The winter solstice (or hibernal solstice), also known as midwinter, is an astronomical phenomenon marking the day with the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year. It occurs when one of the Earth’s poles has its maximum tilt away from the Sun. It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere this is the December solstice and in the Southern Hemisphere this is the June solstice.
The axial tilt of Earth and gyroscopic effects of its daily rotation mean that the two opposite points in the sky to which the Earth’s axis of rotation points (axial precession) change very slowly (at the current rate it would take just under 26,000 years to make a complete circle). As the Earth follows its orbit around the Sun, the polar hemisphere that faced away from the Sun, experiencing winter, will, in half a year, face towards the Sun and experience summer. This is because the two hemispheres face opposite directions along Earth’s axis, and so as one polar hemisphere experiences winter, the other experiences summer.
More evident from high latitudes, a hemisphere’s winter solstice occurs on the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. Although the winter solstice itself lasts only a moment in time, the term sometimes refers to the day on which it occurs. Other names are “midwinter”, the “extreme of winter” (Dongzhi), or the “shortest day”. In some cultures it is seen as the middle of winter, while in others it is seen as the beginning of winter. In meteorology, winter in the Northern Hemisphere spans the entire period of December through February. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening hours of daylight during the day. The earliest sunset and latest sunrise dates differ from winter solstice, however, and these depend on latitude, due to the variation in the solar day throughout the year caused by the Earth’s elliptical orbit (see earliest and latest sunrise and sunset).
Worldwide, interpretation of the event has varied across cultures, but many have held a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803 – 1882
And I behold once more
My old familiar haunts; here the blue river,
The same blue wonder that my infant eye
Admired, sage doubting whence the traveller came,—
Whence brought his sunny bubbles ere he washed
The fragrant flag-roots in my father’s fields,
And where thereafter in the world he went.
Look, here he is, unaltered, save that now
He hath broke his banks and flooded all the vales
With his redundant waves.
Here is the rock where, yet a simple child,
I caught with bended pin my earliest fish,
Much triumphing, —and these the fields
Over whose flowers I chased the butterfly,
A blooming hunter of a fairy fine.
And hark! where overhead the ancient crows
Hold their sour conversation in the sky:—
These are the same, but I am not the same,
But wiser than I was, and wise enough
Not to regret the changes, tho’ they cost
Me many a sigh. Oh, call not Nature dumb;
These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance. The wind,
That rustles down the well-known forest road—
It hath a sound more eloquent than speech.
The stream, the trees, the grass, the sighing wind,
All of them utter sounds of ’monishment
And grave parental love.
They are not of our race, they seem to say,
And yet have knowledge of our moral race,
And somewhat of majestic sympathy,
Something of pity for the puny clay,
That holds and boasts the immeasurable mind.
I feel as I were welcome to these trees
After long months of weary wandering,
Acknowledged by their hospitable boughs;
They know me as their son, for side by side,
They were coeval with my ancestors,
Adorned with them my country’s primitive times,
And soon may give my dust their funeral shade.
By Robert Frost
March 7, 1923
A winter Eden in an alder swamp
Where conies now come out to sun and romp,
As near a paradise as it can be
And not melt snow or start a dormant tree.
It lifts existence on a plane of snow
One level higher than the earth below,
One level nearer heaven overhead
And last year’s berries shining scarlet red.
It lifts a gaunt luxuriating beast
Where he can stretch and hold his highest feast
On some wild apple tree’s young tender bark,
What well may prove the years’ high girdle mark.
Pairing in all known paradises ends:
Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,
Content with bud inspecting. They presume
To say which buds are leaf and which are bloom.
A feather hammer gives a double knock.
This Eden day is done at two o’clock.
An hour of winter day might seem too short
To make it worth life’s while to wake and sport.
In the winter forest
The trees move in the Winter Forest,
They sway with the gental breeze.
Naked as the leaves fall to the ground,
And the water will slowly freeze.
The forest casts shadows on the snowy grounds,
As the light of a thousand stars shine through.
The angels dance and sing in the snow,
As the sky turns to a midnight blue.
One angel sings of the moon and stars,
Another sings of the sun.
They play in the trees and howl with the wind,
Their wings glistening as through the forest they gracefully run.
By day the Winter Forest is quiet and peaceful,
But by night it’s alive with games and song.
The angels, fairies, moon and stars,
Beckon you to come along.
Join in with their dance in praise of the night,
Run with the wolves fast and free.
When the sun comes up they will say goodnight,
Silent again the Winter Forest will be!
John Rollin Ridge, 1827 – 1867
I look upon the purple hills
That rise in steps to yonder peaks,
And all my soul their silence thrills
And to my heart their beauty speaks.
What now to me the jars of life,
Its petty cares, its harder throes?
The hills are free from toil and strife,
And clasp me in their deep repose.
They soothe the pain within my breast
No power but theirs could ever reach,
They emblem that eternal rest
We cannot compass in our speech.
From far I feel their secret charm—
From far they shed their healing balm,
And lost to sense of grief or harm
I plunge within their pulseless calm.
How full of peace and strength they stand,
Self-poised and conscious of their weight!
We rise with them, that silent band,
Above the wrecks of Time or Fate;
For, mounting from their depths unseen,
Their spirit pierces upward, far,
A soaring pyramid serene,
And lifts us where the angels are.
I would not lose this scene of rest,
Nor shall its dreamy joy depart;
Upon my soul it is imprest,
And pictured in my inmost heart.
