Jun 212008

Anyone who knows me also knows that I’m a daylight person.

I loathe winter with a passion, not due to cold which winter implies because here in coastal South-Eastern Queensland, winter can’t be really called ‘cold’, but because winter is a time of dwindling daylight hours. A little piece of software I have on my PDA tells me that today, the Sun rose at 6:37am and will set at 5:01pm. A total of 10 hours and 24 minutes of daylight in which to bathe one’s body, mind and spirit. Supposedly, today is the shortest ‘day’ of the year, which is scientifically inaccurate given that a ‘day’ on Earth remains unchanged as the period of time it takes the planet to revolve once on it’s axis. A ‘day’ is made up of 86,400 SI seconds. Each second is currently defined as:

… the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

Deep, eh? Let’s simplify the definition to something more easily understood and say that a ‘day’ is equivalent to 23.934 solar hours. Today, and probably yesterday and tomorrow and likely the day after, that ‘day’ will consist of 10.40 hours of daylight and 13.534 of darkness. Give or take a few seconds either way. Anticipating the Winter Solstice and resignedly accepting the Summer Solstice over the past 50 years has proven to me that while we may celebrate both days as a defined moment in time, spatial position of the planet’s orbit around the nearest star and it’s inclination to the orbital plane it occupies, there isn’t actually a ‘day’ where daylight and dark, as we understand the concepts, are shortest or longest.

That dry dismissal of my own anticipation of what we regard as the Winter Solstice doesn’t dampen the thrill for people like me of knowing that from today forward for the next six months, the daylight hours become longer and darkness shorter. The ambient temperature also gets warmer and in general, the world becomes a more pleasurable place. At least that’s how the seasonal change impacts on me. Like the orchids I take so much pleasure in culturing, when the daylight hours start to lengthen, I tend to blossom in mood & spirit. In fact, it’s been scientifically proven that increased exposure to light results in buoyancy of mood. Works for me, anyway.

My celebration of the Winter Solstice is an internal mental event. I’m glad that time has passed to the point where I can anticipate more light, more warmth and the pleasure both bring. Despite what some may choose to believe, I don’t obey strict Wiccan creed, perform Sabbat ceremonies naked to the stars or dance around blazing bonfires chanting. I do though, have an interest in aspects of the ancient Celtic cultures which relied on understanding the seasons to survive. Those cultures had an unabiding respect for nature and how annual changes in season, Sun, Moon and star positions told where they were in their life’s journey, and what they needed to do in order to continue it.

I’ve been to see Stonehenge and wandered among the huge standing stones at Avebury. The latter is an experience I’d encourage anyone with an interest in ancient cultures to take on board. You can’t touch Stonehenge anymore or even get closer than thirty or forty metres to it, but Avebury remains today as accessible as when it was constructed thousands of years ago. There is, in Australia, a standing stone circle which functions as an astronomical observatory, at Glen Innes on the New South Wales northern tableland. It’s quite a monument in such an obscure place. I’d encourage anyone travelling through that part of the country to stop and have a gander.

I’d like to have been at Glen Innes this morning, just to experience the rising of the Sun over that certain point of the horizon and monument, but I’ll settle for the knowledge that Summer is on the way. It’s all uphill from here. Gotta love the Winter Solstice.

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