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The Dance of the Spheres

December 21, 2012

Growing up, I always found the solstices and the equinoxes to be especially exciting. I don’t really know what kind of nerd that makes me. I found it remarkable and intriguing that these were days, moments, that were specifically a time when the world stood on edge. Later, I learned about aphelion and perihelion, which are at different times, and have to do with orbiting moments and alignments as well.

Back to the solstice.

What I found amazing as well was that those in ancient times also knew about the solstices and the equinoxes. Stonehenge is set up so that it perfectly aligns with the rising and the setting of the sun on very specific days. It is at the equinox that the sun rises at true east.

These days, the only real difference that we may notice is that the street lights come on a little earlier or later. But the longest night in the northern hemisphere is this night. The shortest day is this day in the northern hemisphere.

On the equator, the time of the solstice doesn’t set the length of day, as much as when in the day the sun rises and sets. The day and night remain equal, but the rising and setting vary by about an hour through the course of the time between solstices. It made getting home in time very important, because the sun sets very quickly on the equator. Twilight does not last long.

And on the equinox one year, our family was able to balance a set of eggs on end, at the moment of the equinox. They remained balanced for a full day later. Standing on our countertop, waiting for someone to jostle the floor just enough to bring them to their sides. I tried balancing an egg on the head of a nail on the equator. I did it, I have a certificate (somewhere) to prove it.

So these times, these moments when the earth literally stands on end, they have an effect on us. They may have had more of an effect on us when we spent more time actually connected with the earth. There may be those on our planet that they make more of a difference for than they do for us.

I celebrated the solstice as I grew up, usually just by noting the exact time of the turn. The practice of checking for when it is, exactly, has slipped away a bit. I may take it up again, especially as I teach my children about the solstice and equinox.

And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to stand on end, and go to see where the sun rises through the break in the ancient stones. All the technological equipment in the world cannot top the patient waiting of the ancients, to be shown the way to true east.

This, perhaps, is the kind of waiting I want to continue as I seek to lie in wait for the quiet dance of the movement of the spheres. And the one who guides them.

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