The Solstice

Today, June 20, is the solstice, the summer solstice if you are in the northern hemisphere and the winter solstice if you are in the southern hemisphere. Since I am writing from the north, I will concentrate on the summer solstice.

For many, this a day of rejoicing at the beginning of summer. For those who hate the heat of the summer, there is at least the consolation that from now on the days will be getting shorter. For vegetable gardeners like myself, I am hoping this heralds the beginning of a spurt of growth to mature my tomatoes and peppers, as well as the other plants in my garden. For those who (also like me) who live in a semi-desert area, this heralds the beginning of the watering season. With the weather becoming hotter and drier, I will need to water most days now.

Also known as Midsummer, people have been celebrating the solstice pretty much ever since man began. Some historians point to Stonehenge as evidence of the fact that ancient humans used the June Solstice as a way to organize their calendars. Some believe that Stonehenge’s unique stone circle was erected around 2500 BCE in order to establish the date of the Summer Solstice. Different cultures have different ways of celebrating. In ancient China, this was a time to celebrate the feminine, the yin of the year. In northern Europe, it often celebrated the feast days of fertility goddesses. As Christianity moved in, this was changed to a feast honoring John the Baptist, and renamed St. John’s Day. Native Americans also had rituals, celebrating the joining of earth and sky. In Seattle where I used to live, there is a parade in the Fremont area on the solstice, which is wild and crazy, known primarily for nude bicycle riding.

Today in our mechanized society, it is easy to dismiss the rhythms of the earth and let this significant day pass with hardly a thought, but it does mark the turning of the seasons, and it is good to stop and honor that.

Here are some quotes about summer to brighten your day.

And pomp, and feast, and revelry,
With mask, and antique pageantry,
Such sights as youthful poets dream
On summer eves by haunted stream.–John Milton (“L’Allegro”)

Green was the silence, wet was the light,
the month of June trembled like a butterfly.–Pablo Neruda (100 Love Sonnets)

I should like to enjoy this summer flower by flower, as if it were to be the last one for me.–Andre Gide (Journals)

It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.–Maud Hart (Lovelace, Betsy-Tacy and Tib)

No price is set on lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.–James Russell Lowell (Vision of Sir Launfal)

The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day;
The Knave of Hearts
He stole the tarts,
And took them clean away. (well-known Nursery rhyme)

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.–Sir John Lubbock

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou are more lovely and more temperate… –William Shakespeare (“Sonnet 18”)

Summer afternoon — summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.–Henry James

Summer Time an’ the livin’ is easy…–Heyward DuBose (Porgy and Bess)

Summertime is always the best of what might be.–Charles Bowden

The way to ensure summer in England is to have it framed and glazed in a comfortable room.–Horace Walpole (Letter to Rev. William Cole Correspondence)

What is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days. . .–James Russell Lowell (Vision of Sir Launfal)

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