I must confess, I do hope to see Stonehenge one day. I guess today wouldn’t have been the day to go as it’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year when the sun is at its highest elevation (“solstice” is from two Latin words: sol means “sun” and stare means “to stand” (it’s a separate blog post to explain how you get “-stice” from stare!). As NPR reports, nearly 18,000 neo-pagans and others gathered this morning at the giant stone formation in Salisbury Plain 80 miles southwest of London to see the rising of the sun (more photos via the Guardian).
The solstice has been celebrated for some 5000 years at Stonehenge and also around the world. As National Geographic says, ancient Egyptians built the pyramids “so that the sun, when viewed from the Sphinx, sets precisely between two of the Pyramids on the summer solstice.” The ancient Incas celebrated Inti Raymi, with offerings of food and sacrifices of animals (and maybe humans). A long-buried Maya city in Guatemala has been found with buildings built to align with the sun during the summer and winter solstices.
National Geographic explains how the solstice occurs:
Today the North Pole is tipped more toward the sun than on any other day of 2011. The opposite holds true for the Southern Hemisphere, where today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.
As a result, at high noon on the first day of summer, the sun appears at its highest point in the sky—its most directly overhead position—in the Northern Hemisphere.
Just because the sun is (or appears to be) at its highest does not mean it’s at its hottest or that it’ll be shining brightly everywhere. It’s actually a grayish, muggy day here in New Jersey as you can see from photos of Jon Huntsman at Liberty State Park where he announced he’s running for President earlier today. We go frequently to the very site he stood at as my husband and son like to ride parks there, across from lower Manhattan. Charlie loves — needs — to be really active and mostly outdoors. He’s very attuned to the changes in light, air pressure, which way the wind is blowing and we are, too.
Without Charlie, I’d actually be more inclined to sit inside as most of us do these days. National Geographic points out that summer solstice isn’t what it used to be for most of us as we’ve become an “indoor culture,” with many of us — certainly in the US — no longer paying attention to the changes in the seasons and cranking up the AC when it gets too hot. So whether you’re participating in the mass free yoga” session (Yoga at the Great Lawn) planned in Central Park from 5 to 8pm tonight (says NBC New York) or out walking or riding bikes, celebrate the solstice and the start of summer by going outside, taking a look (if you can see it — this video taken at Stonehenge this morning suggests it wasn’t exactly sunny) up at the sun.
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Photo by Margolum
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