Posted by: Michelle UluOla | June 17, 2012

Summer Solstice Memories: Then and Now

“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights,
before the dark hour of reason grows.”
— John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells

The wooden screen door bangs behind her as she steps out and calls, “Come on kids—it’s getting dark—time to come in and get ready for bed!”

“Oh, Mom…just five more minutes…please…?”

While reminiscing with a friend who spent summers growing up in southern Wisconsin like I did, we 60-somethings had a startling revelation about our childhood memories: they’re wrong!

We are both avid skywatchers, following the sun’s arcing path throughout the year, noting where Ol’ Sol rises and sets in relation to landmarks on the horizon, along with what times he does so. We’re keenly aware of the lengths of the days and nights, the phases of the moon and the positions of the planets and constellations in the night sky. We’re tuned into the light and rhythms of Mother Nature and celebrate the Equinoxes and Solstices that mark off the quadrants of the year.

So when my friend and I shared our fond, pre-teen recollections of playing outside in the light all summer long until well past 9 p.m., even beyond the dog days of August, we were befuddled by our adult realization of that impossibility. It seems our memories play tricks on us when we recall what we cherish as an innocent, carefree time in our lives. Or perhaps, our concept of time was different when we were young? I know it’s speeding by faster than ever now.

“Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now.”
— William Wordsworth, “To a Butterfly”

Why are those memories impossible? Because even during these longest days, the sun sets before 9 p.m. in southern Wisconsin. Twilight lengthens not long after during these evenings leading up to Summer Solstice, which heralds the longest day length of the year. In 2012, that occurs on June 20 at 6:09 p.m. CDT. The very next day, the amount of light begins its incremental, daily shortening until the Autumnal Equinox in September when day and night are of equal duration. Thus, it’s already getting dark before 9 p.m. by the end of July, not to mention during August. Our mothers were declaring the end of our outdoors playtime a lot earlier than we remember. Ah, well…I guess we’ll just have to pretend we grew up at a higher latitude where is stays light much longer–a mere four degrees further north and we’d gain over half an hour!

“And I leave the children the long, long days
to be merry in in a thousand ways, and the Night,
and the trail of the Milky Way to wonder at….”
— Williston Fish, “A Last Will,” 1898

Bowl of Blooms

Bowl of Blooms

Here in word-pictures are some more timely observations I’ve recorded in my memory as we segue from spring into summer:

Picture a Change of Season

Evidence of last year’s flowers—nicotiana, alyssum, petunias, moss roses and morning glories appear—each as a germinated volunteer.

Fireflies twinkle on the evening breeze while crickets’ songs herald a new season is underway to anyone who stops long enough to hear.

Speckled juveniles flap and beg for worms winged in by their mother robins on constant patrol, thankful for shower-softened soil.

The dee-dee-dee of the chickadees announces their intention to pluck sunflower seeds from the squirrel-proof feeder that eases their dinner-hunting toil.

Wren parents relay race, working overtime to snag bugs and grubs for hungry mouths of chirping babes in the house above the garden gate.

Hummingbirds in aerial display, zoom from feeder to flower at a frantic pace because their energy demands can’t wait.

A squirrel tiptoes along the planter wall, unflustered by my watchful eye, and avails himself at the birdbath of a thirst-quenching drink.

Children freed from the bonds of school have begun their frolic and fun, building memories of whiling away long summer days soon to be gone in a blink.

The biomass, pregnant with Spring, bursts forth now with hurried growth, anxious to propagate and bear fruit as Summer is birthed by the New Moon.

Now wing through the days with the hummingbirds and dance away evenings among the fireflies, for faster than the speed of diminishing light, Autumn will be here far too soon…

Happy Summer Solstice!

Clematis and Hummingbird Feeder

Clematis and Hummingbird Feeder

“There is a garden in every childhood,
an enchanted place where colors are brighter,
the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again.”
— Elizabeth Lawrence

Faerie Patio and Germinating Nicotiana

Faerie Patio and Germinating Nicotiana

******©UluOla 2012******

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Responses

  1. Wonderful post. Thank you. I stood outside at sunset on the Solstice day and found fleeting visions of those longer days and endless evenings. A quiet mind helps one to hold the old images, and they remain alive.

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    • You’re welcome, Paul. It’s always a pleasure to share thoughts and words with you…thank you for that.

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  2. Michelle,Your words are as beautiful as the flowers you grow ** I love your little faerie patio !! (((((((Bear Hugs)))))))

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    • Oh, thank you, Suli, for your kind words and hugs…so glad you enjoyed the blog and my faerie patio. 😉 (((((((((Panther Hugs)))))))))

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  3. I got on my bike and rode, to my friends, to the playground, to the store. The days lasted forever, after a full day of work, my dad would take us to the pool, where we spent the next few hours, cooking burgers for dinner, swimming until the sun went down and then we’d do it all over again the next day. My parents worked so I could play. We don’t appreciate what we had until we have to do the same things, and then time just seems to slip away quickly. I will always be grateful for the childhood I was privileged to have.

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    • Thank you, Jai, for sharing your lovely story and insights. Yes, we were very lucky to have some real, “Norman Rockwell” times during our childhood. I’m certainly grateful for mine, too.

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  4. M – Days seemed longer, a week like a holiday, a month an eternity, and as for a year, why they lasted a lifetime back when we were young LOL

    Carefree days – Summer or Winter – are what childhood dreams, and memories, are made of. I recall looking at a friend of my parents who was in their 40’s thinking, “Well, they’re ancient!”. Never did I think that I would ever get that old, and then some more…

    As you start your spiral towards Winter, we start ours towards the new life part of the year, when so many things again seem possible – Spring. But – without that circle, how could we enjoy one against the other. As long as you have food on the table, a secure roof over your head, warmth, and people you can call friends then the Winter that lies ahead should pass as they all do – colder, darker, but nonetheless comfortable – and as always with the promise of Spring ahead.

    Life is for the living, and the enjoyment thereof, no matter the circumstances nor age – so here’s to life and the renewing circle of the seasons 🙂

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    • Thank you, Dani, for your comments always kissed with wisdom. And Happy Winter Solstice to you with many blessings of Love and Light…and of course, (((HUGS))!

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