Monday, December 21, 2009


It has that clean palindromic look, the only date that does besides 11/11. (01, 02, and 03 don't count.)
It's a guaranteed visit for any almanacker worth his salt (a holdover from Roman times, when soldiers were paid in salt, or "salaries").
It has a spareness about it, or should, which is why this snow happened just in time.

At 12:47 p.m. I was probably having a bowl of beef barley soup, unmindful of the moment when the sun stood still over the Tropic of Capricorn, or latitude 23.5 degrees south, leaving us with the shortest rays of the year and the shortest day of the year, by two seconds.

But as you can see, at the last hour I heeded the almanacker's call to salute one of the four major poses on the orbit, the one where the earth is tilted on its axis so it looks like the Northern Hemisphere is going ewww, rearing back as if it suddenly got very freaked out by UV rays. While the Southern Hemisphere is going yeah baby toast me, gimme some heat.

To wade into the solstice is to be immersed in mystical-sounding terms like the obliquity of the ecliptic, and the celestial equator of the celestial sphere. All of which has to do with measuring that tilt with invisible planes and axes. Because we are this big old clock, you can set your calendar by us, and Dec. 21 is one of those days to draw it out of the waistcoat pocket, glance at it, murmur "winter" and put it back.

Or if you prefer, you can throw a log on the fire and think of poor Persephone (today's advent chick) in the underworld, while remembering that tomorrow will be one second longer than today was. She's coming back.

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