Summer Solstice and a Celebration


Today is a Lowellesque June day.  It’s nice of the clouds and other natural forces to let the sun come through boldly on this longest day (in the Northern Hemisphere).  Here the day is 15 ½ hours long, sunrise to sunset.

 Trees in Sunlight

Trees in Sunlight

The solstice has gradually become more the “other New Year” for me than September.  This is partly because I now live in a place where school starts in August and other things rev up at different times.  It is also partly because I have no one returning to school―except myself, to help some elementary school students with their reading.

June Wildflowers

June Wildflowers

When I return from vacation in mid-July I am at once involved in planning, in sorting submissions for Sin Fronteras Journal, and in a thickening schedule of other activities.  So I spend June days walking on the rocky beach and wondering whether there are things I should do differently this time around.  The place where ocean touches land is said to be an edge where things can arise from the depths, perhaps displacing the set of thoughts, plans, ideas, that lead one into the same old patterns.starting off

This June day is also a great day for a party.  Deer Isle and Sedgwick celebrated the 75th anniversary of our “great green bridge” this morning by closing it for an hour, so people could walk across it.  Led by a bagpipe and drums and including a mandolin orchestra, a great crowd walked across, while a sailboat circled below and a small plane flew overhead.  A perfect June day.walkers

“Great green bridge” was our family’s name for this bridge, copied from a children’s book called “The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge” which is about the George Washington Bridge connecting New York City and New Jersey.  Does anyone else remember that book?  It had, appropriately enough, a grey cover.sailboat


Not Just the Groundhog


There’s more to say about Thomas Paine, but today is another cross-quarter day, the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It’s an appropriate time to pause and appreciate the cycle of the year which shapes our lives, whether we admit it or not.

The Wheel of the Year

The Wheel of the Year

February 2 did not always belong to the groundhog.  In Christian tradition this is candlemas.  The name comes from the blessing of candles.  The day also marks the 40th day after Christmas, which was a day for purification of the mother after giving birth in Jewish tradition.

The association of this day with light goes back before Christianity.  And with light goes fire.  The tradition I like best associates this day with Brigid, either a saint or a goddess depending on your beliefs, who is the patroness of poets and blacksmiths.

Why this combination of poets and blacksmiths?  I think it is because they both deal with fire, although one is literal and the other metaphorical.  They both are makers, crafters, one in matter and one in language.  I don’t recall where I learned of Brigid and her support of this particular pair.  Other sources assign additional causes to her, but I prefer to stick with these two.

I learned of Brigid in Pennsylvania, not too far from the site of Punxatawny Phil, that obnoxious groundhog who gets most of the attention on Groundhog Day.  In that part of the country it is a given that there will be six more weeks of winter whether he sees his shadow or not.  In contrast to his big show (I wonder how many groundhogs have played the role) I light a candle and celebrate the returning light, the lengthening days, and the fact that this old earth has still not been thrown off its axis by the follies of human beings.

Celebrate the Early Harvest!

1 Comment

Wheel of the Year

We’ve come to another “cross-quarter day,” the midpoint in the quarter of the year from the summer solstice to the fall equinox.  I know this as “Lammas,” a contraction of “Lady Mass” or some other special mass, evidence of the Christian church’s propensity for covering a festival with one of its own.  This syncretic approach disappeared with the reformations, both Catholic and Protestant, when distinctions and exclusions became the norm.  (The feast day for Mary, mother of our Lord, is August 15, not August 1, so the connection is uncertain.)

Lammas celebrates the early harvest, the wheat harvest.  In Pennsylvania, at the beginning of August I would be counting the weeks, then days, until Labor Day, when I expected the heat, or at least the  humidity, to be gone.

Whether the heat bothers you or not, this cross-quarter day, in the northern hemisphere, also marks the point at which the lessening of daylight becomes noticeable.  The evenings are getting shorter.  We are six weeks past the solstice, that wonderful long evening, and the sine curve of the year’s cycle has speeded up.  This used to be troubling to me because I was steeped in an abstract rationalism that treated days as calendar boxes, and named fall, defined as after the equinox, as the time when the days are “supposed” to get shorter.  My “book-learning” confused me.  To expect the universe to follow such rules, to be other than it is―that is what’s contrary to reason.

With its hot weather, shorter days and the imminent start of school all at once, August has sometimes seemed like the worst of all possible seasons; a sense of loss sets in.  But the farmer’s market is full of wonderful produce.  In Maine, it’s the season of corn and blueberries.  In southern New Mexico, it’s time to gather the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes for a freezer full of ratatouille to serve over pasta.  And local peaches are ripe. Enjoy this first harvest season!