VANDALIA – On November fifth the change was dramatic; we set our clocks back for Daylight Savings time and that seemed to slam a door shut on Fall. Of course, moving our clocks can’t actually save any daylight, it only shifts when we get to experience that light. Perhaps Native Americans sum it up best when they state, “Only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”
With the Sun just coming up as you head to work, and already setting by quitting time, it’s hard not to notice the lack of daylight. What’s more difficult to notice is it’s gradual return. So, I’m here to urge you to mindfully welcome back the Sun starting this December 21st, the Winter Solstice. On this shortest day of the year don’t fret about the measly nine hours of sunshine we’ll get, but do try to notice where the Sun is rising and/or setting.
Most people can recite that the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but it’s not as simple as that. On the first day of fall the Sun did rise due east, and set due west, but every day since then it has been inching its way farther and farther south. The pyramid builders, those Stonehenge guys and even our own Sunwatch Indians noticed the change of the Sun’s position along the horizon, and thought it so important they built monuments. It’s a subtle change with the position only moving a degree or two each day, but watched over the course of a season the change can be dramatic.
There’s a comfort in tracking the predictable patterns of each season. You notice the turning of the leaves, the temperature of the air, and the migration of birds overhead, so why not try to tune in to one of nature’s more low key transitions. This week notice any land mark that the evening Sun is diving down upon, and check back once a week or so. As you watch the Sun march back towards due east this equinox, rest assured that the warm temperatures are sure to follow.
To find out more about sunsets, or anything else that’s “Up” feel free to call Scott Oldfield at the Vandalia-Butler Planetarium, Smith Middle School 241-6211, or visit in person. The planetarium presents a free show, open to the public the second Saturday of each month at 7:00pm.
Scott Oldfield is a science teacher in the Vandalia-Butler School District and the Director of the Smith Middle School Planetarium. Reach him at 241-6211.