It fascinates me that the sunrise is different every day. The sun rises at a slightly different time, and on our cosy place on the planet (just south of the Tropic of Cancer), it creeps northwards along the horizon as the weeks move away from the shortest days in December towards the longer, lighter days. Then, after the longest day, it creeps southwards again. Every day, the sun’s appearance is different. The cloud formations are different, the light varies and the place where the sun first starts its ascent over the skyline changes too.
I remember the first winter that I started my sunrise swim. It was late November 2010 and I loved watching the sun peek over the horizon around 6.15 in the morning. As we moved through December I would leave home in the dark, as the sky was just beginning to show the first tinges of light and on the shortest day it rose at 6.30. After a few days away for Christmas that year, I resumed the early swims eagerly set for the sun to start rising earlier. To my bewilderment, it seemed to be getting darker in the mornings, rather thanlighter. By the middle of January, I was no longer able to contain my puzzlement and resorted to good old Google. I learned that in fact the sun does continue to rise later and later throughout January and even into February. How bizarre, and how contradictory to the fundamental sciences I had learned. How could it possibly be getting darker when we had passed the shortest day?
Thank heavens for the internet, because I am not sure how I would have solved this puzzle without it. I discovered thanks to Time and Date which is a wonderful resource, that 21 December is the shortest day, according to the length of time between sunrise and sunset. However, the fact that the sunset is progressively later (by a longer time than the later sunrise) the actual daylight time does gradually increase by a few seconds each day. Phew – that’s complicated and difficult to explain. However a glance at the sunrise/sunset times will enlighten (quite literally) those interested to understand this more clearly.
In addition to the gradual progression of sunrise times, the sun also moves in a northerly direction as the weeks progress. We are now at the time of year where the sun’s northerly path along the horizon moves forward visibly. I am at a different spot in the pool each day when I first see that characteristic deep red, glowing sun as it first reaches over the horizon.
And there is a magical point on that path when the sun rises at a point which is directly behind an ancient temple distant on the horizon. As it rises, it creates a dramatic silhouette of the temple against the soft light, reminiscent of a child’s night light.
It is a moment which quite simply takes my breath away.