Winter Solstice is celebrated by many cultures the world over. This time of year, the tilt of Earth’s axis veers farthest from the Sun, on the shortest day – when the sun’s highest elevation is the lowest of the year – and longest night. From this point on, the days will grow longer, and people can celebrate the gradual passing of the long nights and the cold, and ready themselves for warmer weather and planting new crops. The primary axis of Stonehenge points its sightline directly at the setting sun on the Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter and Yule. Muir Woods has a Winter Solstice event on 12/21, culminating in trail walks lit by candle luminaria. The themes of this holiday (rebirth, the Sun as the source of all life), are symbolized in fire and burning Yule logs. It is also the Norse Feast of the Dead.
This solstice, for me, will also mark 30 years since my father passed away. In almost every way, my life was changed by this momentous event. I can’t imagine how different it would be otherwise. I think about him nearly every day, yet strangely enough it’s been so long that some days pass when I don’t think of him at all. I remember his shy, easy smile, his love of nature which he communicated to me so strongly in our hikes around Bay Area hills, and our camping trips up to the Sierras. It seemed that his favorite place to be was in the quiet of the wilderness, with his loved ones. And so it is with me.
This solstice I’ll be celebrating at SF’s Ocean Beach, where I’ll place old diaries and letters on one of the bonfires, and cast aside clinging to the past. And in keeping with the true celebration of this holiday and season, I’ll turn my thoughts to the future.