Thursday, June 21, 2012

Summer Solstice

When I was a kid, I experienced summer as endless. When classes let out in June, it seemed as if an infinite number of days rolled out before me until those ominous school bells would call me back in early September. Summer was a season of plenty – plenty of warmth, sunlight, and free time. If we didn’t do something today, it didn’t matter. There was always another summer tomorrow. Summer meant abundance to me. Nowadays, summer almost seems likes it’s over before it begins. Why did I ever learn about the summer solstice? It threatens to ruin things for me. June 20 was the longest day of the year in our part of the world – at least in terms of daylight. Amazing as it seems, it is all downhill from here. We will actually be losing daylight for the next six months – first it is an unnoticeable drip of a moment or two, then there is a persistent flow, then a rush of hours swallowed up by the darkness until late December rolls around, .and daylight begins to get its revenge and nibble away ever so slowly and quietly at the dark. What happened to the summer? One of the truths that I cling to during the usually cold and snowy Northeast Ohio winters is the knowledge that after the winter solstice that every single day gets a little bit brighter. That fact has often brought me great joy and consolation. So if the winter solstice is an occasion of hope for me, should the summer solstice be experienced as a time of loss? I hate to give up on summer already. I deeply resonate with the connection of the summer solstice to the birth of John the Baptist and the winter solstice to the birth of Jesus. John himself said with respect to his position with Jesus: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) John was great, but not as great as Jesus. Instead, he paved the way for Jesus. After John’s birth (which will be celebrated in a few days), the days grow shorter. After the birth of Jesus, every day brings more light. I love that idea – it reminds me of the yin/yang – in the midst of the darkness there is a spot of light; in the midst of the light, there is a spot of darkness. Both darkness and light have their time and their place. This connection just might be the one that makes me celebrate the summer solstice rather than mourn it. It is also an idea that can give all of us hope amidst any dark situation in our lives as well as make us thoughtful and appreciative of the brightest days we experience. In the face of the coming darkness that summer solstice portends, we decided to face it bravely yesterday and celebrate. Holly and I and some friends joined with a group of people in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park for a Yoga Solstice Festival. There is nothing quite like manipulating a 56 year old body during a dozen sun salutations to make a guy feel really alive – or old – or broken down. We had to sign waivers to participate – yoga can be dangerous, you know. But I enjoyed it and I really love those position names - especially downward facing dog. Do real dogs ever get into that position? I don’t think our pugs could. We didn’t stay too long but headed home where we hosted a backyard summer solstice cookout featuring a Weight Watchers approved menu. We even managed to stay up long enough to see the sun set – we are wild living folks – but the party ended shortly after that. Take that, summer solstice. Bring on the darkness – but, please, only a moment at a time.