We are in the tail end of the fall season in my area, which historically means less daylight. This has always been a challenge for me, for I like my late day runs and bike rides after work. Finding creative ways to accomplish my activities before dark has stretched my mental and physical limitations at times. This year, I bought lights for my bicycle so I can stay out a little later and still be safe in my travels.
Since my teenage years, I have been fascinated watching the sunset and the time it occurs. I vividly recall wanting to understand this mystery of nature and devising a way to learn more. My local paper gives the times of sunrise, sunset, moon rise, and moon set each day. I started recording or mentally noting the times each day and saw how a pattern of gaining or losing a minute in the morning or evening defines the times when these events occur.
The Power of 4:54
Currently, the sun is setting at 4:54 pm. This time of day was burned into my head years ago. It is the earliest the sun can possibly set in my area. Each fall, I dread the arrival of 4:54 pm and can’t wait to get past it when the sun starts setting at 4:55 pm, then 4:56 pm, then onward through winter and spring until we get to my favorite sunset, 8:55 pm in the summer.
The sun has been setting at 4:54 pm for five days now. Sunset will change to 4:55 pm in two more days. (And, yes, we celebrate this occasion at my house because it means clear sailing and more daylight to work and play outside until 4:54 comes around again next year). The sun will set at 4:55 pm for five days before moving to 4:56 pm. It will set at 4:56 pm for three days then move to 4:57 pm for two days. By December 21, the first day of winter in my area, the sun will be setting at 4:58 pm.
The reason the sun sets the same time a few days in a row is due to the movement and tilt of the earth. At the winter and summer solstices, the sun is either the farthest away or closest to the earth. This coincides with the shortest and longest days (measured in hours of daylight) of the year. We are fast approaching the winter solstice, or shortest day of the year in my area.
The word solstice originated from the Latin word solstitium, which means sun stopped or sun standing still, depending upon which source you use for the translation. During the solstice, it appears the sun is stopping or standing still before reversing its direction in relation to the earth’s rotation.
Winter Solstice Meaning
Given the winter solstice is so close to the Christmas holiday in my area, I often take a few moments to reflect each day on life and how nature, science, and faith often interact or converge to create unique experiences. Though I am not one for stopping too long at any given time, I do think observing the solstice is a natural way to make time for reflection and giving thanks for what one has.
It is believed that some of the Christmas traditions in different cultures came about due to the winter solstice, or “turning of the sun” to mark a new light in the world. This new light has been interpreted in different ways, one of which is associated with the birth of Jesus and correlation to Christmas.
I admit I am often more excited to celebrate more hours of daylight given by the sun than the birthday of Jesus the Son. However, I also recognize that light can come in different forms and have different meanings to each person.
Magic Numbers and Powers
Throughout my life experiences, I have found that light in general seems to have magic powers to move one forward physically, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
Through my experiences (mostly running and being outdoors), I have found the following numbers to hold magical powers and significant meaning :
- 7:56 am, the latest the sun can rise in my area, which occurs sometime between November 3 and 6
- 5:50 am, the earliest the sun can rise in my area, which takes place between June 20 and 22
- 8:55 pm, the latest the sun can set in my area, which happens between June 20 and 22
A friend of mine once noted, “Lisa, you are probably the only person I have ever known who knows all this stuff.” In reality, many people have observed changes in the sun’s movement, including:
- Greeks and Romans
- native American Indians
- scientists and mathematicians
Each person has his or her own reasons for studying the sun. Some of these reasons include:
- understanding the effects of the sun on the mind, body, and spirit
- knowing when and how to plant crops
- analyzing the best use of natural resources
- calculating distances and time frames for events
- creating new technologies
Of course, you don’t need a reason or have to be a certain type of person to observe and experience the sun’s powers. You also don’t need any special credentials to observe or experience the Son’s powers. Whether you study the sun, the Son, or both, you have the potential to be enlightened.
May we all find the light we need in life. May times of solstices and reversing directions lead us to new opportunities for growth, understanding, and renewal.
Sun in the Sky
Sun in the sky at midday,
Chasing clouds of white over the plains,
Through mountains, woods, and fields,
Rising like a fountain that yields
Renewed hope and faith
As your rays grow and fade
To lead the soul onward in time
As the water in the river unfolds inside
To save the soul and the heart
Through the folds of nature’s art.
Sun in the sky behind the clouds,
Trolling like a vessel in and about
The sea of life’s waves
Coming to be through each day,
Rising and falling and rising once more
In the light and the calling of the shores
Where footprints in time lead the way
For the heart to find God’s grace.
Sun in the sky at the end of day,
Creating the last light until night fades
And morning comes once again
Through the call of God’s glory in heaven
Made known through nature’s seasons and changes
Constantly giving new reasons and ranges
To extend the boundaries of the mind
And free the heart to mend through the light.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Christmas traditions – https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html
Reasons to study the sun – https://solarscience.msfc.nasa.gov/whysolar.shtml
Solstice definition and origin – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/solstice
Winter and summer solstices – https://www.britannica.com/topic/solstice
Winter solstice – https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html