Monday, December 21, 2009


The photograph was taken in the chamber of Newgrange, Ireland by Fran Caffrey. on December 21st, 2003.

At dawn on Winter Solstice every year, just after 9am, the sun begins to rise across the Boyne Valley from Newgrange, Ireland over a hill known locally as Red Mountain. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December. Given the right weather conditions, the event is spectacular.

At four and a half minutes past nine, the light from the rising sun strikes the front of Newgrange and enters into the passage through the roofbox which was specially designed to capture the rays of the sun.

For the following seventeen minutes, the beam of light stretches into the passage of Newgrange and on into the central chamber, where, in Neolithic times, it illuminated the rear stone of the central recess of the chamber. With simple stone technology, a significant astronomical event and a special time in the annual cycle was captured in a most astonishing way.


make drums of your soles
crack open your head
leave all you have worried at the gate
every thing you cannot live without.
visit terraced footings
tread points of roughness
scream closely held fears
into luminous darkness

For this is no fleeting station
but a repeat destination
a cloudless sky
curved and acrobatic
A featherless dance
five days without name
a time of empty form.

light a dark candle
at the furred edge of doubt
your breath
is my trail to you.

Winter solstice profoundly challenges our tolerance for paradox. Mary Oliver is the best companion I know to share the longest night. Solstice blessings! May the first rays of morning find a soft glow in your heart.

Starlings in Winter
by Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.

"Starlings in Winter" by Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays.


TomCat said...

Beautiful. Happy solstace to you as well.

SantaCat said...

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas to all you cool cats and pretty kitties! And have a purrrfect New Year!

if said...

Beautiful indeed...!!