At which the distance from the celestial equator is the greatest

On Tuesday, I attended a solstice party with Ecolocity at the Potters’ House, a lovely bookstore and meeting place in D.C. Even though I don’t celebrate solstice as a religious holiday, I do think it’s valuable to recognize the cycles of nature.

As someone who respects those who grow food and hopes to do it myself, I believe understanding the coming and going of the seasons is essential. Sure, the Farmers’ Almanac can tell you the official date of the beginning of spring, but there’s an intuition to knowing when to plant or whether you should wait because there will be one more frost.

It’s a bit like cooking. You can follow a recipe, but unless you understand the underlying principles, you’ll miss quite a bit and your dish will never be just right. When I first started cooking, I found this incredibly frustrating. Why didn’t recipes tell me exactly how much salt and pepper to put in? What was I missing? As time went on, I began to understand that because each circumstance is slightly different, even the most exact directions would never be enough. Instead, I needed to combine factual knowledge of those principles (thanks, Cooks Illustrated!) with hard, time-consuming practice. I think I will experience the same process when learning to understanding the coming and going of the weather, the soil, the changes in my land’s ecology. I expect it to be frustrating at first, but ultimately rewarding. Recognizing the solstice is one of my first steps in that long process.

Beyond the practical applications, I find hope in the solstice. I love the night, with its bright shining stars, but winter nights are brutal. I’m one of those people who is always cold, despite having grown up in the snowy northeast. I also have to wake up early, so spending my first hour in near darkness inspires nothing in me but a desire to crawl back to bed. Coming home, if it’s dark by the time I get off the train, I have to take the bus home rather than walking. Walking is free and much more pleasant than waiting in the cold. And of course, it’s much harder to bike outside when the day is so short. So the idea that the longest night of the year has come and gone is very appealing.

Happy (Belated) Solstice. May you celebrate the turning of the seasons and take advantage of the few more hours of light each day.

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