Tonight, at 10:43 BST, the Sun appears to enter Cancer, as viewed from the Earth. Of course, it’s the Earth that is moving around the Sun. Today, marks the official start of summer, but it also marks the time when we have the days of most light here in the Northern Hemisphere, and we’ll soon notice there’s not quite so much daylight at the end of our days.
This year, English Heritage are live-streaming the solstice sunrise tomorrow morning on their facebook page. You’ll have to be up early (or just not go to bed!) as they start streaming from 04:07BST, with sunrise at 04:52BST. I’m certainly going to do my best to watch it. This is one of the good things to come out of the pandemic. The live stream hasn’t been done before. I would never go to Stonehenge on either Solstice as there would be too many people and far too much noise and bustle for me, but this is a nice way to see it as it happens, not recorded and shown after the fact.
I’ve always felt an affinity with the cycle of the seasons and marking the solstices and equinoxes has felt far more natural to me than any religious celebrations. The scientist in me appreciates the facts around these dates in the calendar, my heart and soul appreciate them in different ways that are personal to me.
I found this quote about the solstices, and it sums up a little bit about how I feel about them.
The artwork shows a lot more about how I’m feeling today – not quite with it, spaced out, emotional and well out of sorts. I had an idea in mind, but I just couldn’t execute it to my satisfaction today. It looks like I need another self-care day. Which is fine. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s best to go slow in order to go fast. By taking time out from commitments, I return to them in a better frame of mind and emotional state and I’m more able to fulfil them to my satisfaction for sure.
It is the Summer Solstice here in the Northern Hemisphere, the longest day of the year and from here on in the days will slowly get shorter. Still, it’s lovely to have daylight well into the evening with the sky still being fairly light at 10pm or so.
Yesterday evening I had a bit of an idea to try creating a dangle design on parchment, and this is the result. I needed a bit of a break from digital art after the hours and hours spent on my most recent mandala.
Parchment craft, or Pergamano, is an old craft and a lot of the work done, while beautiful, is really not my style. So I thought I’d try my style of art with it.
I used some ball tools to emboss the parchment with my design and then to add some shading. I drew the design directly onto the parchment with the embossing tools.
I started with the stylised flowers and worked out from there. Once I was happy with my design, I added a simple dangle consisting of round, heart-shaped and diamond shaped beads with a tear-drop bead to add some weight to the dangle.
I then added colour with some Kuretake Zig Writer pens on the reverse of the design. I chose colours that remind me of summer – the mature greens of summer foliage along with the bright colours of tropical flowers. I thought these would work well for the Solstice. Of course the hearts needed to be pink and I added some teal-blue to the small diamond beads for a bit of variety.
On top of the dots around the design I added tiny dots of gold glittery loveliness using a Uniball Signo glitter gel pen. I also added some tiny dots in the centres of the stylised flowers.
To give an idea of the size of this design, the black paper behind the parchment is A4 (approx US letter) in size.
Adhering the parchment to the black paper was a problem as glue shows through, so I had to use some tiny dots where the white lines were thick enough to disguise the glue.
I really think that the white lines of the parchment create something that is equally as lovely and maybe a bit more delicate than my usual black line art.
The uses of this design are many – greeting cards, note cards, framed artwork or used in Bullet Journals, journals, planners, scrapbooks, and more. In fact, I may replicate the design for my July cover spread in my BuJo.
If you’d like to learn more about drawing your own dangle designs, then my book “A Dangle A Day” is, perhaps, a good place to start.
So, Angela, how are you feeling today?
I’m feeling quite content today. Tired still, but content.
It seems the anti-stigma talk for Time to Change Wales and the anxiety I had around doing it on Wednesday has taken it’s toll on me just a bit. I do know, however, that I will recover in the fullness of time for sure.
This is part of the emotional/mental weather that is part of life. Beneath this weather is a calmer, more content Angela. I find this version of me from time to time; indeed I’m content in myself on many more days than I am discontented. Even with the bout of anxiety on Wednesday there was still a sense of being content.
It’s a strange thing to feel both at the same time. A bit like feeling the firm ground beneath my feet as a wild wind is buffeting me and trying to blow me down. I can feel that firm footing even when my emotions are a bit on the wild and windy side.
That’s progress on my journey to recover from CPTSD. Even more progress that I can recognise and describe this feeling.
This realisation makes me smile.
It’s progress, but it’s not where I want to be. I want to be able to go out and about without being scared of my own shadow. To be able to travel to unfamiliar places and actually get out of my car when I don’t have an appointment of some kind. To be able to go into an unfamiliar cafe or eatery when I’m by myself when I’m hungry and thirsty. To not go into full flight mode when something small has spooked me. To not be startled by loud noises. I want to be able to reach out to people without fear of rejection or to allow people into my home. To have all kinds of relationships with healthy boundaries where my needs and boundaries are respected by myself. To be able to go shopping without being overwhelmed by the choices available so I end up leaving without getting anything that’s needed.
These are but a few of ways that CPTSD affects my life and that I’d like to change through the healing journey I’m undertaking with the help of EMDR and therapy.
I’ve never been anything other than this permanently scared, extremely self-conscious person. Different events and places result in different levels of fear/anxiety in me. Even sat here, at my familiar desk, I feel anxious about writing about it.
The progress is that I recognise it now. I have identified it. Although it’s still there, it’s slowly being dis-empowered. Slowly means it’s being done properly and that I have time for the new level of anxiety or the increased self-awareness has time to become familiar to me before the next step forward is made. Familiar means it’s the more healed me. Healing bit by bit.
Time to change your calendars and diaries over! Happy new calendar day for MMXI!
