Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

We are having a snowy solstice here -- yesterday's nor'easter gave us 12" of snow, and another 8" are in the forecast for today. In preparation for today and tomorrow's Sunwheel events [sunrise @ 7 a.m. and sunset @ 3:30 p.m.], I spent about 1 hour at the Sunwheel with my snow shoes on yesterday, first walking East to West 2 times, then making a path around the Sunwheel 3 times, then flattening an area in the middle, and finally going from South to North 2 times before leaving. Not only was I enjoying being out in the snow, but I was celebrating my healing -- last year I was not yet able to snowshoe at the time of winter solstice.

This morning I went to the Sunwheel at 6:45 a.m. accompanied by my daughter and her husband. They are helping me at each event by carrying things and helping people who want to buy Sunwheel T-shirts and sweatshirts. It had already started snowing, and it still is. There were 9 of us in total at the Sunwheel for sunrise, standing out in blowing snow celebrating the return of the light. The instant of the official beginning of winter was 7:04 a.m. EDT, while we were out in the elements intimately experiencing the environment. And in spite of the snow, I shared with the visitors the 6 things that are special about the day of the winter solstice:

1) shortest day of the year
2) longest night of the year
3) lowest noontime altitude of the Sun
4) southernmost sunrise
5) southernmost sunset
6) Sun directly overhead Tropic of Capricorn at local noon on December 21

Plus I love teaching that solstice means "standstill of the Sun", since already for 1 week the Sun has been rising at the same place, setting at the same place, and had a low noon-time altitude in the sky. This 'standstill' will continue for about 1 more week. Interestingly enough, there are numerous holiday celebrations that happen at this time of year that bring in the light for many days.

This morning it was 18 degrees out and windy, our hands and feet were cold, and our coats became covered with snow. And even so, it was a wonderful way to celebrate the Winter Solstice. We didn't see the Sun but we knew it was there. In fact, after 11 years of seasonal gatherings at the Sunwheel, this was the first time that I held a seasonal gathering while it was snowing. Luckily I live relatively close to the Sunwheel so it was not challenging for me to get there.

Last year it had snowed a few days before solstice, and I realized then that if I owned snowshoes I would be able to create a path in the snow for visitors. I bought the snowshoes then, even though 1 year ago I had just given up using a walker and was unable to use the snowshoes. I thought that snowshoes -- especially with the poles in each hand -- would be ideal for walking in the winter, getting fresh air and exercise, and strengthening my body and spine. And sure enough, about 2 weeks later on a warm January day, I was out using the snowshoes for the first time, learning that it was good exercise that was safe for me in a flat place like the Sunwheel.

It continues to snow as I write these words, in the middle of the day on Dec. 21, 2008. If the snow stops by sunset, we will be lighting candles at the Sunwheel during the sunset gathering -- for solstice and for Chanukkah -- lighting up the stones and the snow and the night, and doing our own little part to add to the increase of the light.

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