Welcome summer! Just what we’ve been waiting for. We made it through the Spring. It hasn’t been the best of Springs. It’s been cold. It’s been rainy. It’s been a bit of a bummer. Now summer cartwheels into town with all its splendor. The sun is out. The sky is blue. The grass is green. The water is glistening. The day is long (the longest actually). The sunset is a bit more dazzling. All this deserves our celebration, and that was the plan for today.
Today was the Summer Solstice. This is an event that has been celebrated since ancient times marking the longest day of the year and honoring the sun. The Greeks’ calendar actually began with the Summer Solstice and they would celebrate every year with a feast honoring Cronus, the god of agriculture. The Romans kept the party going and honored Vesta on this day, the goddess of the hearth (she of the Vestal Virgin fame). They’d even sacrifice an unborn calf removed from the mother’s womb as tribute to her, so that was going to be my plan today. All I needed was just a pregnant cow, a really sharp knife and some Kingsford briquettes. I headed out to Clements to get my supplies.
Ok, not really.
Celebrating the sun has been a worldwide commonality. The Chinese celebrated the solstice with ceremonies to honor the earth, femininity and the force known as yin (conversely, yang was celebrated in winter). The Vikings saw the day as an opportunity to gather together as one in peace to discuss legal matters and resolve disputes. Across the pond, Native Americans as well as the Aztecs and Mayans marked the day with rituals and sun dances to pay tribute to the sun. The Aztecs even built great temples that were designed to be precisely aligned with the shadows cast by the sun on summer solstice. Every culture has made this day a big thing, so I might as well join the fun. (Info from History.com)
I thought about how I could celebrate this day and that’s what made National Daylight Appreciation Day stand out. Today was the longest day of the year – the most sunlight. I felt to honor that, I should take advantage of all that sun. It started in the am, although not on purpose. But when the sun first peeked out over the Eastern horizon, it shone right into my eyes and woke me up. It also woke up the murder of crows that like to perch in the tree outside our window and start their day with a chorus of caws. If we had more weaponry around the house, these birds would be dead at the hand of Lola, but thankfully our crossbows are out of reach. I digress. The day continued as any other day with the exception that it was particularly nice out. The sun was shining today and it was a welcome sight. I could understand why so many cultures worship the sun. It restores your faith in the world. It makes you feel good. Of course I didn’t see much of the sun from inside my office, but I noticed it on my lunch break and it was there waiting for me when I got out of work.
I figured the best way to take advantage of the long day was to put more day into my day. When I got home after a brief stop for some groceries, I decided to put some time in out in our yard. I made the quick change into appropriate attire and headed on out. It was about 6 pm but I knew I still had a few more hours of sunshine that I could use. I was appreciating the extra daylight. I got out some lawn bags and some gloves, then I got a rake. When I had last mowed the lawn it left a few spots where there were piles of cut grass, so I tried to tidy that up. Then while I was doing that, I noticed some weeds and overgrown areas, so I switched gears into pulling those errant plants out from the ground. Before long I had a full on sweat going. It was a good sweat too, the working hard in the yard kind of sweat. I stayed at it for about an hour or so and when I looked back, I had made some progress, but there was so much more to do. It was a deckchair off the Titanic. Still, I was able to sneak in some yard work thanks to the bonus sun. But now I was hot and sweaty. That’s when I decided to take the second step in celebrating the arrival of summer: I went swimming.
It was kind of a no brainer. I was hot and there was a giant body of water right in front of me. I had even cleared the path that led down to the water to make it easy for myself. It was just past high tide so the water was still up but it was starting to recede. The sun had also receded too. I knew that there was the possibility of a thunderstorm, but I thought it had passed. When I decided to go swimming, the clouds started to move overhead and I could hear a rumble of thunder in the distance. It drizzled for a few seconds but then it stopped. Then the clouds blew away and the sun came back. A rainbow came out too. It stretched across the whole Sakonnet with one end splashing down over Little Compton, the other in Tiverton. That was my sign to enter the water. It was a sign from the gods.
This was my first swim of the season. I was never a big swimmer as an adult, but last year Lola and I started to make a habit of jumping in. It’s been too wet and rainy this year so far, so this was my maiden voyage (excepting my Polar Plunge on New Year’s). I should warn you, the water is still cold. It was a quick jolt to the system. Actually, once I jumped in, you got used to it right away. I know everyone says that, but this time it was true. The air was warm enough so you never caught a chill and all things considered, the water temperature wasn’t too bad (the internet said it was 62 degrees – not freezing but not exactly a steam bath either). It felt good to be back in the water. It reminded me of all the times I had with Lola last year in the summer, floating on our big lime wheel inflatable and just staying cool. I realized that we still had all that in front of us waiting to enjoy and that got me excited for summer. Plus there was a giant rainbow in the sky and that was something. That made the moment something special.
Once I cooled down, we went back up to the house and I took a shower. It was about 8 pm now and the sun was still out. We still hadn’t eaten yet though. I decided to have a meal that would celebrate the joy of summer and that started with some fresh watermelon. I usually cut up a watermelon so it’s off the rind and easier to eat. Tonight however I kept it on the rind and just cut it into little triangles. It was so good and I am not sure if that was because it was refreshing or because it was the first day of summer. Either way, it brought us some joy. I then cooked up a steak that I had picked up at the store – a big ribeye on the bone. That’s not usually my favorite cut, but it looked good and it seemed summery. I seasoned it with some secret salt and pepper. Then I sautéed up some fresh mushrooms from our Veggie Box to go with it. It came out super tasty. I served it with some mashed potatoes courtesy of Bob Evan’s (a nice product) and some fresh corn which I boiled and then slathered in some salsa butter. I felt like corn is the quintessential summer food and it seemed like a perfect offering on this very first night of summer. It looked good on the plate too.
It was still light out when we started eating although the sun was starting to duck into the west. It was late for us to eat – almost 9 pm. But that’s what summer dinners are all about. Everything is a little later because you have packed more into your days. Our house faces East so we don’t see actual sunsets, but we can see it reflect over Tiverton. The sky turns a red hue as a small reminder of the last glimpses of the day. Summer days never go down lightly. They end in a symphony of color and joy which is the perfect backdrop to a dinner of summer flavors.
All hail summer and thank God it’s back. Thank Vesta and Cronus too. It felt good to be in the yard late at night today. It was a treat to have that extra daylight. It made me want to keep at all the weeding and yard work we are trying to do. I want to clean up our fire pit area so we can sit out there on warm summer nights and listen to the water on the rocks. Maybe we’ll sip some beers or even roast a s’more. We’ll just pack more into each and every day. We’ll worship the sun as often as we can too. The sun won’t always be so kind to us. It will bring us days that are too damn hot for any fun (shout out to anyone in Arizona right now). But it will also bring days like today. Hot sun, cool nights, refreshing water and endless possibilities. Thank you Sun for bringing that joy back for the summer. We will continue to honor your warmth and life. I’ll even burn an unborn cow if I have to.
Next Up: National Chocolate Eclair Day