Leaning Toward the Sun

April 29, 2023

There are a lot of things in this world I don’t understand: 

  • Mean people
  • Why dogs don’t live longer
  • Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and all of the other diseases that cut our loved ones’ lives short
  • Why my brother Pat was born with all of the artistic talent, while I was born with none
  • Linear algebra – My son Dawson understands it, and I accept that he has gifts that I do not
  • Why people litter
  • And 456,294,234,567 other things that only ChatGPT knows (well, sometimes it’s wrong, but that won’t matter . . . unless it’s disastrous) and is eager to plagiarize in well-written prose

Understanding something, even a little bit, provides a sense of satisfaction that is hard to describe. I don’t change my oil any more, but I do know how to do it. I know public education pretty darn well. And I know enough about music, swimming, golf, cooking, website development, writing, and a few other things to appreciate those who are truly gifted at it. For me, the search for understanding is about leaning into what you want to be better at and what makes our lives on this planet so wonderful.

Let’s start with the Sun. I am no astronomer, but I love understanding why we have our seasons. I’ve written about this before, but I think we should all know our planet’s relationship to the Sun and why it causes seasons. Thousands of years ago, without the aid of the amazing Hubble or Webb telescopes, or even Copernicus’s and Einstein’s theories, Native American and other cultures around the world understood the significance of the solstices and equinoxes. In fact, I think they understood this science better than most of us do today. Right now, as we are about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, Earth’s Northern Hemisphere (which is where most of this blog’s readers live) is leaning more and more into the Sun each day. By the time we get to the summer solstice on June 21, the Northern Hemisphere will be leaning a full 23.4 degrees into the Sun.

That’s the magic number – 23.4 degrees. Earth leans that far off its axis. On December 21, the Northern Hemisphere leans that far away from the Sun, and on June 21, we lean that far towards it. Like the Earth, I’m trying to lean into the Sun as we approach the summer solstice.

Who doesn’t love leaning into the Sun? My dogs certainly love it. They will find a spot where the late morning sun shines through a glass door and just stay there, moving slowly with the Sun as its angle changes. As I’ve said before, I should strive to be more like my dogs. We have had a long, gray, and wet winter in southern California. It’s like I’m in Seattle. It’s like I’m living in a perpetual The Mamas and The Papas song. My friend Chris wrote in a recent post, “In April, California combs out her long, wet hair, and the hillsides turn silky and gold.” (I lean into his writing like the Sun – that is a great line.)

Last weekend was the first sunny and warm one in months. I leaned into it with five hours of pickleball, outdoor walks, and cooking outside. I haven’t played golf in months, but I’m hoping that can be part of this lean as well. 

I don’t like it when I feel like life is happening to me. Sometimes, way more than I would like, it’s unavoidable. But life is more meaningful to me when I am leaning toward something. My days are more worthwhile when I’m fully aware of my desire to carpe that diem, to complete a task, to learn something new or get better at something I love to do, to help another person, to make the most of beautiful weather, to enjoy a fleeting moment, to make the most of a shining sun that I haven’t seen in a while, or anything else that makes me feel like I’m making the most of a day. If we do that on enough days, we start making the most of our lives.

So, you go, Earth! Continue leaning into the Sun on your rotational journey. As for me, I plan to lean just as hard, toward our Sun and toward other endeavors to make the most of each day.

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  1. BEAUTIFUL, AND I AM LEANING TOWARDS THE SUN TOO. Another Great Read. Thank you, and love you big. Tracee

  2. Seth Finn says:

    I’m leaning in to a massive 5,400 foot climb on my bike today with a friend, apparently we’re riding Mulholland, Decker, Snake, Encinal, and Yerba Buena. I’ll no doubt be suffering too much to think of your words of wisdom on the way up, but, rolling down, I’ll lean in to the sun as much as I can. Fun post today, thanks as always.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      My friend Will says, you have to suffer now, so you won’t suffer as much later. Enjoy the lean toward suffering and all that it will bring.

