WQW # 23: Winter Solstice/Winter Stars

“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me want to dream.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

Here in the middle of our New Zealand/Aotearoa winter, we have just lived through our shortest day/longest night. So instead of summer we celebrated Winter Solstice. for us, summer is a distant memory.

From late May and into the month of June, there were some exciting celestial events to gaze upon.

Firstly, there was the alignment of four Planets at the end of May.

“For those observing from the Southern Hemisphere, the ecliptic, or path of the planets, cuts sharply down toward the horizon. This more vertical alignment means that Mars will approach Jupiter from almost directly above. Around May 29, Mars slips just to the right of Jupiter and on May 30 the two are side by side. Following this date, Mars will continue in a beeline down toward the horizon”.

I am fascinated by celestial events so I went out under the starry sky in the early pre-sunrise hours with my new tripod, and my 14 year old grandson. His younger eyes were most helpful when focusing on the faraway planets. On the morning of May 30, bright Jupiter was immediately left of red Mars. Venus shone below them, and Saturn was above them. By the time Venus arose, we lost Mars in the coming light of the pre-dawn sky.

This is what they were supposed to look like.     And this is what we got.

If you like the idea of capturing planets and star clusters there are still more opportunities in the June sky.  

The strawberry SuperMoon was supposed to be visible on 14th June. Instead we had over 21,500 lightning strikes, thunderstorms and copious rainfall amidst gale force winds over several days and nights. No night sky photography for me that week. I still held out hope for the rest of the month of June though.

“From June 19-27 the planets will work toward alignment that results in a row of lights across the northeastern horizon. Expect Mercury to dip the lowest in the east, and Saturn will show the highest. While Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn should all be visible with the naked eye, a telescope—potentially, binoculars could do the trick—should also let you see Uranus a touch higher than Venus. If you’re super fortunate with a quality telescope, you may be able to catch a glimpse of Neptune, too.”

Towards the end of June, all the planets along with the moon and a waning crescent will be in alignment on the morning of June 24. The moon will then move out of alignment and continue orbiting around the earth for a few days.” 

This is all I could find in the early pre-dawn hazy sky. I was almost cured of my ridiculous obsession with photographing the night sky in the freezing early pre-dawn morning.

“Metaphor for the night sky: a trillion asterisks and no explanations.”

– Robert Breault

Secondly,  the Matariki Star Cluster (Pleiades) is rising.

Manawatia a Matariki – Happy Matariki 

This weekend, New Zealanders enjoyed the first public holiday to celebrate  Matariki – the Maori New Year. As the Matariki star cluster arises in the Southeastern skies so does the new moon. 

In Maori  culture, Matariki is both the name of the Pleiades star cluster and of the celebration of its first rising in late June or early July. This marks the beginning of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar. Matariki was made an official public holiday in New Zealand in April 2022, with the first celebration on 24 June of that year. 

Matariki is an occasion to mourn the deceased, celebrate the present, and prepare the ground for the coming year. The ceremony had three parts: viewing the stars, remembering the deceased, and making an offering of food to the stars.

This three day long weekend, we have experienced the joy of having 5 grandchildren, two of our sons and their wives, and 3 grand-dogs, to celebrate being together for the first time in such a long while. Walks on the beach during the day and building a bonfire by night (in the gentle rain) and roasting marshmallows. 

The young cousins loved spending time together. We had a mid-winter feast and several new board and card games to play.  There was some healthy competition, and hugs….lots of hugs! Great memory-making.

We had rainwater, gentle winds, a calm ocean, good food from the land and the sea, walks on the beach. Our wellbeing and health was well and truly nurtured. We remembered our dearly departed family members, sharing special memories together.

The Pleiades (Matariki) is visible for most of the year in the Southern Hemisphere (ergo New Zealand), except for approximately a month in the middle of the Southen Hemisphere, Winter solstice.

The Pleiades is also known as The Seven Sisters. The nine brightest stars of the Pleiades are named for the Seven Sisters of Greek Mythology: Sterope,Merope, Electra,Maia, Taygeta, Celaeno and Alycyone, along with their parents Atlas and Pleione.

MāoriGreekGenderProvenance
Matariki AlcyoneFemale Well-being and health 
Tupu-ā-rangi AtlasMale Food that comes from above 
Tupu-ā-nuku PleioneFemale Food that grows in the soil 
Ururangi MeropeMale The winds 
Waipunā-ā-rangi ElectraFemale Rainwater 
Hiwa-i-te-rangi CelaenoFemale Growth and prosperity 
Waitī MaiaFemale Fresh water 
Waitā TaygetaMale The ocean 
Pōhutukawa SteropeFemale The deceased 

Thirdly, and coincidentally, I have just started reading Seven Sisters by Lucinda Reilly.  

The strong female characters in each of these books are based on the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. I look forward to reading the series.

All this I discovered by following my fascination with the stars. Like the planets, my interests are also in alignment.

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.” – Stephen Hawking

31. You inspire me to inspire you

Be the best of you
I will be the best of me
Better together

Inspiration is a concept of positivity.  

If you inspire me to inspire you then what an inspirational pair could we be to others?

What inspires me is so different to what inspires you. And that’s ok.

 Accepting our differences  expands our horizons and thus our personal growth. 

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

30. The moments before we touch

“The honesty’s too much……”  Well that triggered a song in my mind.  Still humming as I search for something intriguing or romantic to write……… about those moments before we touch.

 Yeah Nah – when it comes to touching, I can only think about that ‘C’ thing I don’t want to mention. Sigh – it would be much more creative to write a love story huh?

Instead, you get this moment!