The Sun and the Year
It takes the Earth 365.24219 mean solar days to orbit the Sun once. This is slightly more than our nominal 365 day long year, so every four days we have a leap year, with 29 days in February instead of the usual 28. This still isn’t quite right, so the last year of every century is not a leap year unless the year is divisible by 400, which is why 2000 was a leap year but 1900 wasn’t.
There are four key points in the Earth’s yearly journey around the Sun.
The Solstices are where the Sun appears to stand still at solar noon for a few days, this means that it is in the same position in the sky at solar noon. Solstice comes from the Latin sol for Sun and sistere which means to stand still. Around the 21st December each year, the Sun is the furthest south from the equator in the sky and we in the northern hemisphere experience the Winter Solstice, the shortest day in the year. Around the 21st June, the northern hemisphere’s Summer Solstice occurs, with the Sun being at it’s most northerly from the equator. This is the longest day of the year for us.
The Equinoxes occur in between these points. The Vernal Equinox occurs around the 21st March and the Autumnal Equinox around the 21st September each year. On these days, the Sun is directly over the equator. These are days where the hours of daylight and night are approximately equal, and the word equinox comes from the Latin equi meaning equal and nox meaning night.
To our modern eyes, the cycles of the Sun are important in terms of determining the seasons, the weather, agricultural practices and so on. But that wasn’t always so.
The Moon and the Year
To early man, it was the Moon, with its cyclical waxing and waning that was the more obvious object to use to measure time and all the earliest known calendars are lunar, based on the phases of the Moon. Indeed, the word month comes from the use of the phases of the Moon to split the year up into segments.
It takes long and complicated sums to link the cycles of the Moon to those of the Sun. A lunar month is 29.5306 days long, so a twelve month lunar year would last just over 354 days and so is around 11 days out of step with the Solar year. If we were to follow a lunar calendar, it would take just about 16 years for the seasons to be completely reversed.
Julius Caesar and the 1st January
Whatever the religious reasons may have been to keep to a lunar calendar, it must have been obvious that it was the cycles of the Sun that had the biggest effect upon human activity. It was the turning of the seasons that determined when crops were to be sown, when they were due to be harvested, when the weather would be good enough to set sail, and for so many other things too, yet the lunar calendar was still in use, with all the problems of errors and corrections that needed to be made until the Julian calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 45BC.
Caesar learned of this calendar from the Egyptians. Legend has it it was at a party thrown by Cleopatra in his honour. The Julian calendar was based on a 365 day year, with an extra day thrown in every 4 years. Each year had twelve months with thirty or thirty-one days, except February, and the 1st January was set as the beginning of the year.
The calendar as we know it today was now more or less in place. It was regular, secular and based on the real movements of the Sun.
Emperor Constantine (d. AD377) imposed Christianity as the major religion of the Roman Empire and he placed the design of the calendar back in the hands of religious groups who were still wedded to the traditional lunar movements for their major festivals. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Christian church was the nearest thing to an international controlling committee and the West entered a long, dark time where scientific enquiry was frowned upon at best and considered heresy at worst.
The Gregorian Calendar
By the C16th, the western world was stable enough to attempt to reform the calendar. The small errors from the Julian calendar had now become noticeable and annoying. In 1582 Pope Gregory finally announced changes in the calendar to correct these faults and prevent them from happening again, including the 400 year rule for leap years mentioned previously.
He introduced what became known as the Gregorian Calendar, and ordained that 5th October should become 15th October to bring the calendar back in line with the physical world. This was a much needed and a sensible solution to the problem of the calendar.
However, the changes were not universally accepted, especially in Protestant countries such as Britain. The changes were declared to be a ‘Popish plot’ designed to undermine their credibility. For more than a century following this Papal decree, half of Europe was 10 days ahead of the other half!
It took Britain until 1752 to adopt the changes, by which time it had to correct the calendar by 11 days to bring it back into line with Gregorian calendar. Philip Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, initiated this move by introducing a Bill to correct the ‘inconvenient and disgraceful errors of our present calendar’. This Bill was signed into law by George II on 22nd May 1752. Chesterfield’s Act decreed that Wednesday 2 September 1752 be followed immediately by 14 September 1752 and also that the New Year was to start officially on 1st January.
A bit more trolling round the world weird web, as well as my reference books, for information on some of the plants I saw on my travels on Friday. I get lost far too easily in the search for knowledge and information, but it’s always an enjoyable journey.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Around the UK wishes can often be seen tied to beech trees. This custom has it’s origins in Celtic tree mythology where the beech is known as the tree of wishes. Fallen beech branches were seen as invitations to make a wish by writing it on a beech twig and then pushing the twig deep into the ground. The wish would then be taken by the wishing fairies to the Fairy Queen who would consider it.  Rods of beech are often favoured by water diviners. 
The Greek deities Apollo and Athena were said to have sat, as vultures, in the branches of an oak or a beech tree to watch the war between the Trojans and the Greeks. [3, 4]
Beech nuts are known as mast.
Norse tradition says that tablets of beech were used to make the very first writing tablets for the runes. It is also a sacred wood of the Summer Solstice .
Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus)
The Sycamore is also known as the Great Maple . The winged seeds of the sycamore are called helicopters and were used in flying competitions by children. The sycamore was the favoured wood for making love spoons in Wales, which are made from a single piece of wood .
In Montgomeryshire there was a belief that sycamore trees kept the fairies away and stopped them from spoiling the milk .
In Scotland the feudal lairds used sycamore tress, known as dool or joug trees, as their gallows. Further south, in Wiltshire, sycamores had unlucky associations, perhaps because they were also sometimes known as ‘hanging trees’ .
The Sycamore is sometimes called the Martyrs’ tree after the Tolpuddle Martyrs who first met beneath a sycamore tree in 1843 and formed a secret society to fight starvation and poor wages. Unfortunately, they were caught and sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. They were pardoned after two years and returned home .