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Why I Celebrate Summer Solstice
Today is Summer Solstice. It's the longest day of the year and the shortest night. The following day daylight becomes less and less until we reach the Winter Solstice in December. [See Lifely: Sunshine Through the Year]
About ten years ago, I was talking with some friends about green living and got all excited that Summer Solstice was coming up that Sunday. One of them said, "I'm not very interested in Summer Solstice. What does it have to do with living green?"
Good question. When I first became interested in "living in harmony with Nature" the very first thing I explored was the concept of natural time.
We humans live in industrial time, according to clocks and calendars. But nature lives by its own time. Can you imagine a butterfly or a whale or a tree wearing a watch or looking at their appointment book? Our bodies, too are still in tune with the sun. Each of our bodies has a pineal gland, which governs some of our internal cycles that are in sync with the seasonal movements of the sun. The pineal gland is sensitive to light and, along with the rest of the endocrine system, acts to trigger the human body into keeping in unison with the rest of nature.
In our man-made world of time, every hour is 60 minutes, every day 24 hours, every year 365 days, except for leap year, which is 366 days. Yet, every other species and life itself runs on a whole different system of time, which is reckoned by the movements of the sun, moon, and stars.
When I studied sundials, for example, I found that the hours of the day are different lengths. The number of minutes it takes for the sun to move a certain distance is greater in the morning and evening, and lesser at midday. But it all averages out over 24 hours to 60 minutes in what we call an hour. And each of those hours has a different quality—morning hours feel different than evening hours, each has a different quality of life and is in a different part of the cycle of the day.
Likewise with the year. At the Spring Equinox, for example, life is leaping into existence, whereas at the Autumn Equinox, life is decaying and returning to the Earth. At both points, day and night are equal, but they are very different in their life function. Winter Solstice and Summer Solstice are even more widely different—one marks the point of deepest darkness, after which light will return; the other marks the point of greatest light, after which darkness will return.
In pre-industrial times, celebrating the seasons marked time and united communities around particular activities that contributed to sustaining their lives. It was a time of reconnection in agricultural communities where neighbors often lived far apart.
For me, in the twenty-first century, honoring seasonal changes with a celebration is a way to periodically tune in with the time system of Life and honor that Life is the source of everything that sustains the material aspect of my life.
Summer Solstice is the time when the sun is at it's highest in the sky when it is at its full power. It really is the time to celebrate the sun and all it gives to us. Without the sun, there would be no life on Earth. We humans would not exist. It's something to be thankful for.
I think the best celebration for Summer Solstice is a picnic outdoors, eating summer foods like tomatoes and watermelons and ice cream. In ancient times people had great feasts and danced and sang Summer Solstice carols.
I want to revive this holiday!
Let's celebrate the benefits of sunshine, how it supports our lives, and how we can use it for good.
When I lived in Florida, my friend Linda and I used to celebrate the solstices and equinoxes together and make a point to do that, no matter what else was happening in our lives.
One year for our Summer Solstice celebration visited a local botanical garden where they had a display of edible plants suitable for our local area. We learned more about edible plants we can add to our own gardens. Then we had a mid-afternoon refreshment together.
This year Larry and I and other members of our family will be going out to lunch and visiting a local butterfly farm.
High noon is the "summer solstice" of the day, so high noon on summer solstice is the apex of the year. It's a great time to take a moment and give thanks for the Sun that sustains all Life.