The willow tree was in shadow so deep she couldn’t see her hand in front of her face. She groped sightlessly into the darkness and then in that moment she touched something sticky. Cobwebs clung to her hand.   She shrieked and freaked.  She had always been terrified of spiders. 

Spider’s web

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

29. Saying nothing but everything

Seeking balance through understanding

Listening to your loved one wholeheartedly is the first and foremost way to make him/ her feel better. So often the mistake made is to not take the time to listen to understand how they are feeling. This is easier said than done but it is worth that effort. 

Saying nothing but everything helps them feel understood.

No matter how sad they feel, no matter what they are feeling now, they need to know someone has their back. Someone who will be there for them every step of the way.  Wanting to understand means demonstrating you are here for them.  Being there in the moment, in the hour and for each and every day for however long it takes for your loved one to start to feel better. 

In my view, the partner who listens to understand shows that they really do care. They care enough to be there for their loved one. And in so doing, they often learn more about themselves. 

Saying nothing but everything helps them feel understood.

“I want to learn more. I wish to understand more about you. What is happening for you right now? “
“When you need a listening ear I will be here for you. If you aren’t ready to talk, I’ll just sit here with you awhile.” 

And when they are ready to tell their story – be there for them.

Saying nothing but everything helps them feel understood.

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

28. United we fell

Escape via the bridge

 At least neither could blame the other for our fall from grace.  Together we had managed to screw it up.

 First there was the lateness of our arrivalto the scene of the crime, pretending we hadn’t  been there before. Then there were our inconsistent alibis. He said…. I said..; yet neither of us told the same story.  There were huge gaps between our collective statements and their evidence. Gaps they could drive a bus through as they viewed the CCTV footage.  It became clear that the detectives didn’t believe us. 

In desperation we sought to flee the police hunt, but the net closed until there was only one chance at escape. We decided to take our chances and jump over the bridge railing.

We were both strong swimmers so the odds of survival in the tidal flow were in our favour. 

United we fell – and we swam ourselves to freedom. 

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

27. Savage seeds

The savage seeds of self doubt are scattered throughout  my childhood memories. 
My childhood was happy enough.  Why then do some of my memories trigger self doubt?

I tended to overanalyze scenarios until I convinced myself that it was me at fault whenever things went wrong in the family. 

Belittling  words were hurled at me by my mean- spirited siblings until I could no longer believe in my own self worth.  “You are too goody goody” is what I was often told by my siblings.  “We can’t measure up to your standards. There’s no fun in being good”

I thought that meant I wasn’t good at being bad enough to be interesting. No one could possibly like this insipid personality. I was convinced that I wasn’t good at all. I was boring and dull. Those savage seeds had been implanted into my subconscious.

It took time and courage to stop those seeds from germinating again. I bloomed once more but differently.  

Blooming beauty

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

25. Courtesies and charisma

Be courageous
Politeness  is a virtue.
Above all be courteous, 
Your personality will break through

Your charm will win the day
They will believe everything you say
Let your charisma show
Remember your manners though.
Think different

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

24. The flavor of truth

It was a bitter pill to swallow. Her lies left a sour taste in her mouth. 

However she thought it was the only way to get to the truth of the matter. Besides which a little white lie never hurt anyone, did it?

One lie always led to another, bigger lie. Weaving a web of deceit, half truths and innuendo unsettled the situation and he would be required to provide answers.  If that got his undivided attention then she would eventually be able to enjoy the flavor of truth. 

She whispered the little white lie in all the right places. She knew it would get back to his friends and then they would start to question his honesty too. 

As he sought to dispel the rumors she spread, it became clear to everyone that there was some truths he had tried to keep hidden. To be a good liar though, a good memory was important.  His bluster became more desperate as he tried in vain to respond to the allegations. His memory had  failed him. He contradicted himself each time he spoke to the press. 

She watched and listened as his friends deserted him and he lost his reputation and career. 

Revenge is sweet but the flavor of truth was even sweeter.

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

23. The harmony circuit

Harmony circuit

Standing in the circle, they faced each other as each sang their part. 

The first person sang through the song once, then the second singer joined in halfway through the second singing of the song. As each singer joined in turn, the volume swelled and their harmonious voices combined to become a rich and lovely sound. It was a beautiful circuit of harmony.

As the last notes sounded, the singers smiled at each other. They felt connected and their circle was complete. 

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/

22. Alternating deficiencies

We take turns, him and me.

One day he is ‘hard’ of hearing
I call It selective deafness,
The next day, it’s my turn to say “pardon, what did you say?”

One of us is suffering and complaining about knee pain, 
the other one of us just soldiers on with shoulder pain until the job is done. 
Alternately, we commiserate and share, 
“Pass the anti inflammatory ointment please” 

The builder and the apprentice (aka the go-for) 
have long and meaningful conversations about tools. 

When is a drill a bit or a drill?
Do you want the power drill, the battery drill or the bit that goes in it?”

Deficient explanations alternate with unclear requests. What’s a ‘go-for’ to do?

“Where is my ( insert any type of building equipment/ tools in here)?
Let’s start with the builders pencil.  It is always ‘where you left it'
Or maybe that ever elusive tape measure, or the hammer, or the pliers- “ no, not that one - I meant the multi grips- um no….. Get the Size 8 crescent.  And just where is my chisel? "

Is there ever a stupid question? 
Or is the only stupid question the one that isn’t asked? 

At the end of a long hard day building, 
we sit and analyze the alternate deficiencies of each,
Over a glass  (or 2) of wine and a bottle (or 2) of beer. 

This is a response to a Flash Fiction prompt from ‘Putting My Feet In the Dirt’, Writing Prompts hosted by ‘M’.
https://puttingmyfeetinthedirt.com/2020/08/01/august-writing-prompts-3/