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Symbolic Forest

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Blog : Posts tagged with ‘summer solstice’

The shortest night

Some reflections on the solstice

There were sundogs, yesterday, as the sun was getting low on the horizon. After sunset, there were high, wispy, noctilucent clouds to be seen, and a red glow in the north-west sky which did not fade until getting on for midnight. This is, after all, the North, where midsummer sunset is dead on the North-West compass point.*

All the coverage of the Summer Solstice, at least in Britain, focus on this being the longest day of the year, with seventeen or so hours of sunlight depending on where you are.** The biggest focus of all is on this morning’s sunrise, especially at sacred spots like Stonehenge. Few discuss, though, how the longest day is also the shortest night; and after all, you can’t have the one without the other.

This has been a big year for me so far, and I’m sure it’s only going to get bigger. I’ve always been more of a dark, cold-loving person though than a hot, summer-loving person, so I’m all in favour of the winter coming back. The world turns, and we turn with it. The shortest nights are past us, and now they are growing again.

* This is true in southern England and the southernmost parts of Wales, and is a key part of the solar alignments at Stonehenge: midsummer sunrise is directly opposite midwinter sunset, and midsummer sunset and midwinter sunrise are at right-angles to them. In the English Midlands, northern England and Scotland, midsummer sunset moves further and further north around the compass.

** This wasn’t meant to be an astronomy post, but fun facts keep creeping in. This varies hugely from one end of the UK to the other, by over 90 minutes! On the south coast of England you get less than 16½ hours of day; in South Wales it’s more like 16 hours 40 minutes, in Lincolnshire or Yorkshire it’s around 17 hours and once you’re up to Inverness or further north it’s over 18 hours.

The turning wheel

In which it is probably Midsummer

I was thinking: really, I should post something newsworthy, or political, because there hasn’t been much of that on here lately. Nothing in the news has caught my eye, though – it’s all been football-related, and I really couldn’t care one way or the other about it. Then, though, I remembered that today is the summer solstice.*

I’ve been wondering lately: what is the appropriate date for me to do an “end of the year” post. Is it January 1st? Probably not, to be honest. December 21st feels like a much better fit. Samhain would be appropriate, too; and, of course, I’ll have to post something on August 27th, just because that marks a year of blogging here. But today is also a good day to reflect on the changing seasons.

All of the yearly festivals are to some extent dual-faced. Today is a largely time to celebrate summer happiness, but it’s also a time to remember that winter is on its way. I can sit back and look around me, looking at how happy I am right now; but there’s still a long way to go. I’m in a good place at the moment, much happier than I was a year, two years, three years ago, but I’m still wary that something will happen to push me back where I once was.

On the other hand, it’s now High Summer, and I can see that reflected in my life. I am getting a social life once more. I am making friends, and I realise now that I’m a lot better at relating to people, and handling friendship. I’m learning how to avoid driving friends away, too. I’m finding myself. I’ve been learning a lot about my physical body, and learning to appreciate it a little more. I’m even getting better at taking compliments, rather than just stammering: “um … no … really, that’s not true.” Midsummer is a time to appreciate passion and feeling; and I’m even starting to understand that better too.**

* Actually, I haven’t checked the ephemerides to see if it is today. Occasionally it can fall slightly to the side, and the official astronomical solstice is now a few days further on.***

** even if it is in theory rather than practice.

*** Update, August 26th 2020: I have finally looked this up, and the summer solstice in 2006 was indeed on June 21st, at 12:26 UTC.