Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice greetings from a nature dork

In my geeky, Nature Dork way, I want to wish you all Happy Yule!

Today is the winter solstice, known by my German and English ancestors as Yule. At 11:47 this morning Minnesota time, the North Pole will be tilted as far away from the sun as it could possibly get.

If you're out and about today, you can see exactly what's happening. In fact, this is the easiest and cheapest holiday ritual you'll ever have. On your lunch break, step outside and look for the sun. It will be as low to the horizon as it ever gets, even at "high noon." Not much warmth coming off that star today!

When the sun finishes its low-down journey through the sky today, check out the sunset. As you look to the west, you'll see that the sun sets as far to the "south", or left, as it ever does. From your kitchen window or your front door, remember that spot...a chimney, or the neighbor's garage door. On the North Shore, maybe it's a ridgeline or a tall white pine. From the beaches just east of Grand Marais, you might see the sun go down straight down the shoreline. Wherever the sun goes down today, that's a landmark for your life. Your own personal Stonehenge.

In other parts of the globe, unique things happen today too. Ever heard of the Arctic Circle? Today's the one day that the sun does not rise anywhere north of the Arctic Circle. That's how the Arctic Circle is defined. It's dark all across that circle today.

And if you know anyone who lives along the Tropic of Capricorn, in South Africa, Australia or Brazil, for them the sun at midday will be directly overhead.

Of course, this is December on the North Shore. We might not see the sun at all today. But we know, from a few thousand years experience, that the sun will come back. Days will very slowly start getting longer again. The sun will be higher in the sky.

Almost makes you want to have a little party, huh? To welcome back the sun? To wake up the gods? Maybe, just to be sure the sun does come back, you could have a bonfire. Sacrifice a horse or a pig. Burn one big log all night long. Call it a Yule log. You pagan, you!

Make it a great day. Happy Yule!

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