      1. Mike Matthews says:

        Also, the Yerba Buena and Decker climbs are no fun. I’m suffering just thinking about them.

    2. PB says:

      The Sun prefers hybrids to 4 irons.

      1. Mike Matthews says:

        Whatever, PB. See you soon.

  3. Scott says:

    Nice story.
    An east coast college did a survey about the seasons, years ago. Only a small number of college graduates knew about the tilt of the earth. Unlike most of the world, the US teaches the sciences alphabetically, so only 35% of HS graduates take Physics.

    An amazing fact is we are about 94.5 Million miles away from the sun on June 21st. When tilted away at max angle we are closer 91.5 M miles. 93 M miles is our average radius. But earth has a 4% elliptical orbit that accounts for the change. Imagine if the tilt were the other way. We would have more extremes in temperatures.

    I was a HS Physics teacher for 34 years. My first roommate was Tom Leonard, who turned me onto your blog. My agent number is 001.618. ( the Phi Ratio, life’s growth pattern)!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Scott – It’s nice to have a real scientist commenting on these thoughts! And thanks for being equally fascinated! You may have earned merit in the afterlife by your time having Tom L as a roommate. And yet, we love him. Thanks for reading.

  4. Maggie says:

    This California girl is definitely leaning towards the sun, especially after reading your blog and being gently reminded to take full advantage of our glorious California weather . Even if the fog is trying to hide the sun, I still know it’s there!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Funny how the day I publish this, that sun is not out yet. Let’s both lean and make it shine.

      1. Kevin McCarthy says:

        I guess we all are…
        traveling through life on some sort of a tilt. Leaning some way or another that cycles us closer, or sends us further away, from one thing or another. I know i do – there tends to be a seasonality to me. I am just trying to figure out what that thing is that i spiral about.
        I guess we all are…

        1. Mike Matthews says:

          Interesting thoughts, my friend. Thanks for reading.

  5. Pat Matthews says:

    Mike, I’m leaning in to a new painting today:) I do enjoy learning about this amazing planet we all share. It is soul searching to ponder the beauty of earth and how small we are in the grand scheme of things. Thanks for this! Love, Brother Pat

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Pat. And there aren’t many who portray our planet as beautifully as you. And I’m not that angry about you getting all the talent . . . just a little. 🙂

  6. Ben Dale says:

    During the equinox, can you stand an egg in it’s end?

    Another great read, brother.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Ben. I think that talented people can stand an egg on its end any day. The equinox is just a motivator. Write that into a song!

  7. Jennifer Cochran says:

    Can you lean in a little more to the sun, Mike? It was here for a fleeting moment and it would be great to have it back! I know we shouldn’t complain living where we do, but it’s been a long, grey winter. Thanks for the reminder to Carpe that diem!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      It was here, then I wrote this blog post. I may be responsible for the return of the gray. So yes, I will lean harder, Jen.

  8. Mark M says:

    Would it not be nice for the Earth to orbit the Sun every 3 months? We would have 4 mini Springs, Summers, Falls, and Winters here in Arkansas. The good thing about that is Winter would not last so long.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      You keep thinking, Mark. That’s what you’re good at. And thanks for reading!

  9. Terry Mulcahy says:

    Thank you for your words of wisdom. We all nead to lean in. I will make that my mantra this week.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Right with you, Terry. Leading and leaning.

  10. Susan Scheding says:

    Ancient peoples knew a lot about the sun and the sky. That’s b/c they spent most of their day outside in whatever weather nature threw at them – not looking at it through a window. We wish for nice weather b/c we want to play pickleball or sit at the beach. They wished for nice weather so their crops would feed them.
    The ancients also had some fabulous stories about the sun and the sky.
    Meteorologists have kinda taken all the fun out of that….

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      So I’m happy for our progress, even if it is making us less aware. But I sure wish we could have both. And luckily, we still have a few storytellers out there, like yourself, to keep us entertained and informed. Thanks for reading, Susan!

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