Today marks the Summer Solstice. Astronomically, it looks like this:
The Summer Solstice occurs exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. The seasonal significance of the Summer Solstice is in the reversal of the gradual shortening of nights and lengthening of days. That will occur later today – June 20th at 21:44 UTC (4:44pm Central Daylight Time).
Today the sunrise (where I live) will be 5:18am and sunset will be 8:40pm – 15 hours and 22 minutes of sunlight. On Winter Solstice, six loooong months ago, sunrise was at 7:25am and sunset was at 4:25pm, 9 hours of sunlight. On Monday, we actually pick up one more minute of sunlight with a sunset of 8:41pm!
On Tuesday the 23rd, though, the sunrise will be one minute later, signalling the waning of the year. But that’s Tuesday and today we have 922 minutes of sunlight to enjoy!!
At Winter Solstice, the light begins to return – gradually, the memory of the long nights fades until the light and dark are equal on Spring Equinox. From that point on, the light returns more rapidly and on May 1st we arrive at the midpoint between equinox and Summer Solstice.
A few years ago I wrote an essay titled “The Weirdness of Planning for Extreme Old Age,” in which I described our ill-fated attempt to move to a retirement community. When our house failed to sell after a month on the market we decided to stay where we were. However, the fate that befell friends of mine impressed on me again the necessity of planning for extreme old age.
Trees seem to be gregarious as most tend to live and thrive in communities that we call forests. Some forests are mostly of a single species while others are mixed with a variety of species. In either case, they tend to live in various partnerships interacting and supporting one another on many levels.
“Didn’t we make a bargain on your birthday last month that if I gave you the cellphone of your dreams, you would do a huge chore for me sometime?” Patricia Russell spoke calmly, but her tone held that “you-can’t-argue-with-this-statement” quality that Laurie knew all too well.
Today, March 19th, at 10:49pm Central Daylight Time (0349 GMT on March 20), the Spring Equinox will occur.
An equinox occurs twice a year (around 20 March and 22 September), when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator. The name “equinox” is derived from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), because around the equinox, night and day are about equal length.
The amount of daylight and darkness became equal over the past few days (on March 17, here) and soon daylight will extend ever deeper into the evening and the early morning hours.
Spring is about hope and new beginnings and the sheer joy of being outdoors in the light and the warmth. Here is some (light!) kidding around as we celebrate this year’s Spring Equinox.
(Place your cursor on the photos to read the hovers*)
At the beginning of February, when the earth appears frozen and lifeless, there are stirrings below the surface and above us in the sky. The light is returning; today there is nearly an hour more daylight than there was on the Winter Solstice.
Mid-January through mid-February is when the Great Horned Owls begin breeding and nesting. While the rest of us look out at the wintry landscape here in North Central Blogistan – and wait for spring – the owls are already beginning their nesting year.
Two weeks ago, after reading my explainer on the potential schism within the United Methodist Church, I was asked why Methodists use grape juice rather than wine at Communion. After all, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding at Cana, and it’s assumed that he was using wine during the Passover (Last Supper) which has become the basis for the eucharistic tradition. So why do Methodists have a problem with wine? The answer is made up of many different threads: history, social justice, entrepreneurship, and the unique Methodist creativity that ties all the threads together.
1893 oil painting of women at the church of San Pietro in Pistoia (Kristian Zarhtmann, 1843-1917)
The original plan for this week was to respond to a question asked by a reader of last week’s post. But there has been a change in plans; I’m going with a female-centric tweet-a-rama today and will use my free time later this week to prepare the requested post for next Tuesday. So no, I will not be continuing to post in the future, but that future doesn’t start until after January 28th. My apologies to the readers who came today looking for that promised post, but next week, I promise, it will be here.
Every week, Moishe would pray to win the lottery. “Please God,” he would say, “let me win the lottery. I need to win the lottery.”
After several years of this, God finally replied and God’s booming voice rattled Moishe more than a little bit. “Moishe,” God said, “meet me half way. Buy a ticket.” (Hey, God, the Joke’s on You!)
Although the joke above came from a Reformed Judaism website, as far as I’m concerned, the joke could have been written by anyone, for anyone…except for a Methodist. Methodists are not supposed to buy lottery tickets; the stance against gambling in any form goes back to the beginnings of the Methodist movement and even today is enshrined in the social principles (What does the UMC say about gambling?) While the Methodist position on gambling may not be commonly-known or understood (sometimes even by church members), the general public would generally view the principled stance as part and parcel of Methodist DNA. The reputation of the church has long been described as mostly liberal and a leader on social justice issues. That reputation is part of the reason the current homophobic, anti-LGBTQI policies and practices of the church are so baffling to non-Methodists. I would argue, as a lifelong Methodist, that both the policies and the recent, proposed protocol for change are far more consistent with Methodism than most assume, and our reputation is a combination of aspiration and reality; history and hagiographic storytelling; and inspiration and contrivance. This is only one Methodist’s opinion (and these days, I’m more lapsed than not), but after reading the proposed protocol, what some people are calling “schism” in the United Methodist Church, I am considering to be the logical conclusion to an unnecessarily torturous process.