The year's midnight: Reflections on the Winter Solstice


Today, Wednesday, Dec. 21 at 4:48 p.m., marks the nadir of the shortest day of the
year. It is the winter solstice.

Solstice is rooted in the Latin term “solstitium,” meaning "Sun, Stand Thou Still." It is a fitting moment to pause, consider one's ways and catalog the multitudinous sea of errors and omissions with which each of us and everyone has despoiled the once snowbright and pristine orbit the Sun began one year ago.

But there is hope!

Just as the 16th Century poet John Donne remarked in his famous ditty on the Winter Solstice, “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day,” which he called "the year's midnight," he rejoiced in what at first blush would be a time of despair and hopelessness by knowing that a scant six months hence will bring the year's longest day just as surely as Donne felt that he had been promised Redemption.

Of course, once the solstice has come and gone today, we will begin the long slog, filled with heedless repetition of error and malady, toward the next winter solstice. Can there be any hope for any of us?

Perhaps there is hope, as the days only get longer from here. And we can await the Summer Solstice—the longest day of the year—on June 20, 2024, at 4.50 p.m.

Editor's note: My father, W. Mowry Connelly, wrote this essay 20 years ago, and sent it to his friends each year on the winter solstice. On this first day of winter, I thought I'd share it with our FreshWater readers. -Karin Connelly Rice.

--W. Mowry Connelly, February 1943-May 2007.