Film Friday, Irish landscape photography, Sally Gap, Wicklow Mountains, The drama of 35mm slide film
From all the possible 35mm films you could use for landscape photography, I feel that slide transparency film offered the most drama and colour depth to each shot you took. Clearly you still needed to me there at the time you found the best lighting and weather conditions but to myself there was no better film available that captured dramatic colours and tones.
This image was taken on a very moody evening, sometime back as I was walking alone the road of the Sally Gap….
Sally Gap, Wicklow Mountains
On the road to Sally Gap, there are spectacular views of the surrounding blanket bog and the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gap is one of two east-to-west passes across the Wicklow Mountains. Sally Gaps is a cross-road that leads you North to Dublin, West to Blessington, South to Glendalough or East to Roundwood.
the Sally Gap got its road after the Irish rebellion of 1798. It was built by British Army forces looking to flush rebels from the hills, and to this day is known as the Military Road.
Whatever about giving the army a better view of the rebels, the Military Road certainly provides an enviable view of some of Ireland’s most filmed scenery.
Highlights of this winding, twisting feat of engineering include the Glencree valley, the dark waters of Lough Tay, Kippure Mountain and Glenmacnass Waterfall.
Two more unusual stops are Glencree’s Visitor Centre, originally built to house soldiers guarding the pass (and now a centre for Peace and Reconciliation), and the Glencree War Cemetery, a resting place for German soldiers who died in Ireland.
Horses in Snow
By Roberta Hill
They are a gift I have wanted again.
Wanted: One moment in mountains
when winter got so cold
the oil froze before it could burn.
I chopped ferns of hoarfrost from all the windows
and peered up at pines, a wedding cake
by a baker gone mad. Swirls by the thousand
shimmered above me until a cloud
lumbered over a ridge,
bringing the heavier white of more flurries.
I believed, I believed, I believed
it would last, that when you went out
to test the black ice or to dig out a Volkswagon
filled with rich women, you’d return
and we’d sputter like oil,
match after match, warm in the making.
Wisconsin’s flat farmland never approved:
I hid in cornfields far into October,
listening to music that whirled from my thumbprint.
When sunset played havoc with bright leaves of alders,
I never mentioned longing or fear.
I crouched like a good refugee in brown creeks
and forgot why Autumn is harder than Spring.
But snug on the western slope of that mountain
I’d accept every terror, break open seals
to release love’s headwaters to unhurried sunlight.
Weren’t we Big Hearts? Through some trick of silver
we held one another, believing each motion the real one,
ah, lover, why were dark sources bundled up
in our eyes? Each owned an agate,
marbled with anguish, a heart or its echo,
we hardly knew. Lips touching lips,
did that break my horizon
as much as those horses broke my belief?
You drove off and I walked the old road,
scolding the doubles that wanted so much.
The chestnut mare whinnied a cloud into scrub pine.
In a windless corner of a corral,
four horses fit like puzzle pieces.
Their dark eyes and lashes defined by the white.
The colt kicked his hind, loped from the fence.
The mares and a stallion galloped behind,
lifting and leaping, finding each other
in full accord with the earth and their bodies.
No harm ever touched them once they cut loose,
snorting at flurries falling again.
How little our chances for feeling ourselves.
They vanished so quickly—one flick of a tail.
Where do their mountains and moments begin?
I stood a long time in sharpening wind.
Irish Landscape Photography : February’s frost and snow along the river , River Suir , County Tipperary
As we say Goodbye to February and Hello to the Springtime month of March, we are still in the middle of a very cold week here in the southest of Ireland. This month has been one of the best for mixed weather that I can remember, we started the month wet and windy but then the weather turn much warmer and you could just start to imaging that the spring was on its way 🙂
This week , the final week of the Month has however been the most interesting end to the Month of February for some years, we awoke here in Kilkenny to some snow but only about 1cm, further north in Dublin and the Wicklow mountains they had some 10cm of snow overnight with about 20cm in places by the end of the day light hours today.
The fun however is only about to being, starting from 4pm tomorrow the south of the country is going to be hit by a storm (Emma) heading our way along the French west coast as I post and making land fall in both Ireland and Cornwall in the UK at the same time.
Overnight Thursday into Friday it is predicted that we will receive high winds of around 40 MPH and about 8cm of snow.
The main risk however will be from the high winds as this will of course increase the chance of the snow drifting, its a worry at this time of year as many farmers will have animals outside ready for the spring season. There has however been good notice of whats to come so hopefully there has been time to bring in sheep and livestock.
The only blessing could be that with the Springtime only just around the corner, when it stops snowing the temperatures should recover much more quickly that would be the case in the middle of the winter season.
The last time I experienced such cold winter weather was on a winters visit to the Welsh hills to visit a friend Sandy, here are some of the images from that visit.
While the Snow and Cold can bring hardship at times the landscape views it can bring are wonderful 🙂
Gallery of the Welsh hills in Winter
This winter here in Ireland has been more cold and wet than dominated by ice and snow , yet we have had more short spells of icy conditions than normal.
Now almost at the end of the winter, according to both the met office in Ireland and the UK we are about to experience our coldest week for many years. The daytime temperatures will have to fight to get over -1oc . with some 25cm of snow predicted from Tuesday evening until Saturday. The following weekend looks like bringing warmer weather back and a return of the spring, these kind of cold fronts in the weather can however end up sticking around for longer than expected.
Keep Warm everyone get lots of food in and fuel for the fire and enjoy what could be the last blast of this winter 🙂 Here comes the Beast from the east.
Snow in the Irish landscape
This Morning the 6th February 2018, Images from the very cold and snow covered hills of the Nire Valley in county Waterford.
It was great to see the winter snows back again …..