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.
Winter 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.
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.
Tomorrow, 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.
I 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.
For 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.