The longest day

June 21, 2006 at 2:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Good afternoon to you, people. And good afternoon. And good afternoon.

1591138531.jpgToday is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. You will punch out of work, make the long drive home, have supper, put the kids to bed, and pour your first drink of the evening. You will sit on the deck, put your feet up on the railing and realize for the first time that the sun is still casting light on your day like a ghost that does not want to leave you.

The sky will still be a faint blue or a darkening purple by the time you draw the first yawn of the evening. It will occur to you that daylight is going to outlast you this night, and you might marvel on this a bit before the second yawn comes along and then you're done for the evening.

If you put aside Halloween, the summer solstice is my very favorite time of the year. I love that the Earth is tilted at such a precise angle that it has a hard time shedding the light of the sun. There is something so cosmically beautiful about the longest day of the year that primitive people constructed monuments to mark the occasion. The ancient ones, who possessed wisdom that may have been lost to us over millennia, celebrated the solstice in ways we now consider bizarre, or at best, quaint. They knew that the extra seconds of sunlight meant that we were extra blessed and they found ways to profess thanks for the gift.

I live close to downtown Lewiston. Any thoughts I might have about building a monument to the solstice would be quickly shot down by the Planning Board and I'd be billed just for filling out the paperwork. Any ideas about dancing naked around a bonfire would be quelled by the indecency laws and the current burning ban. Not to mention the embarrassing injuries I'd suffer.

And so, I celebrate the solstice in other ways. I wrote a book about it, for starters. It would be gross exploitation for me to plug my book here, and my editors would frown on it. Just go to your local bookstore or library and ask for it. I believe they keep copies of the book in the pink room.

But the idea is to celebrate this long day in your own special way. Pitch a tent in the back yard and invite your spouse to spend the night there with you. Let your kids stay up extra late and watch them catch fireflies while the light hangs and hangs and hangs in the sky. Call that brother you've been ignoring for six years because of that dispute over the inheritance and say something like: "You know, bro? On any given day of the year, I'd rather eat lint than give you a call. But this day is so long, I thought I'd look you up and ask how your life is."

snowglobeblack.jpgYou're laughing at me, aren't you? You think I spent my solstice drinking red wine that goes nicely with poultry but better with melancholy. But the fact is, few times of the year affect me so profoundly as the solstice. I want to roll around in the grass, watch the sky and savor its tenacious appetite for light. I want to jump into Lake Auburn and thrash around under the moon, even though doing so will result in a $1,000 fine, as clearly stated on signs posted every 10 feet along that gorgeous stretch of lake. I want to pay the fine in dripping dollars to the scowling cop who waits upon the shore.

Because darkness comes back soon enough. The returning darkness of the planet is as inevitable as the darkness of the human soul. No fewer crimes against man will be committed on June 21. No fewer people will die on this date from diseases they didn't invite. It's a special day only for those who pause to consider it.

The hard thing is that it happens but once a year. The light hangs there, and hangs there, and hangs there in the sky. Then it's dark again, night has fallen, the steady decline of daylight hours carries on. You awake the day after your solstice reverie and there will be some shrill-speaking crone nearby to herald the hideous news: "Well, that's it, you know! From this point on, the days get shorter and before you know it, winter will be back! Better start thinking about getting snow tires for your car and you just know the cost of heating oil is only going to go up."

Run that crone over with your car and call it part of your solstice ritual. As long as you celebrate in one form or another. Because to overlook the joy of the day would be an insult. It would be an insult to me and to the planet that tilted so precisely toward the sun to make it happen.

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20 Comments

  1. jarheaddoc said,

    I beat Linda to the first comment about Mark’s favortie day of the year! there’s a certain amount of joy to that, especially since the bothersom teeth are now in my pocket instead of my mouth!

  2. Linda said,

    Well, you may have beaten me to the post jd, but only because I was reading this column to my husband from the newspaper.

    Ain’t it great?

    Glad you got the dentist thing behind you. You sound more cheerful already.

    I commenced my solstice celebration by walking the northern few miles of the recreational trail that runs from Farmington to Jay. We walk the Wilton section all the time, and I’ve been through to Jay, but the northern part was a first. It’s great! they just “christened” it last Saturday, and I’m hoping to see something about it in Mark’s paper soon, maybe in that new “things to do” section??

    And, AO and MT, there was the Tumbledown threat again today, see what you can do with negotiation?

