The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
— The Preacher
As this appears in the paper, St. Valentine’s Day is just a few days in the past. I hope everyone had a lovely time. They usually do.
I keep track of St. Valentine’s Day for different reasons than most people. I don’t note it for romantical reasons but, rather, for astronomical reasons.
Astronomical reasons? Valentine’s Day? What?
Yes. Astronomical reasons.
It is all about the sun and light. We know that we (in the northern hemisphere) get the most sun on the Summer Solstice ( Northern Solstice to my South American friends) and the least on the Winter Solstice ( Southern Solstice to my South American friends). We also know--I hope--that on the Equinoxes we get the same amount of light as we do darkness.
On the Equinoxes, the rate of change of light is at the max. We lose it at the maximum rate in the Fall and gain it at the maximum rate in the spring.
Where does St. Valentine’s Day fit in? To tell you that, I need to talk about Halloween at the same time. On Halloween, we’ve lost just about all of the light we are going to lose. The rate of light loss slows down tremendously. We still lose light all the way to the solstice, but at a slower rate.
At the solstice, the least light of the year, we start getting light back, but not so much that it would catch your attention. It’s getting brighter bit by bit, but you only notice if you pay very close attention. It is still light when I get home from work now, and it wasn’t a month ago.
On St. Valentine’s Day, we will begin to notice a greater change. The month or so from now to the Equinox is going to be a wonderful ride that will go on until the middle of May when the amount of change flattens out again. Then we will lose light again about the third week of July.
It all starts over again.
We live within a vast array of circles. The sun rises, the sun sets. The earth goes around the sun. The sun circles around the center of the Milky Way galaxy. (Is there a Snickers galaxy somewhere? I want to look.) We get up in the morning and we go to bed at night. We go to church on Sunday. We blow out candles on our birthday. Around and around it goes.
In addition to all of this, there are sometimes in our lives where the light is bright and there are times when it is dark. Those of us who’ve managed to live long enough know that when things are brightest, this will only last a short while. The mountain top moments never seem to last long enough.
The obverse side of this is the inevitable down times don’t last forever either. When we hit bottom, it might be dark for a long time. Improvement may only come slowly, but there is a Valentine’s Day ahead when we will begin to notice the difference.
Hang on, my friends. Valentine’s Day has come and Spring is on the way.
— Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like” the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook.