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Here comes the sun

Dec 21, 2012 - By Steven R. Peck

On solstice day the upward climb begins

As of today, we have left summer as far behind us as possible on our planet. Winter, it seems, is here.

The dry, bare ground doesn't betray the season, but the temperature does. There have been colder first days of winter, but this one holds its own. The thermometer reading outside the Ranger newsroom at 8 a.m. registered a single, chilled digit: 2.

In one respect, that's the bad news. But it's not the whole story.

If this is the day that summer is at its most distant, it also is the day when we start gaining on it again.

Winter solstice comments in this newspaper space often have imagined the ancient peoples without knowledge of planets and orbits and the angles of the Earth relative to the sun. All they knew was that the sun started disappearing. Days got colder, nights longer. The deterioration was relentless.

So they prayed. They hoped. They worried. They wondered. Would this be the time when the sun wouldn't return? Had they done something wrong? Could they make it right? Would this be the year the sun stayed away?

We all have winter days when similar thoughts gnaw at the boundaries of our minds. There is a relentlessness to the chilling, darkening days as winter comes on, and it affects us. A clinical malady called seasonal affective disorder has been studied, documented and quantified. It is real, and its acronym -- SAD -- is more than appropriate.

Luckily, there is a treatment for it, perhaps even a cure.

It is light.

Surely that explains why so many enduring human celebrations happen at about this time of year. Minute by minute, the light starts returning. Day by day, we can rely a bit less on the fires we build, the candles we place, the colorful strands we plug in, the lamps we read by.

Because the light is returning. Could there be a better cause for celebration?

What a feeling of relief it must have been to those ancients, huddled and worried, when they detected the sun setting a few moments later, inching farther west on the horizon, illuminating their days a fraction longer. How grateful they must have felt when dawn peeked over the edge of the world a bit sooner than the day before.

We can relate. Millennia later, that remains how we feel today. Our halogen bulbs and fluorescent tubes give us the light we need for our everyday tasks day and night, if necessary. But they aren't the same as that earlier sunrise, not so reassuring as that later sunset.

What goes around comes around, the saying goes. That thought must have been from the seasons. This is the time of year it is proved most profoundly.

"Here comes the sun," wrote George Harrison in the Beatles' hit of the same name from, incredibly, 43 years ago.

"Here comes the sun, and I say

"It's all right....

"Sun, sun, sun

"Here it comes."

What goes around comes around. We have reached the bottom rung of the ladder. Let the climbing begin.

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