Late this Wednesday night, December 21, the Winter Solstice takes place in central and western North America; in North America's Eastern Time Zone and Western Europe it occurs early Thursday. Therefore, it's not surprising that sunlight these days presents a special feeling.

During recent weeks if you stood outside in late afternoon paying attention to the light's wateriness, the shadows' black, sharp edges, and the air's feeling of things being shifted a bit to one side... you could sense the annual cycle closing down, the specialness in the moment, even this far south in the tropics. I know the feeling is much more pronounced farther north, but it's strong here, too.

It's a shame so many festivities take place nowadays distracting us from this majestic ending of the Earth's most important cycle, and the beginning of a new one. During the Winter Solstice I feel more out of step with my native culture than at any other time. Some Maya, the shamans mostly, do celebrate the Solstice in their own way, though usually their date doesn't coincide with mine. And, really, I can't relate with their chants, drinking the balché and offering it to the four directions, the billowing copal incense. Most Winter Solstices, I don't say a word to anyone about it, just keep it in my own head and try to maintain a certain sense of decorum, celebration and reverence the whole day.

This time next year, though, many will be focusing on the Winter Solstice because of all the media hype about the Maya saying that the world will end then. Of course, the Maya don't say that at all. According to one stone slab, or stela, the Mayan Long Count, which began in 3114 BC -- long before any identifiable Maya culture came into being -- ends. But the Maya don't say what happens on that date, other than that another count begins. The whole issue is discussed at .

During the Solstice, the important thing is to look around and see and feel what's in the light, the air, the web of living things gracing that exact moment, and to celebrate it as the new cycle reveals itself, a cycle taking place within another cycle in which the Earth has come into being, has evolved and brought life to a certain point, and now... what... ?

Such magnificence, such mystery...

Late Wednesday night the Earth's and Life-on-Earth's own special moment comes and I inside my mosquito net will give a silent, unseen nod to the whole shebang.