I don’t come from a family or even a country that typically celebrates the summer solstice. My guess is it might have been viewed as a slightly dodgy hippy pagan festival (the hippy part being ok, the pagan not so much).
My summers as a child are a beautiful memory, tinged slightly pink-orange, which I think is due to the many many late evenings spent outside playing with the neighbourhood children. With the sun showing its face until well after nine, rules were relaxed and the end of teatime was met with a rapid slipping on of sandals to once again escape outside.
We’d play hide and seek in the streets, make adventurous journeys along the stream that ran through our garden, would make camps under the wood piles on the abandoned land next to our house, would run through the fields collecting huge bunches of cowslip that my mum would generously decorate the table with. The lanes would smell of barbecue smoke and we’d smell of sun cream. It was glorious.
Here in Luxembourg we’ve had a pretty gloomy May and June, and yet when I wandered up to bed early last night, leaving Rasmus to finish watching the football, the room was still light, and I could see the evening sky through the window, slowly fading to darker blue.
When I studied in Scotland, we used to go to Compline service on Thursday evenings at 10pm, a beautiful short service in a tiny chapel, the small choir singing the increasingly familiar prayers as we responded. By April or May, we’d come out of the service to still-light skies, and it thrilled me that there was just so much light.
Light is so important to us. We celebrate the sunny days, we complain when the sky is darkened with clouds for weeks on end. We talk of vitamin d deficiency, and yes I’m sure that’s true, but there is something more profoundly important about these long light days. They lift our spirits because we are drawn to the light like moths are drawn to the lamp over the front door. It gives us peace, gives us joy, gives us hope.
So today I’m going to do what I can to mark this day when the sun has control of our skies, when it chases back the night to a few short hours. I’m going to celebrate the clarity that light brings, the abundance that it creates, the joy it instils in me. I’m going to celebrate the light that shines in the darkness, the light that darkness has not overcome.
Happy Summer Solstice to you. May the blessing of light be upon you – light without and light within.
Photo source: Ben Pentreath