AJAX BELL

Author of the Queen City Boys books

Summer Begins

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Scrolling back through entries here I see I’ve often posted at length on the Winter Solstice, but not for the Summer.

Summer begins at 6:09pm.  In Middle Tennessee, the sun today rose at 5:30am, then sets at 8:07pm, giving us 14.6 hours of sunlight.  The longest day of the year.

I’ve always had a complicated relationship with the Summer Solstice.  Here in Tennessee I feel a little cheated, perhaps because of our latitude.  If I was in Seattle today I’d have a full 16 hours of daylight, being so much further north.  It is one of the glorious delights of the North, the drastic changes in the amount of light make you value the seasons.  It somehow gives you more visible seasonal drama beyond mere temperature changes and plants returning to life.  And yet, even in the Great North I always felt the Summer Solstice to be somewhat bittersweet.

The light diminishes after flaring it’s brightest on this day.  In Tennessee it means less in than it does in the North, as it will never get as dark in winter, so there is less burden to bear on that end.  Indeed, the longest days of summer are still ahead of us, if we are measuring by heat, laziness and availability of good food cooked outside on a grill.  But the light passing has always felt like loss to me.  A downward journey that eventually ends in the darkness of winter.  The beauty of autumn is joy to behold.  As is the desolation of winter in it’s own way.  Still today feel like an ending, a turn we took, walking away from spring. Fortunately spring will return next year, no matter what we do, and on the Winter Solstice we can look longingly at the slow the return of the light,  knowing that spring must come on the heels of the sun’s return.

I don’t know the origins of my dark view of midsummer.  Perhaps growing up so far north, where the loss of the sun means so much darkness.  Perhaps it’s burned in genetic memory from my Scandinavian and Scottish ancestors.  It’s no mystery that the Scandinavian cultures, and for northern European ones, celebrate Midsummer as a massive festival.  Because indeed today feels massive, like the most there is, the best you can have, ALL the sunlight.  And yet it is only today, quickly fleeting, like everything in life.

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