it feels like a day for genuflection, yes it does. down on your knees, outa bed. bowing to the sun.
of course, to the sun. to the rising, shining, barely-inching-anywhere-today sun. the sun that, dang, seems stuck up there.
hello, hello, someone check the sun. perhaps it’s broken. it is barely moving, i am certain. it’s in the exact same spot it was in yesterday, i swear. it is standing still up there, yes it is.
the ancients thought so too. thought the sun was stuck on the today of long, long ago. so much so that they named today after the sun that would not budge.
called it the summer solstice. which, like many old things, is a word with latin roots. sol, of course means sun. and sistere, means to cause to stand still.
i am not the first to think the sun has gone on strike. is standing still. and will not move. it has found the highest perch it ever gets the whole year long, and apparently, it does not want to give it up.
yes, at 1:06 p.m., chicago time, today, the great red ball, the one we draw as yellow but really it is fiery fiercely red, will reach its apex for the year, the tip-top spot, the northernmost way station, from which it shines.
which makes today, the day of longest light, a day for celebration all around the northern half of this ol’ ball we call the globe.
today’s the day we here in the middle of america get a whole 15 hours, 13 minutes of sun, pure sun. unless of course it decides to rain, and then the clouds will block our solar-powered fun.
today, my friends, is a day to bask in summer sunbeams. play shadow games. count your freckles. scatter sunflower seeds to the wind. watch the sun make them grow. watch them turn their heads as if to nod their thank yous.
for heaven’s sake, put a plain old ice block out to pasture. watch the sunshine do its tricks. watch it turn the ice to water. it is, from sun-up to sun-down, a day to frolic. a day to marvel at all the things the mighty sun can do for little us.
indeed, as long as there have been human folk keeping eyes on the sky, there have been worshippers of the sun, and frolickers of this very sunny day.
stonehenge, of course, got this party rockin’. those ancient souls, some 5,000 years ago, set their stones in a fine circle on a broad and barren plane, so they could track the sun. so they could whoop and holler on the day of summer solstice.
they weren’t the only ones, though, who set stones according to the sun. in ancient egypt, the thinkers there built two pyramids not far from the great sphinx. if today you stood at the great sphinx, you would see that the sun will set smack dab in the middle of those two pyramids. a perfect measure of the solstice. probably done without a compass.
in the first century of the common era, the essenes, the only jewish group who used a solar calendar, built a large room at qumran (the site where the dead sea scrolls were found) with windows precisely placed so that on the summer solstice, the slant of the setting sun through those windows completely illuminated the eastern wall.
sun worship, apparently, is nothing new. and all around the globe, in fact, this day of days has been the high point, the peak, the pinnacle, of sunlight celebration.
the ancient swedes put up midsummer trees in every little town. they decorated its boughs, and then all the maidens, fair and otherwise, took the plunge. they bathed in the nearest river, a rite thought to bring on the rains, once they’d bowed to summer’s sun.
the celts, never missing a good excuse for a party, celebrated the apex of sun light by crowning the oak king, who was considered the god of the waxing year.
in ancient china, the summer solstice was a day for honoring earth, the feminine and the yin, whereas the winter solstice was the day they honored the masculine, the heavens and yang.
the ancient germanic, slav and celtic tribes were big on bonfires for the summer solstice. pairs of lovers leapt through what were thought to be luck-bringing flames. apparently, the higher you jumped, the higher the crops would grow. good thing, no one asked me to leap through fire. we might wind up a little hungry by end of summer.
so whoop it up, people, invent a sunny thing to do. the solstice will begin its sweep across the country any hour now.
and while you’re at it, bow your head, and raise your arms. good thing the God who made the world thought to utter, let there be light. thought to add a sunshine to the picture.
today, the day of longest light, is surely time to revel in the glory and the power of the brightest light there is.
and how will you mark the epitome of sunlight? the longest light, the shortest shadow of the whole year long?
p.s. i snatched the sunset up above, as i drove through the cornfields of downstate illinois last night. i was down on the farm for the day because i am blessed to have a dayjob that takes me amazing places, into amazing hearts and souls. soon as i can i will tell you all about my new farmer friend. but the tribune gets first dibs on the story, so i have to let them go first. trust me, i am bursting to tell. in a word, “heaven,” is what i witnessed yesterday. you’re not surprised, i’m sure, i am the closest thing to a wanna-be farm girl that there might possibly be. i wanted you to see the longest light as the sun set at nearly half past eight, just to the west of the highway they call the double nickel, I-55, that is…..
p.s.s. it’s also why this post is a little later than usual. i could pretend i was waiting for it to be the exact hour of the summer solstice (i’m actually an hour early for that), but really it’s because early this morning i was getting our little world back in order after being gone for the day….