, Newburyport, MA


December 20, 2013

Illuminating the solstice

A chilly walk on Amesbury's Deer Island welcomes winter

As late fall bows to winter, it’s easy to forget that longer and sunnier days are right around the corner.

The winter solstice is tomorrow, marking the first day of winter but also an important point in our daylight cycle. Here in New England, the first full day of winter means the beginning of brighter days. With each passing day after the solstice, the sun sets later and farther to the north. Soon, too, the sun will rise earlier each day.

It’s a pretty awesome thing to watch, the literal and figurative brightening of our darkest months, and something I wanted to share with my boys, just as my grandmother had with me once when I was a child. Hoping to shed light on a changing season, she had dug out some old lanterns from her barn and walked with me into a dark and chilly forest across the street, adding light to the darkest day of the year.

Taking advantage of clear skies and a nearly full moon, my wife, Jamie, and I brought our boys and a few special friends into the darkness for our own solstice walk.

In re-creating the special evening with our small group, we converted some of my mother’s old canning jars into festive lanterns for the kids to carry. With all sorts of craft supplies, candles, yummy snacks and cheery music, we chatted of arriving home from school in winter to a setting sun and going to bed in summer with it still high in the sky. We looked out the west windows and noted how far the setting sun travels from north to south, from solstice to solstice.

Then, after a touch too much cocoa and even more whipped cream, we packed up and headed to Deer Island for a chilly walk with our newly crafted lanterns. Although a few days before the actual solstice, we had a wicked great time making our lanterns, learning of the seasons and walking along the Lower Merrimack River on Amesbury’s Deer Island.

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