13. The Home Star Homestead

As my northward progress continued, I became increasingly conscious of my traveling companion the Sun.* At times it was hidden for long periods and I missed it. This started me thinking about it in a general way, how significant it was to our lives and how directly it affects our moods.

Some time back I sailed to Hawaii with my friend, Doug Balcomb. We would often spend idle time debating whether there was an inherent difference between a Sunset and a Sunrise. There are no landmarks to act as clues in the middle of the Pacific, so without knowing a compass direction, could one tell a snapshot of a Sunset from a snapshot of a Sunrise? Some of the crew argued for a basic difference in the light or color. As I traveled north on this trip I watched the Sunsets and the Sunrises draw closer and closer together in time until, at last, they were one. There was no night, just a Sunset/rise.

I began to think about being above the Arctic Circle and what it would be like to see a day when the Sun didn’t set. It occurred to me that if I timed it right, I could be at about my furthest point north at the same time that the Sun reached its solstice, about June 21st, the longest day of the year. I decided that I would dedicate that day to thoughts about the Sun. The trip began to take on aspects of a pilgrimage.

On the 21st day of June I drove to a high spot that I had noticed near the truck stop called Cold Foot. It was Gobbler’s Knob, and offered a panoramic view of the surrounding country. It was high enough and far enough with reference to the Brooks Range in the north that I felt the mountains would not block the Sun at its nadir. I set up the van facing north and at exactly noon I began my Sun watch. The bearings I list here are magnetic and the altitudes are estimates, but done with the practiced eye of a former navigator.

12:00 Noon (6/21/86)

The Sun bears ESE

Altitude is approx. 65 degrees.

The Sun is probably the single most important physical fact of our existence . We owe it all to the Sun, all life on Earth, all the energy reserves of Earth, Earth itself. It would seem that anything that important is deserving of respect or maybe even reverence.

1:00 PM

The Sun bears ESE by S

Altitude is approx. 62 degrees.

One of the first major civilizations on earth, the ancient Egyptians, unburdened by historical traditions of previous civilizations, worshipped the Sun. It was especially important during the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaton. Apparently, they just looked around and asked themselves what is it that is really important in the most basic way? The answer was obvious. It’s the Sun.

2:00 PM

The Sun is obscured by clouds.

Why is it that the Sun attracts so little reverence today? The deities of various religions whose existence and influence are, at least, debatable are treated with great reverence by large numbers of people. But the Sun, whose existence no one denies and which, without question, has direct bearing on our very being, is taken for granted. I guess the answer lies in the fact that it is so integrated into our lives, so manifestly part of our existence, so constant, that it doesn’t attract much attention. It’s just part of the background noise.

4:20 PM

The Sun bears SSW by S

Altitude is approx. 55 degrees.

Religions evolve and change just as living things do. Historically when one civilization has displaced another there is evidence that the new civilization borrows certain aspects of the previous civilization and then builds on them to form a new religion. I believe there is in several of today’s orthodox religions evidence the original model for their particular deity might have been the Sun, residence in heaven, for instance, or accounts of revelations accompanied by “brilliant light.” In addition, “good” is often associated with light whereas “evil” is associated with darkness. And I note that the main day of worship for Christendom is Sunday.

7:00 PM

The Sun bears WSW

Altitude is approx. 35 degrees

I would hesitate to call the Sun “God” or “a god” because the word “God” seems to be one of those catchall terms that has about as many meanings as there are people who use it. I’m even reluctant to use the words “deity,” “Lord,” or “Father.” All of these seem to have anthropomorphic derivations whereas the Sun is completely independent of human history.

However, as a subject of reverence the Sun would seem to have a distinct advantage over most of the others. It is physical rather than metaphysical, and therefore has great credibility. It is directly accessible by at least two of our senses. It is an empirical fact. No leap of blind faith is required. No bridge over reason is necessary. The only faith you need is the faith in your own senses and those of the rest of the human race. No nonsense!

9:00 PM

Overcast and rain.

Many religions claim their deity is omnipotent, omnipresent, benevolent, and personal. The Sun is very powerful, but not omnipotent. The Sun’s range of influence is extensive, but it is finite. It is benevolent in a general way because it sustains life. But it is not personal, and cannot be expected to intercede on behalf of an individual, or take sides in a football game. The Sun is, of course, a star and there are countless other stars. What kind of reverence should be accorded to such an entity?

2:40 AM (6/22/26)

The Sun bears NNW

Altitude is approx. 5 degrees.

The Sun is our home star. All of us Sun cousins were born here. The Sun provides for us. It shelters and sustains us. It seems to me that reverence of the type that is normally associated with hearth and home would be fitting, but scaled up appropriately.

7:15 AM

The Sun bears NE

Altitude is approx. 20 degrees.

It may be that the Sun is just part of the scheme of some more grandiose deity who is beyond the reach of our senses. It is impossible to know. But you can know the Sun. It is tangible. You can feel it. You know the feeling. . . it’s warm, pleasant, familiar. . . .  like home.

9:30 AM

The Sun bears ENE by E

Altitude is approx. 42 degrees.

The Solar System is our place in the Universe, the hearth of the Sun. The Sun is the home star and Earth is the home star homestead.

Compass Plot of the Sun

Compass Plot of the Sun with Altitudes

12:00 Noon (6/22/86)

The Sun bears ESE

Altitude is approx. 65 degrees.

That completed my Sun watch. The Sun had come full circle. What did I discover? Well, I won’t have to take anybody’s word for it anymore. I confirmed that, yes indeed, the Sun does not dip below the horizon north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees. 33? N) on the Summer Solstice. In addition, I had come to a new and enhanced appreciation for a part of my world that I had previously accepted as a matter of course. In a way I had closed a circle too, one begun long ago. I’d been Sunstruck!

* “Sun” is a proper name in English used to designate the home star,in Latin it is Sol, therefore, I have              capitalized these throughout the book.


Monday, September 7th, 2009 Chapters 11 — 20

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