Monday, June 21, 2010

Thoughts for a Sultry Summer Solstice

Solstice –Litha – the Feast of St. John (or San Juan or St. Jean) – Midsummer – Hạ Chí (Vietnamese) – Geshi (Japanese romaji stylization): a few of the many terms for that celestial event marking the maximum tilt of the Earth towards (if you are in the northern hemisphere) or away from (if you are in the southern) the sun, giving the impression of the sun “standing still.”

Of course, in the summer heat, we here in the northern latitudes do as much as possible to stand still. We venture to the beach, lie in our hammock, plop in front of the television in uber-air conditioned homes, take vacations at lake-side cabins, sprawl on couches with reading material in hand—all in a effort to sit still, cool down, and “enjoy” summer. We bathe ourselves in the simplicity of life, awash in the knowledge that we will rejuvenate even as the blazing summer sun saps our energy.

As dusk befalls languid, parched lands, fireflies help alight our way, inspire a magical awe, and, by the frenzy of incandescent bursts of light, rouse us from our stupor. One can’t help but feel the presence of Puck, playful and mocking, compelling us to mischief and escapade. If summer light, even on this longest day of the year, has the curious effect of masking and subduing life, then summer’s briefest of darkness enlivens. And in the night sky, nearest the solstice, the full Honey or Mead Moon bedazzles. Legend has it that this is the time to harvest honey from the hives so engorged; fermented honey becomes mead, which young newlyweds drank to titillate nighttime romance.  

Midsummer is, for many in the northern hemisphere, the halfway point of the growing season. So while we celebrate the plenitude of the sun and the arrival of summer, the firefly reminds us of the temporality of life. Yet it also reminds us to fulfill our fancies, to follow the light, and revel in the mysteries of the night.

** No fireflies were harmed during the production of this entry **

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