A Gesture of Peace

Dec 2, 2016

This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. Well, we’ve come to it again, the yearly descent into the long dark, an occasion that is as much metaphor as is the reality of day length. It won’t console us a bit that while we descend into winter, the southern hemisphere is just now entering spring, even though that’s the reason we are able to eat strawberries in January or cherries in March. They all come from the land down under – somewhere down under, as likely to be Chile as New Zealand. I’ll never forget my first foray into reading about the concept of “permaculture,” of arranging your home landscape into a system where every bit of it produces food, water and/or shelter as near to all year round as possible. They assured me I could grow plants not native to my own climate by planting them on the sheltered North Side of the house. It wasn’t until the second such reference that I checked the small print in the front and discovered that the book was written by and for Australians, not Americans. Oh. Well, that would explain it, wouldn’t it? There’s also the interesting phenomenon of the oppositional commode, which, when flushed in the southern hemisphere, the whirlpool effect created spins in the opposite direction than ours does here.  Not sure you really wanted to know that, but…

At any rate, we are approaching the Winter Solstice, which is about the most innocent and longstanding annual event in human history and even before. The earth is remarkably stable in its annual roll around the sun, but if you were able to go way out into space and to draw a line from the North Pole to the South, you would notice at once that the planet is not spinning in an upright position, but is instead tilting at an angle of approximately 23 degrees off center. This is a simple fact, and something that scientists have known for a very long time. It is called the angle of obliquity. It’s what makes our seasons.

Well, whatever it’s called, it is an event that occurs at a point in each spin where the North Pole of the earth is the farthest away from the sun that it ever reaches, and the South Pole is as close as it ever gets. Here in the north, we call that the Winter Solstice, and at the opposite position on the spin, when the North Pole is as close as it gets, we call that the summer solstice. And so forth.

At the actual poles and quite a way out from them there are days in winter when the sun may not come up at all, and days half a year later when it never sets. Down here in the temperate zone it’s not such a drastic change, but still, this is the time of the longest nights. 

As might be expected of a race as curious as ours, people have for thousands of years noted this descent and the later ascent with celebrations, rituals and holy days (even though that notion of sacredness has now deteriorated into holidays where people have been known to celebrate themselves into bankruptcy with the purchase of wildly overpriced gadgets and gizmos that likely will not survive until nightfall, no matter how soon it arrives.)

Just as oddly, many people in this country especially who are apparently more tribal than national have worked themselves into a real fizz over who actually owns this event. Some assert that Christmas, for instance, is the only legitimate holiday occurring at or near the same time this event occurs. Wiccans will have to move. Muslims, if Ramadan happens at a time coinciding with this event, will have to make other plans. Jewish folks celebrating Hanukkah will just have to reschedule. Because of the event. I mean, I can see how it’s easy to keep track of something that happens every single year at the same time, and happens all over the planet. But how does it work that anybody gets to own that? They’re welcome to the holiday, but it kinds takes the breath out of the good will to all business. But the thing is, this event is not a piece of property. Not a region or a nation. It’s a tilt. It’s a leaning. A fact. Not a thing to take issue with, or to have for your very own. Certainly, we in the Ozarks have leanings. We have hankerings, and notions. But we don’t think to own them. So I’m confused. I’m perplexed. I’m actually a little sorry I brought this up, because I don’t have nor do I know where to look for the answer to this "theo-scient-ophical" question. But while I continue to search for clues, in the meanwhile, here as we near this latest occasion of the farthest tilt, may I wish you the very best, the most tasty, the least contentious and the truly most loving celebration of one more farthest tilt of the earth that is everybody’s home. And may I further propose the adoption, in honor of the season, of a truly international gesture that we can all agree on, a simple 23° tilt of the head on Dec. 21 as a gesture of peace, harmony, solidarity and oneness with all the earth’s inhabitants and co-owners. This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills, offering a mix of science and silliness from the Ozarks while wishing you the happiest of the holiday of your choice.