Touch down and out of touch

I love the light, late midsummer nights in Scotland.  As my flight took off from Amsterdam just over a week ago, the sun was nestling on the horizon and sinking slowly from view.  As we travelled northwards, the sun rose steadily and by the time we touched down in Edinburgh 90 minutes later, it was again touching the horizon.

I always find it ironic that although I am in a super speedy internet space, time online is very limited.  This visit is one where I am spending a good deal of time either on the road (or rails), with family, and keeping my father company as he continues his medical path.  I am pushed physically as well as emotionally as a seemingly innocent mosquito bite which I brought with me from Yangon, has caused trouble and pain but finally seems to be on the mend.

In the meantime half written blog posts are cluttering my drafts folder and my mind,  random thoughts captured and preserved until they can be developed and processed.  Geographically nearer but somewhat out of touch …………

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A new day

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.