The sun sets on the longest night of the year – the “winter solstice” here in Co Mayo. The photo above shows the suns farthest southward point for the year, which I can watch from my living room window at Haremoon Cottage.
In Latin, solstice means sun set still the Winter Solstice is the stillness of the sun at its most southern point before its strength builds and the days once again grow longer and moves again northwards until the shortest night, longest day at the Summer Solstice in June.
The sun appears low in the sky at this time of year and if you go outside at noon you will notice long shadows of yourself or of buildings, they are the longest noontime shadows of the year. The photo above shows the shadow of my cottage chimney falling just before the angel ornament that is on the stone seat at the near bottom of my garden. From now on the shadows will climb back up again towards the back of my cottage.
Winter time is a time to; Take Time, Slow Down and be aware to the Great Mystery of Life. To sit by a roaring fire and be warm in reflection, contemplation and the joy of been together with family and friends. The daylight hours are very short, so glass-up the wine and make it a special time for family and friends and for yourself do what pleases you. I am at the moment re-reading once again The Lord of the Rings (one of my many favourite books) and the following passage from The Fellowship of the Ring is quite apt I think for the time that’s in it.
“I sit beside the fire and think of all that I have seen, of meadow-flowers and butterflies in summers that have been; of yellow leaves and gossamer in autumns that there were, with morning mist and silver sun and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think of how the world will be when winter comes without a spring that I shall ever see. For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green.
I sit beside the fire and think of people long ago, and people who will see a world that I shall never know. But all the while I sit and think of times there were before. I listen for returning feet and voices at the door.”
by JRR Tolkien.
The long winter nights make it ideal for some sky gazing, so look out for a new moon and Ursid meteors around December solstice. The Ursid meteor shower peaks near the time of the winter solstice and look for some activity over the next several nights as this shower has been known to produce short bursts of over a 100 meteors per hour. However it might produce only 5 to 10 per hour, but it is something interesting to look for. Also look out for the International Space Station (ISS) which can be seen in the evenings. On the 21st December in the Mayo area it can be seen at 6.17pm for about 3 minutes. For other areas check this site out for times when the ISS is passing over. http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/#.VJYNyAI-xA
An astronomy site that I follow that is very interesting and informative made the suggest; to add a little magic for the kids on Christmas Eve, was to wrap them up well and bring them out to see the space station but tell them instead that it is Santa. Why not – it’s up to you, check the site out which can be found here. https://cumbriansky.wordpress.com/
Have a great Winter Solstice in whatever you do.