By Heidi Lewis
It sure is dark here in winter. But consider how dark it is in the rest of the universe. The universe is estimated to be 95% dark energy and dark matter; only 5% is ordinary matter, things like: us, planets, suns, asteroids, space stations, and galactic gas. NASA posits dark energy as being a “property of space.” Not much is known about it, other than how it impacts the universe’s expansion. A 2011 survey of around 200,000 galaxies confirmed the existence of dark matter, which is even less understood. According to NASA: “We are much more certain what dark matter is not than we are what it is.” In light of that, it feels reassuring to be in our cozy little solar system with our trusty sun, Sol.
By our Gregorian calendars, winter has just begun—but the winter solstice, which occurred Dec. 21, marks the return of light. Naked-eye observation of the exact time of solstice is difficult, which is why ancient constructions like Stonehenge and Newgrange are amazing, with their sight-line alignments to astronomical events. Perhaps you mark the arc of winter’s sun by where it falls in your morning routine, or maybe you get a planetary perspective from one of the space-based telescopes.
For the farmers who grow our food, nothing is more fundamental than sunlight’s arc and duration. Whether a traditional family farmer, a university-trained farmer, or a biodynamic farmer who has intellectualized the rhythms of the earth and cosmos, they all watch the arc of the sun. In the farming season’s rhythm of activity, autumn is the breath in (harvest), winter solstice is the pause, and spring is the out-breath (new growth). This moment of pause is well exemplified in the East Asian solstice festival Dong Zhi, celebrating the line between yin and yang, light and dark.
When you peer into a TakeHome case, take stock of the season’s offerings. There may be fruit in protective skin, such as citrus, kiwi, or pomegranate; root veggies or tubers that have been slumbering in the earth; or dark leafy greens that get their chutzpah from a nip of frost. In due course, these will give way to delicate-skinned fruits, new potatoes, baby peas ’n carrots, and greens the color of spring grass.
Happy solstice, enjoy your “pause,” and here’s to the return of the light.