Last week I suggested we start a brand-new ancient tradition of Last and First: observing the last rays of the setting Sun and the first rays of the rising Sun either side of the winter solstice, Yule.
I wanted to do this to help create an event, celebration or ritual which we could all share to mark the turning of the seasons. Anyone can mark these two events wherever they are on Earth. But I would think you only get the psychological benefits of the returning light/longer days if you experience it in the northern hemisphere.
Because this was brand new I didn’t have any expectations about how it should go. As far as the Earth and Sun are concerned, it is just one moment in their continuing dance and it’s we who add the meaning.
I found that I could very easily add different meanings as I watched the setting of the Sun: I could just stand still and be a witness to what happened — it being cloudy and thinking of the sands running out of this solar timer. I could think of it in terms of various beginnings and endings in general. I could think about the Earth rotating from the viewpoint of space. I could visualise timelines, events and circumstances converging on a pinch-point ready to burst out again on the other side… There are so many ways to think about it.
One thing I did consciously try to feel was an emotional reaching out to everyone else who was doing this, too. That was important!
At the moment of sunset I could not see the Sun itself but I was surprised to find that I really did feel a significant emotion of release and relief. It was like the cosmic boss at work had said ‘End of the working year, you can go home now! That’s it, there’s no more to do, or that can be done’.
The horizon cleared a little after sunset and I took this shot showing some of the last colour which soon faded from the sky. The last of the solar year.
I had not expected this, but having been through that half of the ritual, the night itself seemed to be a slightly tense pause. It was a kind of waiting or limbo, wondering if ‘it’ will happen… will things continue?
I suppose that emotionally I wanted to see the start more than the end. It’s only half a magic trick when the rabbit disappears. The trick only feels complete when the magician completes the trick and makes the rabbit reappear… and in some unexplainable way he hopefully produces a ‘better’ rabbit! I think what I mean by that is that he produces rabbit + magic.
I usually get up well before dawn every day, so I had a long time to agonise over whether dawn would be clouded out or not. Clouds kept coming and going, with even a little rain shower at one point.
I took this shot showing some of the first light in the sky and including a nice appearance by the planet Venus.
The moment of Sunrise was clouded out, unfortunately. But this was a shot of where the sun was even if he could be seen. If you look carefully at the centre of the picture, you will see a high vapour trail which catches some of the rays of the Sun higher up — a promise of things to come…
I continue to keep an eye out because I really did want to see the Sun if I possibly could…
… Hello, there!
Nature is soft and insistent. The moments of sunset and sunrise are fixed and certain. Conditions are met and there is no intrinsic cosmic significance to either event.
But we can do more.
We can add the meaning.
We can add the meaning together.
We can add the meaning which inspires and connects us.
It is a start. And starts always lead somewhere…
Here is an account from Mary Alice G., one of our regular readers:
I was on the beach for Sunset, but it happened within a cloud-filled sky. But this morning was a whole different story:
Good morning to the first day of the new season! I just got back from trying to watch the sunrise on the beach at the Pitaya [Puerto Penasco, Mexico]. I got there and the dawn had not yet broken. I walked down to the high tide mark and had to take off my bedroom slippers because sand was getting into them.
I buried my toes into the damp sand, hoping that would keep them warm. There was a cloud bank on the eastern horizon and as the dawn broke it illuminated the leading edges of the clouds with a pink and then rose and then orange hue. The colors spread across the entire bank.
I was the only human I could see on the beach. There was a panga boat (powered fishing boat) speeding towards the harbor and a shrimp boat a couple of miles out on the horizon. A lone Sea bird chirped, the tide was quite low and the tide pools reflected the beauty of the dawning sky. As it lightened, more birds joined into the symphony of calls. The shrimp boat started its engines and weighed anchor, starting its trip back to port.
The colors faded from the clouds and my warm tea was all gone. I tried to walk down to the tide pools, but in my bare feet with ‘Popsicle toes’ it hurt too much to walk on the shells and sand. I made my way back up the incline of the sand and sat on my slippers and buried my toes once again into the damp sand.
All color was now gone. I began to sing, ‘Here comes the sun’ by the Beatles, trying to encourage El Rey Sol to rise, before I got any colder! I realized it was only 43 degrees Fahrenheit, but I don’t do cold very well, anymore! I picked at the shells around me, trying to distract myself from the cold feet and shivering arms. I offered up my hopes for the coming year including for protection for myself and Misty, my cat. While I was at it, I thought I would go for the big picture and requested “Joy to the World and Peace on Earth!” If I’m asking, I figured I ought to go for the big prize, while I was at it!
Soon, I realized I was going to be better off getting in the car, with the heater on my feet! I picked my way carefully up the beach and to my car. I drove down the little dirt road to the east and tried to wait to see the golden orange orb makes its way above the cloud bank. Unfortunately, I couldn’t as I had to get home. I drove home and then rinsed my tender toes with warm water from the shower. Ahhhhh…
I didn’t see the actual sun rising in the east but it was a lovely time watching the day dawning and welcoming the beginning of the growing of daylight at this time of year.
Here I sit, in my little RV home, with a plate of warm Potatoes, red onions and cheese melting on top. I’m warm and happy and ready to start a new day.
I hope your experience was wonder filled as well!
Thank you for that Mary Alice.
I know a few other people took part and it’s great that you were involved, thank you all.
I intend to make this a regular event and would welcome your thoughts on how to make it more meaningful for you.
Kindest regards and all the very best to you all for the New Year!