Solstice, by Ben Warden

Sitting there, on the hill; wrapped in blankets and waiting. I feel a mixed sensation that I know will stick in my memory–a smile with tears in amongst it. She sits next to me, despite the cold of midwinter, I notice that she doesn’t tuck herself in to me like she used to.

The winter solstice. An astronomical phenomena marking the moment that the sun’s maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest, giving us the shortest day and the longest night.

We watch as the sun climbs, barely a scrap of heat emanating from it. The day is clear and the rock faces of Stonehenge look more resilient than ever. We’ve come here for three years. It is a tradition. A routine.

Holidays, festivals, ceremonies and gatherings have happened through human history, at this point in the earth’s cycle. People collecting to celebrate new life, rebirth, reawakening. In the darkest moment, across all those years, people have looked into the sky and known that they’ve made it through–summer is coming.

The feeling in the crowd is what brings us back every year. It’s what Alan was raving about the first night we met and what caused me to pluck up the courage and ask her out. I look into her eyes, she doesn’t hold the contact. Things have been tough recently. There’s been no devastation, nothing I can pinpoint to talk to her about. Life has just been throwing up its little battles and, like the cold, they’ve cut into us.

The funny thing about the winter is how long it feels. Despite our hot showers, log burners and heated car seats, the summer is easy in comparison. That’s what we’re all waiting for and you can feel the excitement in the crowd.

I put my arm around her, but there is something not right about the action. This space, which is usually full of some intangible sense of togetherness, is stark and now there is only us; far apart.

The funny thing about the winter solstice is that you don’t actually get to see the moment. People just go along and celebrate the day. This astronomic phenomena, which ties all of these amazing thoughts, history and people together, can’t be observed. The sun moves too slowly to know it has reached its peak and, even if it moved faster, you couldn’t recognise the moment until the sun started to dip again. You wouldn’t know until it was already over.

She pulls away from me, tightens the blanket around herself and takes a breath; ready to speak.

I feel the dark closing and hope that summer’s still coming.