And back again

Sometimes it’s funny, the things we notice and the things we don’t. Today is the winter solstice, or the day with the least amount of sunlight in the year – daylight will only be increasing now up until June, which I consider a good thing. And it’s also credited as the first day of winter, which is completely ridiculous even when you narrow your frame of reference to the northern hemisphere (in the southern hemisphere, it’s the first day of summer.) Back when I lived in New York, the weather was notably “wintry” long before this, and even here in North Carolina we’ve occasionally had snow by this point, and we usually only get a couple of snowfalls per year; none yet this year, by the way, but we’ve had a couple of frosts. The real winter weather is still ahead of us.

SnowcapsI can look on this day and think, Yeah, now the daylight will be returning, even though it’s so gradual there’s really nothing remarkable about today, and nothing will be noticeable for weeks. As for the return of warm enough weather to provide shooting subjects? That’s a couple of months away – we’re not even halfway through the ‘dead season’ for most of the subjects I tackle. Can I look forward to perhaps doing some nice winter snowfield shots? Mayyyyybe, but as I said, the snowfalls here are sporadic, and when they’re good enough to make lovely shots they’re also heavy enough to make the roads treacherous, and there aren’t many options within walking distance.

So let’s face it: this is an astronomical event, and the vast majority of those go past without notice. The only real reason we’re even aware of this one is that ancient cultures had to notice it; the position of the sun was the only way for them to keep track of the days and seasons, since calendars were a long ways off. Thus Stonehenge and the “midwinter” (heh!) feasts that were later co-opted by christians as the birthday of jesus, despite the fact that no one had bothered to record that magical day and all indications from scripture point to it occurring in the spring, but someone had to take a stand against a completely mythical being (I’m talking about saturn here, and not yahweh or jesus. Just in case it wasn’t clear.)

Maybe I should simply create some arbitrary holidays next year, just to make particular days ‘special’ in no meaningful manner at all. Let me think about this…

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