Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

Greetings on the first day of winter. Actually it feels like the middle of winter, and in fact another name for this day is midwinter. Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. This is because the earth's axis is tilted (you can see this on any globe). As the earth revolves around the sun, we in the northern hemisphere are now receiving less (and more oblique) sunlight. We are all aware that the sun rises later and sets earlier in the winter, and never rises as high in the sky as in summer.

At this time of the year ancient observers noticed that the sun seemed to "stand still" for several days, neither sinking farther toward the horizon, nor rising higher in the sky. "Solstice" literally means "sun standing still."

Even on Ocracoke, so close to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, this midwinter day is cold and penetrating. Neighbors are hunkered down in their warm houses, decorating Christmas trees, wrapping presents, baking cookies, and lighting candles.

Soon the days will be longer, the sun higher in the sky, and the surrounding waters warmer & more inviting.

In the meanwhile we'll enjoy this midwinter day as we anticipate Christmas and the New Year, and eventually the coming of Spring once again.

Our current monthly Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke's Street Names, Part II, published December 19, 2005. You can read it here:


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