On the solstice, winter’s beginning foretells its end

A view on Egg Lake, Minnesota, on a winter solstice (PHOTO: Thaddeus McCamant, via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department, Flickr CC)

Today is the Winter Solstice.

When I was younger, I used to let days like this pass without notice. Just a meaningless notation on my day planner.

Not any more.

The solstice is the shortest day of the year, the time we in the Northern Hemisphere spin farthest from the Sun. The event marks the first day in astronomical winter, even if meteorological winter gets a six week head start.

One could view the solstice like any occurrence of change: the phases of the moon, a shift in the wind. Fodder for old myths and astrophysicists. Nothing more.

Here’s how I have come to see it. Here in Northern Minnesota, winter is the seminal season. Life here is comfortable all other times, but winter is hard. Winter defines us far more than the shimmery lakes of summer or fall foliage.

By the time the Solstice comes, we’ve usually had a good month of winter. We’ve been knocked in the face by subzero temperatures. We’ve had a snow storm or two. Further, we know we’ve got at least three more months to come. This is by no means the halfway point.

But in this moment of early dread, when the road ahead stretches far past the horizon, the season gives us a promise. Light. The days will get longer from now on. Every day we draw closer to the Sun, if only by increments.

This day is short and the night will be so long. So, too, is life and death to follow. But the light will come. We find reason to keep the fires burning. So did those who came before and so will those to follow.

Happy Solstice!


  1. Nice..

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