This time of year, I send Ozzy and Tripp off to walk the block to school in moonlight. Here they are this week as they begin the trek. Tripp is howling at the moon. Ozzy is annoyed that this photo op might make him late for school. The time is approximately 8:45 AM.

Solstice MC ShellWinter Solstice is a noted day in Alaska.  The sun is at its most southern declination on this day, or said another way, it is the darkest day of the year. Sunrise today was at 10:14 AM and sunset was at 3:42 PM for a total of five hours and 28 minutes of sunlight. If you factor in dawn and dusk that gives us a total of seven hours and 32 minutes of light. This is the light of high noon on this Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice MC Shell

When we lived in Robe River, a small neighborhood six miles from Valdez, the mountains are so tall that the sun does not clear them for a full six weeks. If we wanted to see the sun in person, we had to drive to town.


2:30 PM Solstice by MC Shell3:30PM

3:30 PM Solstice by MC Shell4:00PM

4:30 PM Solstice by MC Shell4:30PM

4:30Pm solstice by MC ShellTomorrow, we begin turning towards the light. The change is small at first–just a few more minutes of sun each day. But by the end of January, we all start to feel the difference–begin once again to believe that summer will indeed come. For those of you who have never been to Alaska in the winter, the magic of all this darkness must seem mysterious and maybe even creepy–who would want that? Well, it is the absence of light that makes its return so magnificent.

Solstice by MC ShellI know the lack of light is troubling to some. It can encourage depression and drinking. For me, it has always been fascinating. I just can’t get over the number of long hours of darkness the months of December and January hold . One year, I photographed the sky every day at nine in the morning just to document the day by day increase in light.

Close Up of Solstice by MC ShellFor the past seven years, my husband and I have celebrated Solstice with our dear friend Lila. She builds a bonfire in her drive way in Spenard, Alaska. We gather around that fire and tell stories of darkness becoming light. We celebrate this moment of turning towards the sun. It is a wonderful evening of reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.

Solstice by MC ShellThis quilt is about that moment of darkness to light–community and friendship in the cold long dark night that is an Alaskan winter.

Solstice by MC ShellHappy Winter Solstice dear friends.

This entry was published on December 21, 2013 at 1:45 PM. It’s filed under Quilt Stories, Thoughts and Opinions and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “Solstice

  1. Good Grief!!!! I had no idea it was so dark….so long….up there in Alaska.
    Well illustrated with your quilts, Maria dear.

  2. bschillig on said:

    Hi Maria, I loved this post!! I’ve often wondered what it is like in Alaska in winter. Is it “really” that dark all day???? I had sooo many questions. And you just answered them. so thanks for sharing!! Hope you have a Happy Holiday season up there! Greetings from rainy, rainy, rainy, soggy Ohio! Where it got an unreal 60 degrees today. Last week had 6″ of snow on the ground, go figure….. Beth Schillig

  3. Beautiful, beautiful, Maria!!

  4. kathy loomis on said:

    I’ve been in high summer no-night-at-all in Antarctica, and almost-no-night-at-all in Alaska, and found them both exciting. Next I want to experience some no-day-at-all and see what the other side is like. So far no concrete plans for how to accomplish this.

  5. Christine on said:

    What a small world! I didn’t know you knew at least half of the Loomis pair. I’ve only met Loomie – and he so awesome I can only image what Kathy is like. Beautiful people Beautiful quilt

  6. My friend in San Fransisco calls in the winter to ask what time the sun set. I should have him call you next! Lucky you to live the contrasts….. So much light in the summer, I suppose? Love the B&W Solstice quilt.

    • Yes Barb, The opposite is true in the month of June. People are mowing their lawns at midnight. We run around 24-7 until all we can think about is the lovely, slow darkness of winter.

  7. Love the black and white quilt and now that I know how short your daylight is, I’ll stop complaining about the length of ours in Idaho.

  8. Pingback: Thread Throw Down | Maria Shell

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