Today, 22 December, is Winter Solstice. With sunrise at 8:26, sunset at 3:55, we have a little less than 7-1/2 hours 'true daylight.' Don't you believe it. The sun is so low to the horizon even at midday that it's not all that bright even when it's cloudless, certainly not 'true daylight.'
Compare that to Washington, DC. In the mid-Atlantic region, sunrise on the 22nd is at 7:23, sunset at 4:50 - that's two hours' difference. And that two hours surely does make a difference.
I've always thought of the solstice as the mid-point of winter. I came across a reference the other day describing it as 'the darkest night of the year.' That sounds downright ominous.
This month the new moon begins on Christmas Eve. Traditionally the phase was referred to as 'the dark of the moon'; we have astronomers to thank for 'new moon.' They used the term to define the conjunction of the moon and sun during the lunar blackout.
The golddust I gleaned from all this dross?
A brief sidetrip: I've never thought I'm subject to SAD, you know, Seasonal Affective Disorder. I don't remember being especially blue in the winter, not when I lived on the East Coast of the US, at any rate.
But I admit, after nearly twelve years here, I dread this midwinter darkness. Oh, not in a big way, nothing major. But I just feel uneasy somehow, weighed down, as if I'm struggling under a burden.
The world seems so dark, literally dark. I get up in darkness, I eat breakfast in darkness, I eat supper in darkness - thank goodness for artificial lights, but it's as if all this DARK dims the heart of me.
Today, at the nadir of daylight hours, I can almost feel the earth turning, like a cold car struggling to turn over. The engine grinds a bit, then - it catches, and the motor begins to run again.
Maybe the winter solstice is the 'real' beginning. Just as the darkest period in a lunar cycle is technically a new moon, then perhaps this pause in the annual cycle is the moment when we start a new year.
It's not an end, it's a beginning. Y'know, if you look at it carefully, you can almost always see the glass is half-full, ain't? Goodnight, Sparklers, wherever you are!