Last year I let the Winter Solstice slip by unnoticed, only pointing back at it when the days were starting to stretch out. This year I thought I’d beat the rush and mark the shortest day a day early.
Fundamental as the law is in our society, it has little or nothing to say about the day the miserly sun stands still [solstice – mid-13c., from O.Fr. solstice, from L. solstitium “point at which the sun seems to stand still,” from sol “sun” (see sol) + pp. stem of sistere “to come to a stop, make stand still”], an event that human beings, in the North, at least, have always regarded as profoundly important. So far as I know, no Canute-like ruler has ever issued a ukase, edict, or fiat commanding the day to expand more generously. And neither has a Western legislature proclaimed it a holiday.
In fact, the best I can do for a link between December 21 and law is to highlight, so to speak, the fact that the Winter Solstice represents a useful point in the business of urban development, being that day when a proposed development might shade its neighbours most unhappily. By-laws and building committees need to know how bad it could get, and things called shadow studies can tell them.
Last year I referred to a Barrie company that does these studies. This year I want to show you one. So here’s a time-lapse shadow study for the Winter Solstice in San Francisco. And to make you feel better, you can play the Summer Solstice study as well.