solstice

And the sun stands.

For half a year it has sloped down the cellar steps until it is peeking over the edge of the old garden wall. The days decay and it steps down and looks ahead of it and steps down and looks back at you and steps down and

then it stands.

And starts coming back up. Step by small step, breathing the cold from the root cellar, until it reaches the top, by the lawn, and stands. And turns again.

And it just keeps doing this. It stands at the top for one long day; it stands at the bottom for one long night.

If it is down it wants to be up; if up, down. The sun is a cat.

And so we spend the year, the solar ring’s upward and downward transit bookended by solstices when all pauses for a moment and the sun turns the other way. And between the solstices, in the interstices, we consist, insist, resist, desist, persist.

It may seem strange that cultures around the world and across time have celebrated the turning of the times, the shortest and longest days and the days of even split, but we all know, as the autumn slouches in its old stuffed chair, that even though there are months of cold ahead, we will be receiving it with the growing light of winter, its shining breath and slow turn to warmth like someone you have no hope for at first and then at last fall in love with. And then it is spring.

Solstice comes from Latin, from solstitium, from sol as in ‘sun’ and an inflected form of sisto ‘I stand’. You are not wrong in discerning the same stice in interstices, and you are not wrong in perceiving in sisto the root of consist, insist, resist, desist, persist. And exist, from Latin meaning ‘stand out’.

Stand out, or stand in, and watch the sun stand. And then turn and start up the stairs again. The long night is here, and warmth is needed. But days will start growing again. The cat will climb step by step and glance at you as it goes.

Here is a lovely song about the winter solstice, if you would like.

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