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Happy New Orbit

December 22, 2007


“Happy New Orbit,” my husband said to me this morning. I looked at him obliquely through eyes swollen with fatigue. “Ugm,” I said.

“How does that work?” I finally managed.

He brought my exercise ball from the study. “You’re going to be the sun.”

I liked that.

“See, that’s the South Pole, and today, it’s pointing at you, the sun. Now, the earth goes in circles, you know that. That’s called rotation.”

“Yup.” My third grade Rocks & Stars class was coming back….

“But, the earth also revolves,” he said, walking around the room with my 55 cm purple ball. “But when it revolves, the poles don’t shift.”

He walked around to my right. “Here’s Spring. And then it keeps its orbit all the way around. So now, when it’s directly behind you, it’s Summer, because the North Pole is pointing at the sun–at you. It keeps orbiting around, and when it comes to this side, [he was on my left] it’s the Fall equinox.

“Then it keeps going, and the days get shorter and shorter, because the South Pole is pointing closer and closer to the sun, and now we’re back where we started, the shortest day of the year, getting ready to start a new orbit. Happy New Orbit.

“The earth is always tilted, of course, so the pole is pointed as much as it ever will be toward the sun, not really directly at it. The only planet with a pole pointed directly at the sun is…” “Uranus!” I said triumphantly. “Right, Uranus.”

My husband said the actual solstice occurred last night at 10:08 p.m. our local time. This was a tremendous relief to me, as I woke feeling very tired and achy and entirely ready for a New Orbit. By 10:00 a.m. I was ready for the Summer solstice; the year already felt half over.

Happy New Orbit, from our house on the 47th parallel to yours, wherever you may be, from Lithuania to Palawan.


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