a white Christmas like we had last year usually lasts for hours, not months.
Winter Solstice came and went at 9:47am here in the Cascadia. And though my fellow creatures of the night and I lament that darkness is now waning, I take comfort from the constant sound of water dripping from the pines and the parti-colored lichens partying everywhere like it’s 2009.
Hey, just to rub it in, let’s listen to the regional theme song: