Why Solstices and Equinoxes?

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By M.F. Erler

I can remember as a child in elementary school learning about the Equinoxes and Solstices.  Maybe I was more interested in earth science and astronomy than my peers, but the image of the globe tilted on its axis, turning each pole in turn toward the sun in its yearly circle, has stuck with me all these years.

About eight years ago, I asked my geographer son to build me a miniature Stonehenge in our backyard.  He was glad to oblige, and used his dad’s GPS to accomplish a very accurate placing of each of the sight-stones in relation to the central one.  I can now tell exactly where the sun will be on our horizon at each solstice and equinox.

Why was this important to me?  I think partly because I need to remind myself that even when things in my world are growing dark, I can look forward to the eventual return of light.  That life is not just a linear journey from birth to death.  That it’s also cyclical.

As many of my Facebook friends know, I annually count down to the Winter Solstice.  This is the one I look toward the most, for it represents the coming back of light.  It was important to ancient cultures too, as we can see from the many ancient monuments like Stonehenge, which are oriented to show exactly when the solstices will come.  I actually find it surprising that so many of my friends now comment that they look forward to my countdown.  Maybe there’s an ancient “memory” in our DNA that points to these same times of the year that were so important to our ancestors.

Ironically though, as our world grows darker in most ways, we try to push back that dark with our artificial lights.  Whether they are street lights or Christmas lights, they actually block out the stars that our ancestors looked to for guidance.  Some places on earth, including Glacier National Park, are promoting their dark night skies, ideal for stargazing.  People even talk about “light pollution” now in all our urban areas.  Astronauts in space can tell exactly where the cities are as they orbit the night side of earth.  Each metropolitan area and even small towns are seen by their artificial lights, clumps and strings of them scattered across the face of the globe.  I wonder if it sometimes looks to these spacemen like a disease on the surface of the earth.

While we keep trying to find ways to push back the dark, maybe we need to be looking more for the lights within ourselves.  Yes, our world is a mess and seems to be getting worse almost daily.  But perhaps if each of us tries to let our lights shine out to others around us, we can do a better job of pushing back the dark.

June Book News

DSC_0032 (640x426)LESLIE BUDEWITZ:  Oh my gosh, I can hardly wait to tell you about my Lucky Week! On May 1, my short story “With My Eyes” (Suspense Magazine), won the 2018 Derringer Award, given by the Short Mystery Fiction Society, in the “long story” category. A young Seattle banker sees what he wants to see when he falls for a beautiful Greek woman, until an eye-opening trip to Greece. Later that week, I attended the Malice Domestic convention, celebrating the traditional mystery. Continuing the short story fun, “A Death in Yelapa: A Food Lovers’ Village Story,” was published in this year’s Malice anthology, Mystery Most Edible;  all the stories feature food in some way or another, mine as a clue when Erin and Adam discover that snakes and crocodiles are not the only dangers in the forests of Central Mexico. And at the awards dinner, “All God’s Sparrows” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine) won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story, in the first of two ties that evening. (A full list of nominees and winners is here.) You can travel back to Montana Territory in 1885 with me and real-life historical figure “Stagecoach Mary” Fields and read the story, free, on my website.

chai another day (cover without quote)The only way to top all that is with a new book, right? CHAI ANOTHER DAY, the 4th Spice Shop Mystery, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, will be out June 11, in trade paper and e-book. (The audio will appear later this summer.) When Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece overhears an argument in an antique shop, she finds herself drawn into a murder that could implicate an old enemy, or ensnare a new friend. Read an excerpt and reviews, and see where to buy it — all the usual places, on line and in bookstores — on my website.