Sunset over water

And so with the sun­shine and the great bursts of leaves grow­ing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that famil­iar con­vic­tion that life was begin­ning over again with the sum­mer.

~F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

June 20 marks the sum­mer sol­stice, or mid­sum­mer, the longest day of the year for those liv­ing north of the equa­tor, and the offi­cial start to the astro­nom­i­cal sum­mer. The word sol­stice comes from the Latin sol­sti­tium and means sun stand­ing still. Our earth orbits around the sun on a tilt­ed axis, prob­a­bly because the giant blue mar­ble we call home col­lid­ed with some oth­er mas­sive space object bil­lions of years ago. Today the move­ment of the sun’s path, at least from our per­spec­tive, seems to halt.

The sol­stice has been hon­ored for mil­len­nia across cul­tures with feast­ing, bon­fires, the shed­ding of clothes, the rais­ing of toasts, and the danc­ing of bod­ies deep into the night. It is a time to cel­e­brate renew­al, birth, boun­ty, warmth, and light, a time to rejoice and revel.

Leo is my zodi­ac sign and I can­not deny the leo­nine pull the sun has on me. I imag­ine in a past life I wel­comed the mid­sum­mer sun­rise at Stonehenge, roar­ing my approval, flow­ers in my hair, tears in my eyes, bare feet wig­gling in the grass.

Granny Skinner told me that the dog days of sum­mer hap­pened because dogs went rabid in the heat. But the term dog days actu­al­ly aris­es from Sirius, the “Dog Star” and the bright­est star in our sky. When he ascends to bark in the east, those of us below know sum­mer has tru­ly arrived. And thus I am res­ur­rect­ed, falling grate­ful­ly under summer’s mag­i­cal spell.

If win­ter is a long walk of despair, sum­mer is par­tic­u­lar­ly won­der­ful in the South. Though I rise ear­ly most days, light is already peek­ing around the cor­ner of the tree line, and it’s warm enough to drink my cof­fee on the porch. I med­i­tate with eyes open. The sun­rise hap­pens slow­ly, then all at once. Purples fade into pinks, which melt into yel­lows that streak across the sky, each sun­rise a Pollock mas­ter­piece. The birds sup­ply the sound­track, bats zip by in the ris­ing light, deer and turkeys wan­der across the hill­side look­ing for breakfast.

Sunsets are just as mag­i­cal. If sun­rise hap­pens gen­tly, sun­set seems to occur in a quick flash of bril­liant red. Dusk is infi­nite, then gone in a blink, burn­ing my eyes for star­ing too long. Often, the light is obscured by a sum­mer storm, light­ning like nails pound­ed by Thor, rever­ber­a­tions of thun­der shak­ing the win­dow panes. Even bet­ter, the after, where rib­bons of fog hang on the trees in the val­ley like gar­land and the clean smell of ozone per­me­ates the air.

If we stay long enough, we wit­ness the heav­en­ly con­stel­la­tions blink on one at a time, mir­rored by the shift­ing con­stel­la­tions of the fire­flies in the clover field below.

I sip wine, pon­der the inscrutable nature of life. Izzie swings in the ham­mock, occa­sion­al­ly punc­tu­at­ing the silence with an off-key Taylor Swift lyric. David stares out past the tree line and smiles. Midsummer is both a sea­son and a state of mind.

Are we allowed to be this happy?

Though mid­sum­mer days are end­less, they still seem too short and over too quick­ly. We must soak it all up now while coats and socks are stowed in the base­ments of our minds. The ripe toma­toes eat­en off the vine, a lit­tle dirt the only sea­son­ing. Baseball games and 6th inning beer. Skin that smells of sun­screen and bug spray. Long hikes in the gorge fol­lowed by tacos, always tacos. After-din­ner strolls on the lane, dread­ing the stretch­es where we must walk beneath the unre­lent­ing sun rather than in the cool shade of the trees. Zinnias in every col­or of the rain­bow. Boats at the beach, pon­toons at the lake. Lingering din­ners al fres­co, corn on the grill, and a water­mel­on for dessert. Sun tea and damp pool tow­els fight­ing for every inch of rail­ing space. Tents pitched in the back­yard. Cars as hot as an oven, steer­ing wheels like a grid­dle. Windows down, music up. Fireworks and sandy toes and heads that smell of chlo­rine instead of shampoo.

Solstice means stand­ing still, but that is an illu­sion. Change is our only absolute. In truth, the sol­stice sig­ni­fies that the sun is now revers­ing its direc­tion, result­ing in days that will now get a bit short­er as we move toward fall. 

Let it be a reminder to soak up every moment of this glo­ri­ous season.

  • Erin Skinner Smith

    Erin Skinner Smith wants every­one to slow down, eat real food, move their bod­ies, go out­side, and hit the pil­low a lit­tle ear­li­er for a more pur­pose­ful exis­tence. She is a pub­lished writer, yoga teacher, and mind­ful­ness coach. When she’s not stand­ing on her head or typ­ing on her trusty lap­top, you’ll find her read­ing, play­ing gui­tar, enjoy­ing a glass of bour­bon, or snug­gling on the couch with her peo­ple and pets. Send her a dig­i­tal high five at erintheomplace.net.