I love the Winter Solstice. The Long Night, at once glorious and terrifying, marks the death of the year gone by and the birth of a new year with the return of the waxing sun.. For me it is time for reflection, as I stay up through the darkness to greet the newborn sun. One way I experience my own inner spiritual life is through art, and for the second year in a row, I decided to mark the three key milestones of the Long Night, sunset, deep of the night, and sunrise, by taking photographs.
I gave a great deal of thought to where I would experience each stage of the Solstice, venturing much farther from home that last year to be at the places that fit how the different aspects of the Solstice resonated for me.
Sundown at Timber Point
The odd wooden structures are as eerie as ever when I arrive at my sundown shooting location. I am sore, and a bit out of breath as I am getting set up, having had to rush my walk to the site after getting stuck at a train crossing on the drive over. I don't honestly know what these things are. Are they crosses commemorating a person or event, decrepit navigational markers, or something else entirely?
A short distance behind where this photo was taken is the disintegrating remains of a turn of the century lifeboat that was being restored by a young man who was called off to WWII in the middle of the project. When he didn't return, his family left the boat exactly as he had, and more than seventy years later it isn't long for this world. Combine that with the maybe-cross, and the whole area feels like a memorial.
Altogether an appropriate place to witness the unlamented dying of a brutal year.
Deep of the Night in the Cave at Dyer Cove
The true midpoint of the Long Night here in Southern Maine was eleven-thirty-nine, a time that is well past when I arrive at Dyer Cove. I prioritized a late dinner with my husband, who works second shift, over astronomical precision.
I am not where I originally planned to be for this stage of my Solstice observation. I had planned to shoot a lighthouse, with its beams of light providing a bulwark against the dangers in the dark, and did a highly successful test shot nearby the night before.
But that is not where I am meant to be in this moment. Many years ago, in the midst of another dark and scary time, the Norse god Frey told me that I had to carry my own light into darkness. After the year gone by, both personally and in the broader world, I need this light to be of my own making. Here in the cave, I know that light will be reflected back and amplified, as well as that the cave will provide a safe and sheltered space for the shot.
Dawn of the Returning Sun at Fort Preble
The roads are already crowded as I get on the highway heading to Fort Preble for the first dawn of the returning sun, though I am all alone when I reach my destination. The sky is not promising, with heavy leaden clouds obscuring all but a small band of hazy sky on the horizon. The radio on my drive has been full of warnings that a significant storm is incoming.
This is not news to me.
Nonetheless, the sun makes an appearance, if only for a few scant minutes before disappearing into the clouds. Blazing a path through the gap of clouds at the horizon and the canon port in the fort wall, the rays of the new sun briefly warms my skin before the world is once again painted in cool shades of blue and gray.
The year once again has transitioned from waning to waxing, the eternal dance of the sun and planets a reassuring moment of continuity in an increasingly uncertain time.