It’s the Winter Solstice in the southern hemisphere today, at 0909 AEST to be precise. I intend to have a quiet, personal ceremony at that time, and then after that try to catch up with the backlog of posts here. Wish me luck.
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Once more around the cycle. As I did last year, and almost every year, I paused a moment yesterday to mark the Winter Solstice. It is the same, but different. Once more around the cycle…
Rather than a fragile tealight flame, this year I have a robust church candle. Another cold, damp day, but the Solstice is at 3.45pm instead of 9.59am. This time it’s actually raining. A gentle raindrop pattering just manages to drown out the distant noises of city traffic.
Sitting in almost the same spot as a year before — not exactly the same, because the ground is wet and foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds — my awareness is heightened about what’s changed, what’s the same.
Last year, we’d only just emerged from a long drought. This year, everything is greener, more healthy. The poinsettia is still in flower, a bright, deep red, rather than dying petals on the ground. This year, the heavy jets are taking off, not landing. Just as bright, just a shiny, just as loud, but taking off for — literally — new horizons. New possibilities.
As of course am I, and soon.
After another year in the same home, I’ve gotten to know the daily sounds and rhythms. Without turning, I know the roar behind me is not merely a heavy jet taking off, but specifically a Boeing 747. The engines have a distinctive higher-pitched whine mixed with their roar.
And they’re the loudest thing in the sky. Usually.
Some 300 metres away, a rainbow lorikeet darts and skims home. Even though it’s just visible as a silhouette in the distance, and silent, I know it’s a lorikeet from the way its wings move in flight. Similarly, a sulphur-crested cockatoo gliding through the mist to land on the nearby school sportsground is distinguishable from its close cousin the corella, simply by its gestures in flight.
A child’s balloon — electric blue and oh so shiny and bright! — appears from nowhere and scuds over the house just as another 747 — white and oh so shiny and bright! — roars overhead, just as the rain eases off. I’ve always loved watching these heavy craft taking off into the west, especially at dusk. Even in the 21st Century there’s still a sense of wonder about starting a new journey, is there not?
Just as this particular jet banks and turns to choose its outbound path, seemingly at random but in fact chosen according to a pattern which shares the noise of takeoffs amongst everyone living below the flightpath, a bright patch appears in the sky. A little break opens up in the otherwise even grey cloud bank precisely between me and the Sun. And the 747 chooses to break through the clouds precisely in that very spot — spearing the emerging possibilities as accurately as a hunter’s spear.
I check the time.
It is precisely 3.45pm.
Precisely the Solstice.
And then the rain starts again. The break in the cloud closes gently. Another lorikeet, much closer, squawks. Just once. And he’s gone.
Another time around the cycle…
Given that mere popularity doesn’t reflect quality, here’s my personal selection of my best, timeless posts for 2008. Happy reading!
- Kruddiversary: The internet thanks you for 12 months of achieving nothing, my Crikey article looking at the first year of the Rudd government from an Internet geek’s perspective.
- Thailand’s political crisis: an introduction, though later pieces in The Economist are better than my amateur efforts.
- Journalism in a hyperconnected world.
- @KevinRuddPM stumbles into the Twitterverse, a Crikey article which includes links to the previous three essays I’d written about the PM’s entrance into modern social media.
- Gonzo Twitter 1: Saturday Evening in Newtown, my experiment in live-tweeting a descriptive essay and still one of the best things I’ve written all year.
- How Dell fixed my monitor order, which is being used by clever consultants as an example of how to use social media for quality customer service.
- Sunday Thoughts about Journalism, a rather lengthy essay with many links to background on the Death of Newspapers this year.
- Finally, The Shave, a rather wonderful film we made.
- The Great Firewall of China: how it works, how to bypass it.
- Note to “old media” journalists: adapt, or stfu! This piece triggered an entire wave of discussion and was quoted globally.
- Winter Solstice Meditation.
- Anzac Day Rememberings.
- ABC Playback: so this is the future of television…? Nope! A review of what’s now called ABC iView.
- There ain’t no shortcuts to professionally-managed IT.
- Remembering the Space Age: Arthur C Clarke dead at 90.
- Super Hornets are Go.
- Jason Calacanis and the Evil Cult of the Internet Start-up. I don’t really think Jason is evil, but I do worry about the self-centred anti-human attitude of many people connected with Internet start-ups.
- New national anthem: I am So an Aussie, when the Snarky Platypus and I created, yes, a new national anthem. Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
- Is it really so wrong to mix business and politics (and religion)?
- Leaving room for elephants: a chat with David Attenborough, a personal fave since it harks back to an interesting time in my life. This is still one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve done. Ever.
- Angry geeks: “Don’t waste money on internet filters”, one of many articles I posted about censorship, but which outlined the key issues way back in January.
- Post 801: Kill the Hallucinating Goldfish.
The exact moment of Winter Solstice was 9.59am Sydney time. The week was far too hectic to organise a proper ritual of Sunreturn before dusk last night. Instead, in an impromptu meditation, this crisp Saturday morning sees my tiny pearl of tealight flame battling an irregular, gentle breeze.
I protect it with my cupped hands, and smile. I can always re-light it if it blows out. No-one will notice the ceremonial faux pas but me.
“Oh, no mate, I wasn’t Stilgherrian until after that was taken. For my student card, so that’d be… March, maybe February. Stilgherrian wasn’t until Winter Solstice…”
25 years ago today!
Daggy photo, eh? Am I scared or was I trying for cool and moody, somehow? Scared, I reckon. I was too nerdy to even know how to look moody, let alone actually achieve a significant level of floppy-haired angst. Now Stephen… now he pulls that off so well. But then he lives in Melbourne, it’s “of the place”.
Sydney doesn’t have the sandstone Victorian for a fully grey, Londonesque, Londonangstridden pout, 30% eye shadow and 70% the precisely-edited slow-motion curl of a designer black trench coat. Not with any genuine sense of ennui, anyway.
The Solstice begins with a chance pleasure. Extraordinarily fine community broadcaster FBi has just put online the audio and video of “Blackness of the Sea”, a cruisey tune from Deepchild who, as they accurately put it, is “one of Australia’s most respected producers of leftfield dance music”.
Download. Listen. Enjoy. You’ll also see my local patch, because the video was shot in Newtown in Sydney, same postcode as me here in Enmore. I can spot about 50% of the locations so far.