Picture yourself thousands of years ago at a settlement on Orkney Islands in the British Isles. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people gathered at a great stone temple to witness the winter solstice. Hear the music, breath oily fires. Fall silent as the sun rises, illuminating stone after monolithic stone as far as the eye can see. Ponder the world with a Neolithic eye, in a place built hundreds of years before Stonehenge.
The winter solstice marks the shortest day, and longest night in the northern hemisphere. The point when the sun in the dome of our sky, reaches the southern most point every year. The solstice is not a day, rather a “moment in time” – a moment observed and captured by ancient civilizations on every continent.
The magnitude of precise observations; the ability to erect structures whose only purpose was to capture a fleeting moment – should shame us all. Most of us know Dec. 21 is the first day of winter; we hurry about knowing there are only a few shopping days till Christmas. How many of us stop to think that once upon a time civilizations thrived on understanding of celestial events. People who valued everything we seem to have forgotten.
We can never be on ancient Orkney – we can imagine the thrill of revering our world. Stop for 5 minutes to gaze at the night sky, throw caution to the wind and learn to recognize a constellation or note the length of afternoon shadows. Listen to the wind, howl at the moon – I don’t care – just pay attention.
Merry solstice to all, and to all a good night.
Everything solstice by Deborah Byrd at earthsky….