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A thought on two unrelated astronomical occurrences

1) This coming Sunday will be the earliest sunset in 2019.  This notion is confusing and I have had several people tell me it makes no sense because it is not the shortest day of the year. But it is true, the earliest sunset comes before the solstice. (And the latest sunrise comes after the solstice. Here’s a good explanation: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equation-of-time.html)

As I am not a morning person, it is the later sunsets that matter most to me. Knowing that the night darkness will begin later each day, if only by seconds, cheers me. I am better able to embrace the winter, appreciate all four seasons, when I know we will begin to have light later into the day.

2) Last week, as I was coming home from late-day errands, noting how early it was for it to be dark, one car at a shopping center exit was insistently coming into the flow of traffic, although we on the roadway were moving steadily. Not wanting to hit that car, I ignored the beeping behind me and stopped to let the car into the lane.

That pause allowed me a greater reward than avoiding an accident.  As I came around the next curve, I was in the perfect position, which I surely would not have been had I not stopped for the insistent driver, to see right in front of me, seemingly just a bit out of reach, sudden, unexpected, intense: a shooting star.

Joy shot through me. A fleeting sight of the brilliance and it was gone. And I have only to call it up in my mind’s eye and feel that joyous thrill again.

So my thought that connects these two occurrences?

The predictability of the changing of the daylight, round the whole of the year, year after year, steadies us and lets us plan, lets us know, more or less, what’s coming and when. 

And the unpredictability of a sudden natural phenomenon gives us the reminder that we don’t know all that is coming and that joy can jump right in front of us with no warning.

No matter whether they happen in the sky or on the ground or in the heart, having both is essential.



Elaine Learnard
Conscience Bay Friends Meeting 

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