You know, sometimes dates feel very significant to me, and other times I just think about how arbitrary they all are. Last week was January 1st in the year 2018 because a consensus of humanity decided it was so. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not even very logical from a natural standpoint. True, it’s based on the journey of the Earth around the Sun, but you could mark any point along that elliptical path as the end of the old cycle and the start of the new. If I had to pick that point I’d probably base it off the Winter Solstice, because that would seem logical to me as the point where the days stop getting shorter and start getting longer again. Decent enough “death and rebirth” metaphor, right? And as close as the cosmos is ever going to get to caring.

I’d be really wrong though because that’s a Northern Hemisphere thing. Pure Northism, yo. Also if I’d done five minutes of googling I’d learn about perihelion and aphelion and that this year the perihelion of the Earth was January 2nd (in Los Angeles at least), which is pretty damn close to when we celebrate the turning.

If you didn’t follow that link, perihelion is the point in the Earth’s orbit where it is closest to the sun, while aphelion is when it is furthest away. And here’s something to really throw logic for a loop: perihelion is the dead of Winter for the Northern Hemisphere, while aphelion is in the heights of Summer.

That’s right, it’s the coldest time of year for us when we’re closest to the big ball of fire. Maybe the Australians and their fellow Southern Hemisphere dwellers–who have Winter in July when Earth is in aphelion–don’t have it so backwards after all?

So it’s of course the axial tilt of the Earth and not its closeness to the sun that has far more effect on Seasons and temperatures, but still, that’s funky to try to wrap your brain around. It’s like you put your hands closer to the fireplace but because you tilted your fingers away, they’re freezing. Now draw your hand back but tilt the fingers towards and wow, that’s hot! Don’t quite make sense, at least not with that analogy.

But wait! There’s even more evidence the Universe doesn’t give one flying fart about our attempts to schedule it, and that’s how Earth’s orbit doesn’t stay constant. In fact it’s so erratic that in the year 2020 perihelion will have moved 2 days forward. And looking at the long term is even worse, because in the year 1246 was a couple weeks earlier and actually did line right up with the Northern Hemisphere’s Winter Solstice. Meanwhile astronomers calculate that 4000 years from now perihelion in the North will be in March on the Spring equinox.

I mean, assuming there’s still a concept of “March” by then. Or “Spring.” Or humans.

You know the thing people arguably take the most for granted in Science Fiction? Using our modern Earth timekeeping in settings where we’ve moved beyond Earth. God forbid you got a mogwai on Babylon 5 because what the hell does “don’t feed them after midnight” even mean in that case?

Anyhow I suppose all of these thoughts were way more interesting to me than the turning of the year, which I am facing without much in the way of either hope or dread. The cosmos continues to cycle, and thus, so shall I.