In our Northern Hemisphere winter solstice is usually the 21 or 22 of December. It is also known as the “shortest day” of the year. Continuously the winter solstice has been seen as a significant time of the year and has been marked by celebrations and ceremonies with the symbolic death and rebirth of the Sun.
This Lake City, Colorado Saturday morning was cold. It was close to 0. Central heat doesn’t exist up here. It takes ‘awhile’ for the fireplace to warm up our little 1981, built for seasonal use, home. While procrastinating getting up from under the electric blanket, my mind drifted back to 10 years ago when we visited our son and his wife while they were living in Ireland. During that visit we made a side trip to Newgrange. Newgrange was constructed about 5,200 years ago (3,200 B.C.) which makes it older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Newgrange is famous for the rays of sunlight moving through the passage and chamber created by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is a opening called a roof-box. Its purpose is to allow sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the winter solstice.
At dawn, from December 19 to 23, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the sunbeam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.
The intent of the Stone Age farmers who build Newgrange was surely to mark the beginning of the new year. Too, it may have served as a commanding symbol of the victory of life over death. It is an impressive place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, perhaps not too different from present day cathedrals.
Beautiful rocks outside the entrance of Newgrange
When my family and I visited Newgrange in November 2009, it was is an unexpected feeling to wait in the darkness, as people did 5,000 years ago, for the longest night of the year to end, while our guide shown a light representing the winter solstice sunrise. The accuracy of Newgrange is incredible; especially when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge.
I like having all the seasons, as we do in Lake City. I have an understanding of the power of nature. We had an unprecedented amount of snowfall last winter which caused an unprecedented amount of avalanches. Those who don’t live here appear to be unable to comprehend why we would want to live here in the winter. Our house with its lack of a comfortable heat source is unusual and still we love it, it is our choice. Not only is our unique location incredibly amazing but there’s a specialness about this time of the year that I’ve never experienced anywhere else and I’ve lived in numerous different places and circumstances, including other settings in the countryside.
Perhaps it is exactly because I’ve lived in different environments, worshiped in different types of churches and have traveled more than most, though a lot less than some – that I know that there is more than ‘my way’ of living and finding joy and contentment.
To me, there is a uniquely beautiful and mysterious feeling to winter where we live in the mountains. I feel the bone formation of being one with the mountainside – the awesome loneliness of it, feeling winter’s breath. Something amazing sleeps underneath. There is a comfy retreat about winter which no other season gives you….only in the winter, in the midst of nature, can you have longer, settled down stretches when you can savor being in the right place with yourself.
Our sheltie girl Joy take pleasure in our fireplace
Our fireplace is hot now, filling our little living space with warm air. The scent of freshly baked bread calls out for delicious sandwiches to be enjoyed for lunch. My husband, wrapping Christmas presents, delights in the large rolls of gift paper I bought on a recent shopping trip to the nearby town of Gunnison. Live is good – little joys are the best. A wine spritzer or mug of hot chocolate, with or without a good book, in front of the fire – I’m happy.
Our nature trail
Today’s sunny blue, blue skies are to go from 2 to 40 – love it! With our dogs we walk the nature trail breathing clean air, no crowds or traffic noises but the soft freezing sounds of the river. We can go into town but we don’t have to live there. Happily we can retreat into our own little sanctuary – our nature trail or home. Idyllic.
What to you love about where you live? Have you lived any place vastly different than where you live now? Have you always lived in the same place – tell me about it.