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Solstice Pillar

It has been two years since Ian Boyle built this stone pillar in our front yard. He embedded a pipe in the stone, at an angle that would catch the sunset at summer solstice. Later we found out it catches the sunrise on the winter solstice, too.

Ian Boyle's pillar at summer solstice 2007

The day was cloudy, and I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to see the sunset. The clouds cleared enough to let the sun shine through, and so here is this year’s summer solstice sunset as seen through Ian Boyle’s pillar.

ancient and modern technology

About half an hour before the sun came through the pillar, I caught this shot contrasting the pillar, worked in the ancient dry-stone-walling technique, with our new internet dish, worked in the most modern of technologies.

Ian Boyle's pillar at sunset, summer solstice 2007

After I took the tripod and camera into the house, my daughter called, “Mom, you’ve got to see this sunset!” Here is the view, with pillar, of course.

And now, some fiber content! These spiders spin a new web every night. The webs are gone by morning. This little one was building a web under the tree house, with the evening sun to highlight the delicate strands. So here’s the original spinner—a spider putting the finishing touches on its web in the summer solstice sunset.

spider spinning in the sunset

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We’d Make Terrible Druids

Someday we’ll have a new house, and so we hope that Ian Boyle will build us another solstice-catching pillar. (Lots of pics here of the pillar in our yard now.) “Charles, the winter solstice is coming up, and we need to measure the angle of the sunrise, so Ian can orient the pipe correctly,” I said, more or less.

Ian Boyle's stone pillar, winter solstice sunrise 2006

Charles took his compass outside at sunrise and measured the direction of the sunrise. “Hmm,” he thought, “this angle seems familiar.” Well, it’s exactly the same angle that our pillar’s pipe is oriented in order to catch the summer solstice sunset.

Okay, we should have been able to figure that out on our own. But we didn’t even think of it. And I thought we were sort of in touch with nature. Obviously, this is the kind of thing you miss, when you spend all your time knitting and crocheting.

So here’s the scoop. At the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun travels as near to straight east/west as it’s going to. For us, here in the northern hemisphere, the earth tips toward the sun from March through June. At the solstice, it has tipped as far as it will, so the sun sets about 57 degrees west of magnetic North, where we are. Ian set the pillar pipe to catch that setting sun.

After the June solstice, the earth tips back the other way, until at the solstice in December, it is the very same number of degrees the other way. The sun rises about 123 degrees away from magnetic North at our house, which is exactly opposite of the summer solstice sunset. You probably knew that.

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Stone Solstice

Today is the first anniversary of Ian Boyle‘s Pillar Project. Ian built a dry stone pillar in our front yard, which looks to the sunset through a pipe embedded in the stone. He positioned the pillar to catch the summer solstice sunset. Here is this year’s pillar’s-eye view.

Ian Boyle's Pillar Project, Solstice 2006

This is last year’s solstice sunset. Last year, the Indian Blanket flowers were still in bloom. We have had so little rain this year, they are already gone to seed. The trees have fewer leaves this year. But the pillar stays the same.

Ian Boyle's Pillar Project, Solstice 2005

Ian envisioned an international pillar project, with pillars in New Zealand and the UK. My husband and I photographed our pillar throughout the year, and I hope to have an online photo album ready to view within a week. Read here about how this project got started.

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Pretty Pictures of Stone and Scarf

Ian Boyle's stone pillar, November 2005

Now that we have Ian Boyle’s stone pillar in our front yard, my mission is to take photos of the pillar in all kinds of light, at different times of day and different times of year. Here is the pillar on one evening earlier this month.

Ian was particularly interested in photographing through the pipe that is embedded in the pillar. The summer solstice sunset shines right through the pipe, as you can see in my original post about Ian’s stonework in Comanche County. The sun has moved to the south since then. I still take pictures through the pipe, but I also like to photograph the ruggedly constant pillar against the sky’s changing colors, clouds, and light.

Scarf by Suzann using Lion Brand Yarns

Moving to a softer subject, my 10-year-old daughter has always loved bees of all kinds, so I wasn’t surprised when she laid claim to this little scarf. It is stripes of Lion Brand Fun Fetti alternating with Wool Ease. “It reminds me of a buff-tail bumblebee,” she said.

I started the scarf last night, while listening to the last tape of The Fugitive Pigeon, by Donald E. Westlake. The reader was Nick Sullivan. It was a comic murder mystery, with a little romance thrown in. I liked it.

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UK-TX Connection Benefits Comanche County

Our daughter, Eva, went to school in England with a similarly smart, fun, and silly young lady named Freya. They were a couple of sad little girls when we left the UK in 2003.

We were thrilled when Freya and her dad arranged to visit us in Texas. After some major fits and starts, they arrived on June 9. Freya and Eva picked up where they left off, and had a good time. Ian Boyle, Freya’s dad, is a professional builder of dry stone walls and other dry stone structures in Sheffield. He wanted to do a project while he was here, if possible.

Amazingly, about the time we knew Freya and Ian were coming, my mom spotted an article in The Comanche Chief newspaper, describing the new hiking and equestrian trails at Lake Proctor in Comanche County. The article acknowledged the hard work by volunteers to develop the trails, and it mentioned that more work was needed to provide things like rest areas and benches. Did it say benches?

Ian liked the idea of building a stone bench in Texas, so we contacted Park Ranger Brad Campbell. An outcrop of sandstone along the lakeshore was perfect for the purpose. In the heat and humidity of June, Brad and other rangers loaded the stone and brought it to the proposed bench site. They also provided tools. Later, my husband joined the ranks of stone haulers, to bring up pieces for the seat and the side extensions.

Ian’s bench seats three people. It sits in a shady spot, where three trails meet, and it looks out onto a wildflower meadow.

During their nine days in Texas (which included side trips to Austin, to Eva’s softball games, and all around the countryside), Ian also completed a stone pillar, which is the first part of what looks to become an international project. This photo by my husband, captures the setting sun through a pipe that is built into the structure.

Ian Boyle's Pillar Project, Summer Solstice 2005

I’m adding a PillarProject category and button to my sidebar, so check back throughout the year for more photos and news about further installations. Now I just need to figure out how to work some textile art into this project!

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