Tag Archives: Winter Solstice

Flaming rainbow

Summer solstice rainbow

In the country, dust and heat on summer solstice day in Texas compress the air and stifle activity unless pickup doors close and air conditioning is set to near maximum.  Cattle bunch up under the shade of mesquite and live oak, chewing cud, panting and resting.  Highway construction workers — I see them between Mingus and Abilene — don white, flowing bandannas about their neck, issuing profiles of Bedouin upon the Arabian desert.  The workers move slowly, crumbling with drills and backhoes the old asphalt so that concrete may be laid for continental traffic.  They toil for dollars, but mostly for future mirages in far-off lands.

So dry, the forest service retorts, that in the recorded weather history of  Texas, no drier period between last October and May has occurred.  As the sun set two days ago, smoke from wildfires westward turned the sun blood-red and I thought of all the science fiction tales that speak of dying worlds, collapsing stars and barren wastes of uninhabitable planets.

But yesterday evening, thunder and lightening came through the ranchito with rain that pooled ever so briefly on the county road, setting new potholes that I will not regret.  The sky, the air turned yellow, yellowish-green, and in the east where the squall line flew, the darkest blue set the mantlepiece for a rainbow, two of them, in the sky.  How infinite the patterns of the weather for one day the sun scorches the veld and the next day reflects the colors of rainbows.  Flame and rainbow melt.  The colors drape beautifully, artfully, upon a landscape that nourishes life and hope again, an elegant form that rests against me.  Dust and heat will come again, I know.  But yesterday a rainbow colored my sky and will again.

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Filed under Juniper, Wildfire

Fall of All Seasons

Fall foliage in the grove at Flying Hat Ranch (2009). Photo by B. Matthews

Today, September 22, 2010, is the first day of Fall.  The sun positioned equally between northern and southern hemispheres today falls to southern skies from today until about December 21, the winter solstice, shortest day of the year.

Fall of all the seasons is harvest time, but it is more.  It seems to be a time for catching up and preparation.  The Winter is coming and windbreaks must be established for the horses and hatchets and axes placed in the pickups to chop the ice from the water troughs.  An uptick of hay must be stored in the barn.  When it is drier (this season it is not) grass must be shredded in places to stop the spread of wildfire into the woods and structures.  A hard look must be given to livestock to affirm they are properly conditioned weight-wise to make it through the winter.  If not, then added grain or alfalfa must be apportioned to the weak.  Crevices must be stuffed, caulking pressed into cracks.  The tire chains must be brought out and placed in the trucks.

Summer in most parts of Texas is brutal from 10:30 a.m. in the morning until the long shadows in the evening.  Fall, Winter and Spring give comfortable temperatures for outdoor labor and I anticipate Fall coming way back in June.  June through the middle of September is a time I tolerate and mechanically toil outdoors.  I’m not trying to rush through the Summer, but I am happier when I feel the cool temperatures before daylight in the Fall, as I did this morning, standing in the pasture road looking at the moon, almost full, falling through the mesquite trees on the Dooley place.

I have long since passed the time in the Fall when I saw it as a time of playing football or watching the sport.  I do occasionally watch games and on Friday nights I see the stadium lights from Gordon and Stephenville and other towns about our region.  Interstate 20 is filled with band and supporter buses going to games, intent upon boosting the boys and their play with pigskin.  Better to have the game than waste away in destructive behaviors despite the risk of concussions.

Fall.  I am glad for cooler temperatures and the colors changing in the grove of trees.  I hope your first day of Fall is a good day.  I know mine is.

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Filed under Flying Hat Ranch

Pulling Down the Sun

In days past, the sun’s rays at noon on winter solstice were carefully marked, attended.  The sun in northern American latitudes would be at the lowest place in the sky for a year, thereafter rising higher daily to the summer solstice noon in June.  These two times, winter and summer solstice, were known as meridian passage.

Elsie Clews Parsons made note of the Isleta Pueblo marking light on winter solstice day.

In the roof of the ceremonial room there is a hole through which at noon the sun shines on a spot on the floor near where the chief stands….All sing the song of “pulling down the sun.”…This is noon time when for a little while the Sun stands still [1].

Humans, singing,  help pull the sun down.  And, by singing again, humans push the sun up.  Although scientifically un-plausible, the ceremony embeds connection with the sun in a metaphorical sense that, in turn, reflects the empirical, august, palpable unity that people need with one another to sing their lives into another yearly cycle with nature.

Notes

[1]  Elsie Clews Parsons, Forty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for the Years 1929-1930, pp. 193-466.  Washington, D. C.: 1932.  From Anna F. Sofaer and Rolf M. Sinclair, “Astronomical Markings on Fajada Butte,” in John B. Carlson and W. James Judge (eds.), Astronomy and Ceremony in the Prehistoric Southwest, Papers of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology, No. 2, 1987, pp. 63-64.

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Filed under Life in Balance