Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice

Sun at it’s zenith (apparent noon) from the base of the White Mountains (latitude 65 degrees, 18’ 40”) 12-21-12

 As I write, nestled in my sleeping quarters at my worksite, crowds of people are gathered in downtown Fairbanks, enjoying a big party complete with fireworks.  People throughout the ages of celebrated the solstice in many ways.  Richard Heinberg, author of Celebrate the Solstice: Honoring the Earth’s Seasonal Rhythms through Festival and Ceremony (Quest Books, 1993) describes the solstices as “times of danger and opportunity; times for special alertness and aliveness.” In Iran, families often kept fires burning all night to assist the battle between the light and dark forces. In ancient Rome, where it was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, masters even celebrated as equals with their slaves. Throughout history, celebrating the solstice has been a way to renew our connection with each other and with the numinous through acts of goodwill, special rituals, and heightened awareness.

Those who know me well understand that I am a spiritual man, but not religious in the modern Christian context of the term.  My beliefs are strongly influenced by Native American traditions that I have been fortunate to experience early in my life and throughout my adulthood.  When not at work, I usually celebrate the solstice by exploring back-country trails with my dog team during the short day followed by feasting with friends by candlelight in the evening.  During my personal solstice celebration I will generally smudge my house and often the entire dog yard with sage, followed by sweetgrass.  I usually finish my personal celebration with a prayerful pipe and a very good night of sleep.

Obviously I must be more restrained while here at work.  Open flames and smoke, no matter how aromatic or spiritual, is rudely received by the numerous sensors, smoke detectors and alarms scattered throughout the facility, including our personal living quarters.  Here at work my celebration will be much subdued, but meaningful to me nonetheless.  I’ll appreciate a wholesome and well prepared supper and meditate to appropriate music stored in my personal computer while drifting off into my slumber.  It may not seem like much of a celebration, but it is important to me to acknowledge the change of seasons, the return of the sun, and the beginning of another trip around the circle of time, space and life.

Please accept my best wishes for a happy and meaningful solstice and joyful celebration of those holidays most important to you.


  1. Happy Solstice to you from an opposite climate. We're celebrating from my wife's place & our soon to be retirement home near the equator. Even here there is an hour or two difference in daylight from one season to the next.

    Take care,
    Pete McKee

  2. Acknowledging the change of seasons is a real thing to do - one is looking at our world, and ahead, with expectation - that is a good thing. The situation could be worse.