Bethea's Blog

June 15, 2021 - The Magical, Mysterious Summer Solstice

This Sunday, June 20th marks the Summer Solstice, the official beginning of summer and a favorite season for many of us! This day is actually a significant moment in our year, and for that reason I think it deserves some attention. For those of us who live in the northern hemisphere, it's the longest day and shortest night of the year.

You have probably noticed the earlier dawns and later sunsets that are happening now as well as the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. For all of Earth's creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth on Earth. I think it's safe to say that we humans have long treasured the power of the sun and the warmth and light it gives us. And that is likely because, before the advent of electricity, it was the sun and its presence in the sky that gave structure to the day. People rose at sunrise and organized their bedtimes close to sunset.

As incredible as it may sound, the earliest humans actually understood that the sun's path across the sky, the length of daylight, and the location of the sunrise and sunset all shifted in a regular way throughout the year. It is incredible to think that some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in the southern part of what's now England and aligned them with the June Summer Solstice sunrise. Today, these stones are called Stonehenge.

We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn't isolated to just one part of the world. Around the time that Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and the Sphinx already stood on Egyptian sands. If you were to stand at the Sphinx on the Summer Solstice, gazing toward the two pyramids, you'd see the sun set exactly between them. None of that was by chance!

In pre-historic times, summer was a particularly joyous time of the year for the people living in northern latitudes. Think about it ...the snow had disappeared; the ground had thawed out; warm temperatures had returned; flowers were blooming; leaves had returned to the trees. Some herbs could be harvested, for medicinal and other uses. Food was easier to find. The crops had already been planted and would be harvested in the months to come. Although many months of warm/hot weather remained before the fall, they took notice as the season work went on that the days began to shorten, signifying that the onset of the colder weather was inevitable. But let's don't think about those shorter days and longer nights yet! Relish the moment!

"We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course, it's our garden that is really nurturing us." — Jenny Uglow

I hope my homage to the Summer Solstice and the start of this new season helps you to think a little differently about this magical time of year. Do something to mark the start of your summer! Whether on your own or with company, spend some time outdoors to relish these longer days and Mother Nature in all her glory!