Summer Solstice Redux

Today at the pool.

After days of dry weather, the forecast for my town is rain, rain and more rain. Some downpours will be heavy. I’ll be glad, even though it limits my ability to swim outside. After no outdoor pool last summer, I want to make sure I take advantage of every clear day. This morning was dreary and wet. I was close to settling on staying home, but the clouds broke suddenly and I scooted to the pool as fast as I could, hoping for at least twenty minutes of brisk swimming. Only one other person was in the water. I laughed, telling him we were the two smartest people in town. When it’s quiet like today, I drift into these inexplicable, benign semi-fugue states. I’m not disassociated from reality or away from real life. Rather I’m immersed in the myriad of water memories I shared with Michael, who loved being submerged as much as me. When I move through the water I visualize his head, popping up in front of me usually unexpectedly. He liked surprising me. One eye was usually closed in a squint, his hair crazily parted like a geometric patterned fabric and an off-color suggestion his first words to me. I love being in that space. As did my usual even and slow breaststroke, in that daydream, I looked up and gratefully realized I was going to get longer than a twenty minute swim. High above me was sun and a beautiful rainbow which I interpreted as Michael parting the clouds for me. This kind of thinking doesn’t feel anything like my usual firmly attached to the firmament type of mindset. That’s why I like it. If this was baseball I’d call it a change-up pitch. Regardless, I jumped out of the water to snap a few photos before finishing my swim.

I’m not sure how that section of my morning reminded me that I’d failed to acknowledge the summer solstice just scant days earlier. I wanted to have realized that the longest day of the year had gone by and that henceforth, a minute of daylight will disappear until the December solstice appears, the one when darkness prevails. I wish the practice of daylight savings time would be abolished because it makes winter more challenging. So far, none of whoever decides this stuff has taken my opinion under advisement. Thinking that the year is almost half-way over is odd to me. In a sense, I feel like it’s still 2020, pandemic issues far from resolved, political issues unsettled and climate change inexorably marching forward, despite all the clamoring for action, still grossly disregarded. I’ve been recording subtle changes in my yard and garden. Plants which bloomed earlier than in previous years. Cracks in the dirt surrounding my flowers because I don’t water grass. Last year at this time, my black raspberries were just beginning to ripen – this year, I’ve already gorged myself on them and the bushes are going back to sleep.

I caught the last strawberry moon of 2021 quite by accident. I was wandering up to bed in the wee hours of the night. Becoming nocturnal is one of the bad habits I acquired in the last years of Michael’s life. I’m finding it difficult to reverse, to get back to mornings but I’m making efforts to join those people who aren’t working third shift. In any case, as I passed through my dining room toward my back stairs up to the second floor, I thought I’d forgotten to turn off the porch light which was streaming through the windows. Except of course it was the giant strawberry moon which bathed the outdoors in its soft glow. I was glad I snapped a photo and that this milestone didn’t get ignored like the longest day of the year.

Being as aware as I can be for as long as I can be is important to me. I feel like burnout is the dominant state of mind I sense around me these days. I get it. Being on edge for a long time is a huge drain. Circumstances required me to stay hyper vigilant for many years. I was frustrated and angry but I couldn’t put those feelings away, nor do I want to, even when I feel I’m out of gas. The time will come when I can’t be who I am right now. I’m not packing it in until I’m forced. I’m doing what I can that’s within my power. I’ve got a phenology study going on right here in my own yard and garden. I’m studying climate change on a small scale, where I am every day, keeping records of what plants, birds, insects and other animals are doing from season to season, year to year. I have thousands of photos that are time-stamped. I have journals in which I’m keeping records of what I observe. Taken together with the records of other people like me, maybe we can make a little progress against our existential enemy, climate change. Ordinarily, the impetus behind my blog is to leave a biography of family life for my kids and theirs. For others who glean something that resonates with them, I’m pleased for the bonus interest. For today, I’m going back to that missed solstice, to share what’s happened during the advent of summer, since I bade farewell to spring. There have been many steamy days and a few welcome breaks. My perennial pollinator’s garden is filling in nicely and the requisite desired visitors are increasing daily. I’ve got good hiding places for the birds and their fledglings, along with ample food and water sources. I’m doing what I can do. I encourage everyone to do the same. Being this close to the natural world is a win-win deal. Good for the planet, good antidote against burnout. Enjoy.

These leaves look more like fall than summer.

And as the days grow shorter, I’ll be sharing more adventures in my garden. I hope you enjoyed my tribute to the summer solstice.

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