Pours down like a waterfall
Seeping into eager cracks
Quenching the eternal thirst
In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the Summer Solstice. I woke up early this morning to salute the sun at its rise on the longest day of the year. But like many days here in the mountains, the Earth was shrouded in damp foggy mist obscuring the sun. I drove in relative darkness to yoga class anyway, knowing with certainty that the mist would burn off in the rising clarity of sunlight.
By this time of the year, the ecstatic frenzy of spring has relaxed into the quiet lethargy of summer. A couple of wild turkey hens have come down from the woods to feast on wild raspberry bushes with a procession of poults in tow. Yesterday, I harvested several pints from the vines, and it seems correct that all the inhabitants of this land enjoy equally in the bounty. The berries are a favorite of the brown thrashers too.
At the birdfeeders, a pair of tufted titmice encourages their newly fledged offspring towards independence, but the baby persists in begging to be fed, even as it sits on the edge of the feeder.
A couple of song sparrows are getting a late start in the juniper tree next to the house. Our cats discovered the nest a few days ago and so have been relegated to the house until further notice, much to their feline dismay. Meanwhile, the summer rains come down in a deluge that threatens to swamp the flimsy little nest, but when the rains past, the parents resume feeding their now-drenched hatchlings as if nothing has happened. The tenacity of nature endures.
Out in the vegetable patch, my tolerance level for pulling weeds has been breached, just as it is every year around this time, and all hell is breaking loose in a tangle of Queen Anne’s lace, ground ivy, lambs quarter, mullein, daisies, chickweed, ragweed and my personal nemesis, crabgrass. In spite of the competition, the comestibles are bursting out all over the place, and we are enjoying peas, lettuce, spinach, beets, cabbage, carrots, squash, onions, garlic and cauliflower. The tomatoes are just coming on as are the beans, corn, melons and zucchini.
As I sit and type, a gentle breeze blows into my window carrying with it a cacophony of bird song and the myriad, nectar-sweet smells of a sun-baked summer meadow.
The natural and cultivated abundance at this moment is so overwhelming that the sterile dormancy of winter endured only months ago seems like time in another universe. But Summer Solstice reminds us that our current condition is impermanent, as this longest day also marks the beginning of the sun’s denouement. Every day hereafter will become shorter, so we must make proverbial hay while we can.
As I contemplate the meaning of increasing darkness, I struggle against my own prejudices. I want to say Summer Solstice is a celebration of the sun, which it is, but one cannot acknowledge this peak of solar activity without also accepting the coming darkness ahead. I get a lump in my throat, a flutter of anxiety in my belly about what is to come. How do we reconcile the darkness and cold? Our culture has exalted light as divinity itself and condemned darkness as evil incarnate.
The ancient Chinese believed that yin or feminine forces reach their maximum potency at the Summer Solstice, which makes sense, since fertility and abundance are at their peak in the long days of summer. As the Earth oozes fecundity, so too are people swayed by the powers of love and connection at this time, making June the traditional month for marriage. But the Chinese tradition speaks a larger truth. While light and day are considered masculine and yang, darkness and her kin the night are embodied by feminine yin. The peak of feminine power at the longest day of the year is yin collecting her forces for the long reign ahead.
Personally, the temperate winters take a hard psychological toll on my tropically reared biology. The darkness outside becomes a darkness within. I turn away from the external, curling into an insulated ball, spending days in front of the fire with books, cats and dogs, waiting. I dread the heaviness that hangs over my psyche during the long nights of winter, but I also realize the months of dark introspection are essential for my personal evolution. The insights I gain while in my hibernation create the impetus for rebirth when the sun again triumphs over the night on the Winter Solstice. Without the darkness, there is no rebirth when the light finally does shine again. Darkness is not less than light. They are equals, each whispering eternal truth, “This too shall pass.”
The sun is a great equalizer. It shines equitably on every patch of Earth, sharing its energetic wealth without bias or ulterior motive. While humans greedily collect the fruit of the sun’s benevolence, it just keeps on shining, creating new possibilities. Meanwhile, humans hoard, covet and collect out of fear, thinking they can stave off the impending darkness. But it is not the darkness that creates want and despair. The lightness and darkness of Earth are bountiful, and it is only greed itself that creates want.
The giant orb that exists as the celestial center of our solar system is literally, the giver of life to Planet Earth. Waves of energy from the sun expand across Earth’s surface bathing the world in warmth and light. The soft, reflecting and refracting waves of photons are absorbed by the leaves of green plants. Light and water combine, creating food that feeds the plants, those who eat the plants, and those who eat those who eat the plants. The Earth and all of her organisms form a web of nourishment, upon which all life is dependent on all other life, fueled by the sun’s energy. Long after human greed has exterminated our species, this truth will continue. Light will pass to darkness and then light again.
Summer Solstice reminds us that the nature of life is not static. Life gives way to death and then is reborn. We cannot interrupt this universal truth by selfishly hoarding the riches of the Earth unto ourselves. As all things pass into the deep sleep of winter, so too will all we have meticulously coveted eventually be converted to decay. But while the sun shines, we should make the most of it. Eat, drink, make love and be joyous in the abundance of nature as the sun shines down on this longest day.