  3. Dave said,

    I like the Lake Auburn bit. Perhaps if enough people joined together and had a massive illegal skinny dip in the lake, they would revisit the foolish policy.

    Are humans filthier than gasoline?

  4. LaFlamme said,

    Most of them, probably. The ones I know, anyway.
    I’ve said too much.

  5. AO said,

    I’ve never understood the reasoning behind motor boats being allowed in Lake Auburn but, not swimmers? WTF? I hate drinking water from Lake Auburn because I KNOW, I’m drinking gasoline. Then again, I don’t want to drink anyone’s pee…either.

  6. Anonymous said,

    Lots of drinking water reservoirs are in odd places. In Lynn, MA, the highway goes along a couple of reservoirs, and they’re fenced and barbed like nuclear installations. Which doesn’t keep people out of course.

  7. LaFlamme said,

    According to the signs at Lake Auburn, you can’t even TOUCH the water there. I know, because I’ve touched the water many times just because I like to cross the line. I’m kind of a rebel, you know.

  8. Linda said,

    Yuh, that’s me.

    Tomorrow is the end of phase 1 of my vacation, if anyone wants to know. I don’t think my husband’s too sorry that I am going away for a few days, apparently I’m not the most relaxing person in the world to have around 24/7. Which is why I’m going away — better not to stay in one place so long that somebody feels like … oh never mind.

    Obviously I’m not going anywhere that they don’t have internet, so you all might not be so lucky.

  9. AO said,

    We want you around, Linda! Wish I could go on vay-cay with you. Ha..that would be a fun time!

  10. Linda said,

    Ah thanks AO. That would be some road trip!

  11. Dave said,

    OK, then.. the game plan.

    We all run with scissors down Center Street, then walk into Lake Auburn at the boat launch while holding flaming tiki torches and chanting.

    We justify it by claiming its some type of Solstice Celebration.

  12. LaFlamme said,

    Dave, you just made me snort stuff outta my nose. Running with scissors! I am so there.

  13. Martha said,

    LOL, Dave, I see you fit right in with the rest of us.
    For summer solstice..welllll.. let’s see. When I got home from work I wanted to wear myself out so I could sleep when I went to bed, so I moved furniture so I could thoroughly sweep and wash.. make that scrub my floors, then moved the furniture back. They needed it. It worked. I slept pretty well.
    With regard to winter coming.. I sure am glad I only have to deal with PA winter, not Maine anymore.

  14. LaFlamme said,

    I think it’s clear, no matter what mind altering stimulants you people take, I will always be up later than you. And what’s better, I do it with a clear head. Why, just a few minutes ago, I was outside looking at the stars and now I’m coherently wewewrwewerwerwwerwerwr

  15. Martha said,

    Mark, how do you pronounce that? ūüôā

  16. K2 said,

    The reason you can’t swim in Lake Auburn is because human grime, feces and piss all sink, and can contaminate the deep water, where the intake valves are. Oil and gasoline are lighter than water, so they float on top and get washed ashore eventually by wind/wave action. And gas evaporates rather quickly too.

    It sucks we can’t swim in it, but clean drinking water is bit more mportant. It’s been said that in the next few decades or more, fresh water will be as precious as gasoline, if not moreso.

    And since I’m talking science here, Stephen Hawking just spoke in China, regarding his global warming fears. It’s fucking real, people, even if you don’t want to admit it. (And Mark, there’s a string theory reference in the below link too.)

    http://apnews.excite.com/article/20060622/D8ID0FB00.html

  17. Linda said,

    Missed you K2. When you and Gil aren’t around the blog, it’s so much more work finding out for myself what’s in the news & what’s going on.

  18. K2 said,

    Thanks, Linda. I was busy as hell yesterday. Got a relatively permanent writing gig with Alternative Medicine magazine (it’s not as nutty crunchy as it sounds) and I’ve become reacquainted with deadlines. Writing science news for them, mostly summarizing health studies so far, although I’ve got some features coming up.

    Still, I don’t have 17 books out like Mr. LaFlamme. Oops, he just published his 18th. Make that 19. Fuck, I can’t keep up with that madman.

  19. Linda said,

    Very interesting. Must talk more about that sometime. website? yes? no?

  20. K2 said,

    I’m actually not sure. I just started a few weeks ago.

    But back to global warming: http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/science/06/22/global.warming.ap/index.html

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