As the clock winds down on 2020 come the hopes of a brighter future. The occasion of the winter solstice feels more relevant this year than any other in recent memory. The solstice is the longest night of the year and happens twice annually, once in the Northern Hemisphere in December and then in the Southern Hemisphere in June (when we’re all celebrating the longest day of the year). Nordic traditions bring the burning of a Yule log to observe the occasion, in China, they share rice balls called tang yuan with family at gatherings, Persian tradition celebrates Shab-e Yalda with fires burning all night, poetry readings, and eating summer fruits to protect against winter illness. Around the world, there are many rich traditions of celebration going on.
This winter solstice will be especially unique because of the planetary ‘Great Conjunction’ of Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest planetary bodies. The last time the planets were this close to view was July 1623, almost four hundred years ago and this rare celestial occurrence won’t happen again until 2080. Some are calling it the Christmas Star because of the proximity to Christmas this year. Regardless of what you call it, it will be a sight to see and should not be missed. The coincidence of this event occurring on the longest night of the year feels more meaningful. Just after sunset will be the best time to observe the splendor in the western sky.
The solstice and the conjunction bring to mind the Yin and Yang of the universe. The constant push and pull of tides and seasons. Everyone has been through so much this year; it’s easy to forget that we live in a very dynamic universe. A place where everything changes constantly and rainy days yield to sunny ones. Summer gives way to autumn, autumn to winter, and winter to spring. This winter of 2020 feels especially significant as we look to close the book on the troubles of the past year and focus on what’s ahead. In the darkness, there is light one cannot exist without the other.
We are excited for the year ahead of us at Willistown Conservation Trust and in the Stewardship Department. We’ll be finishing our Master Plan at Rushton Woods and Farm Preserve. We’ll be applying for grants to improve our other preserves. We’ll continue to work with our dedicated volunteers to repair trails and make the land more enjoyable for visitors. Our connection to the outdoors and the land in Willistown is one of our greatest treasures, and rest assured the Trust will continue to protect the land, improve the health of it, and connect our community to nature.