A narrow ray of sunlight shines through the side-window by the front door of our house every year at this time.
It bounces obliquely across the kitchen floor where it lights up dust and crumbs that have fallen off the counter that we don’t see the rest of the year. These tiny morsels gleam like priceless gems discovered by Harrison Ford. They glow in vivid relief, casting long shadows that remind me to do something useful (like sweep the floor) on this almost shortest day of the year.
If we were alive two thousand years ago instead of today, we would certainly see this situation very differently. The sun’s first rays would not be the light emanating from a giant thermonuclear star 147.2 million km away. Rather, that early morning light would be the glare of headlights from Jupiter’s chariot as he makes his daily journey across the Heavens, Hades and back again. If you were reading this during the Black Plague you would be reading tea leaves to understand sunlight and maybe put your astronomer in jail. We wouldn’t understand cause and effect like we do today. We’d be dangerously lost in ancient superstition, much as people are today who get their news and medical advice on FaceBook and Twitter.
This year, as the almost shortest day of the year shines a beam of light across some otherwise hidden corner of your home, join me in celebrating this oldest of human festivals – the start of a new season. Given the current situation, celebrate by doing something small, solitary and safe – like sweeping the kitchen floor or sweeping out the past year. Here’s to sweeping in a great New Year!