Solstice means, sun standing still. Or so it seems when our very own stellar wonder rises over the horizon at Stonehenge, triumphs over darkness and blesses day with light. 12/21 (a mathematical palindrome!) is the shortest day of 2016. It is exactly 7 hours, 49 minutes, and 41 seconds, shorter than the June Solstice. This means we have about 8 extra hours of darkness to snuggle by the fire, wrap gifts, and binge watch Netflix.
Today is the start of the solar year. It’s time to honor an ancient celebration of light and rebirth of the sun. The sun in its annual infancy, it’s weak and can’t produce much warmth or stay up very late. The parallels between honoring sun and a Son every December are obvious, but for the moment let’s focus on a star that’s 93 million miles away.
The longest night affords us time to look deeply into the tiny wonders of our lives. The Druids believe Solstice is a time to feel at home in the world and to be just where you belong. That’s rather Zen as it tells us to be mindful of who we are and what we are doing on this very short day. At the same time, the Druid challenge is to honor Solstice by taking a long look at whether or not our actions are just. The Druids mulled over this existential notion by slaughtering cattle that could not be fed over the long winter but could feed the entire village. Living for others is a cow’s destiny. They also celebrated the Solstice for signaling that the wine and beer brewed during the harvest were finally fermented and ready to drink. Headaches during the short days that followed appear to be one of the many the perils of winter.
Let’s think about just being where we belong. Just what? Naughty or nice? Is being just the same as being good? Defining good is something that has deeply divided us but I’ve got a handful of notions about good.
- Wheels are good, as are propellers and sails. They help us get from here to there without wearing out our shoes or fins. There are wheels inside wheels and we need to roll with them because not even the sun can stand still for long. If what goes around comes around it’d better be good, less the wheel gets a flat and we go nowhere.
- Evergreens and mistletoe are good. They remind us of everlasting life and at least one of them smells good while the other draws kisses from those we hope smell good. Lighting up a Christmas tree reassures us that the sun will keep it’s promise to spend more time growing daylight.
- Long winter nights are good for quieting one’s soul from all the glare of days too crammed with “gottas” and Do Lists.
- Short days are good because they seed a hope that the future will be brighter. They caution us not to hope the days will be so much warmer that we fry the planet. Life is short and we’d best take good care of it and our home.
- It’s good to feel at home and be just where you belong. Home is where most of us, most of the time, feel loved and can love in return. That’s part of being just. We could all do well to end this year trying to be fair and reasonable, unprejudiced, and even-handed.
In fact, it would be really nice if just for today – and it’s a very short day – we could practice being just nice. Maybe if we try again tomorrow, and the day after (because after all, He knows if you’ve been a wicked pain in the celestial butt of creation or a joy to behold) being nice will become a habit. Today Earth is 3 million miles closer to the sun than we are at the June Solstice. It’s not our proximity to each other that keeps us warm, it’s the love we share wherever we are.