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 start 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.
The winter solstice “occurs exactly when the Earth’s axial tilt is farthest away from the sun at its maximum of 23° 26′. Though the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, the term is also a turning point to midwinter and the first day of winter.”
That moment occurred this morning, December 21st, at 4:44am Central Time, which is my time zone.
Of course, that is the scientific explanation. We know better!
Twice a year, on the solstice holidays, Basement Cat and Ceiling Cat are locked in mortal combat over the Light. At summer solstice, Basement Cat prevails and the light starts receding … gradually at first and then more quickly until the autumnal equinox, when the light and dark are equal.
Hey, wait just a minute! Those are happy llamas … which is not the same thing at all!
Today is August 1st, the pagan holiday of Lammas or First Harvest. It is the first of three harvest celebrations on the Wheel of the Year. But because this is a pagan holiday that does not have a corresponding non-pagan holiday, it may be one that you have never heard of.
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 22:34 UTC (6:34pm Eastern, 5:34pm Central, 4:34pm Mountain, and 3:34pm Pacific Time).
Today and tomorrow 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.
Next Sunday, the sunrise will be one minute later, signalling the waning of the year. But that’s Sunday and today we have 922 minutes of sunlight to enjoy!!
After graduation a visit to Knossos beckoned Fiona—but little did she guess where it would lead!
I noticed him because he was always alone.
And in a country where most people are dark-haired and dark-eyed, he stood out because of his blond ponytail and gray eyes. Only the shape of his eyes belonged to Crete—large, almond-shaped, compelling.
Garish yellow flowers flaunt themselves while Dearly escapes through the front door
My husband and I aren’t getting any younger. In fact, looking at us, you’d say we’re downright old. It’s taken me two years to accept that at 72, I’m no longer “middle-aged”: now I qualify as elderly.
Last year I began to think about what we’d do when we’re too old to drive. In suburban America, you either have access to your own transportation or you languish. We visit the public library, gym, grocery store, bank, gas station, doctor, dentist, Target, Costco. We pick up grandchildren from elementary school (on foot, if it’s nice weather), or from day care, which requires driving.
Taking a taxi is out of the question. The fares would be astronomical. Even the fares for Lyft or Uber would be astronomical, given all the places we visit. So—what to do?
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.
Of all the wild-eyed theories ever circulated about William Shakespeare, Bard of Avon, surely the most spectacular is that he smoked pot.
Who’d have thunk it?
Is it time to debunk it?
Let us examine the findings so far.
Jonathan O’Callaghan reports that a team of scientists from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa studied 400-year-old pipes dug up in Stratford-on-Avon. Four of the pipes that came from the garden of Shakespeare’s house were found to contain traces of marijuana.
…in fact, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 76 may contain some references to drug use. Throughout its lines, Shakespeare refers to keeping invention in a ‘noted weed’ and to ‘new-found methods and compounds strange.’
When I first read “Much Ado About Nothing” many, many years ago I was completely bemused by the Lancelot Gobbo scenes. What did they mean? Why were they there? They seemed to have nothing whatever to do with the story of Beatrice and Benedick. If anyone had told me at the time that Shakespeare wrote those scenes while higher than a kite, I would have believed that person implicitly.
However, when I saw the magnificent Kenneth Branagh-Emma Thompson film version of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I realized for the first time that those Lancelot Gobbo scenes were funny. I even laughed. Very likely Shakespeare put in the comic relief for the “groundlings,” those who could afford only a copper to see the play and stood at the back of the theater through the entire performance. It goes back to the old truism: Shakespeare’s plays are meant to be acted, not read.
As to whether The Bard smoked pot and was high when he wrote, Edward Delman, writing for The Atlantic, affirms that so little is known about Shakespeare’s life it’s impossible to say whether he smoked pot or not.
And there’s always this to think about: perhaps he didn’t need to smoke weed to get high. Perhaps he simply got high on his own words—not at all a difficult thing to do. Consider the following (John of Gaunt’s speech from Richard II):
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England….
And there we will leave it, Master Shakespeare, Bard of Avon, foremost poet and playwright in the English language. On this day, the 452nd anniversary of your birth, we salute you once again as being “not of an age but for all time.”
The girl was snatched before their eyes—why didn’t the police respond to the women’s calls?
It all happened so fast.
One minute the young girl in the pale pink track suit, eyes cast down as she texted on her cellphone, was walking down the opposite side of the street from where Charmiele sat on her front porch working on her laptop; the next minute, a young man jumped out of a black SUV with darkened windows that rolled to a stop behind the girl, and grabbed her phone. Thirty seconds later another man jumped out of the SUV and helped him bundle the girl into the vehicle.
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)