While a clock, be it digital or analog, can make us stop and consider the hours of the day, and how fast the time from sunrise to sundown seems to run, a sundial gives us a different sort of reminder: A year really can go, go, go.
But it isn't all pondering, or even mourning, the fleeting nature of time where sundials are concerned: Stopping to look time straight in the face, and remember that we're on a planet that is on an axis twirling in space, can provide a jolt of joy and mystery.
Enter the winter solstice, which, like its BFFs summer solstice and the equinoxes, encourages we earth-bound inhabitants to ponder our space in, well, space.
The shortest day of the year, and, let's give it a shout-out, the longest night, happens in the Northern Hemisphere on the 21st of December.
And while this slightly surreal but totally science-firm event can be marked in numerous meaningful ways, from observing the sun's low path from your yard to venturing to a favorite meditation spot at the beach, fans of the cosmos will head up the big hill, to Griffith Observatory, and the observatory's Gottlieb Transit Corridor, when the sun is high on Wednesday, Dec. 21.
Translate "the sun is high" to 11:45 a.m., the starting minute of the skyward-gazing gathering. You'll learn some solstice-nifty facts and gather with others who dig instances that remind us that we're riding a rock through space, one that has a fascinating relationship with its nearest star.
By the by, you'll see "local noon" listed on the Griffith Observatory event page. Translation? That's when our sun is at its tippy-top point above us. Neato. And local noon is 11:52 a.m. on Dec. 21, not noon itself.
Neato x two.
If you can't make the noontime — we mean local noontime — get-together, there's a sunset event, too, on the day of the winter solstice. Be at the observatory's West Terrace at 4:40 to catch the sun sending out its last rays of the day at 4:48 on Dec. 21.
Also: The noon event and the sundown happening are both free to join.
Both moments ask we humans to take stock of time and place. And whether that taking stock involves calling upon a favorite sundial or hanging with other universe-watchers at the Griffith Observatory is up to us.
Spoiler alert: When the sun comes up on Dec. 22, consider us on the path to longer days, lighter nights, and summery pursuits.