Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

It's that time again--the Summer Solstice, the First Day of Summer, and the Longest Day of the Year. I thought the following quotation from Joseph Wood Krutch would be appropriate to begin the day. It is from The Voice of the Desert, and the voice speaks from Tucson, Arizona.

"On the brightest and warmest days my desert is most itself because sunshine and warmth are the very essence of its character. The air is lambent with light; the caressing warmth enfolds everything in its ardent embrace. Even when outlanders complain that the sun is too dazzling and too hot, we desert lovers are prone to reply, 'At worst that is only too much of a good thing.'"

. . . . . .

"It so happens that I am writing this not long after the twenty-first of June and I took especial note of that astronomically significant date. This year summer began at precisely ten hours and no minutes, Mountain Standard Time. That means that the sun rose higher and stayed longer in the sky than on any other day of the year. In the north there is often a considerable lag in the seasons as the earth warms up, but here, where it is never very cold, the longest day and the hottest are likely to coincide pretty closely. So it was this year. On June 21 the sun rose almost to the zenith so that at noon he cast almost no shadow. And he was showing what he is capable of.

Even in this dry air 109 Fahrenheit in the shade is pretty warm. Under the open sky the sun's rays strike with an almost physical force, pouring down from a blue dome unmarked by the faintest suspicion of even a fleck of cloud. The year has been unusually dry even for the desert. During the four months just past no rain--not even a light shower--has fallen. The surface of the ground is as dry as powder. And yet, when I look out of the window the dominant color of the landscape is incredibly green."

Well, today is June 21st, the summer solstice. It hasn't rained for 72 days now, and it looks as though we have a good chance of reaching 80 days if the weekly forecast is accurate. The high for today is predicted to be 102, Wednesday 110, and Thursday 109.

That's Joseph Wood Krutch's thinking about summer. Following are some different reflections.

with a short night's sleep:

summer in the world:
floating on the lake
over waves

Both haiku are by Basho
Basho's Haiku
trans David Landis Barnhill


Come, bring the children. Let them
feel for a moment the rhythm
of the hoe. Let them experience
the wonder of green shoots emerging
from earth, earth given us
in guardianship from the Creation.

Body, mind, and spirit full to bursting
with ripe, sweet berries, the first
tender green beans, and corn. We give
thanks, and thanks again. The twin
concepts of Reason and Peace are
seen in each kernel of an ear of corn.

Perhaps we repair our lodges
as do the beavers living close by.
Our children swim like river otters
and as their laughter reaches us,
we join them for a while
in these hottest of summer days.

- Peter Blue Cloud (Aronialwenrate)
Mohawk , b. 1935
from When the Seasons


When friendly summer calls again,
Calls again
Her little fifers to these hills,
We'll go--we two--to that arched fane
Of leafage where they prime their bills
Before they start to flood the plain
With quavers, minims, shakes, and trills.
"--We'll go," I sing; but who shall say
What may not chance before that day!

And we shall see the waters spring,
Waters spring
From chinks the scrubby copses crown;
And we shall trace their oncreeping
To where the cascade tumbles down
And sends the bobbing growths aswing,
And ferns not quite but almost drown.
"--We shall," I say; bug who may sing
Of what another moon will bring!

-- Thomas Hardy --

No. 122

A something in a summer's Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer's noon--
A depth -- an Azure --a perfume --
Transcending ecstasy.

And still within a summer's night
A something so transporting bright
I clap my hands to see --

Then veil my too inspecting face
Lest such a subtle -- shimmering grace
Flutter too far for me --

The wizard fingers never rest --
The purple brook within the breast
Still chafes its narrow bed --

Still rears the East her amber Flag --
Guides still the Sun along the Crag
His Caravan of Red --

So looking on -- the night -- the morn
Conclude the wonder gay --
And I meet, coming thro' the dews
Another summer's Day!

-- Emily Dickinson--
from The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson


I would arise and in a dream go on--
Not very far, not very far--and then
Lie down amid the sunny grass again,
And fall asleep till night-time or next dawn.

In sleepy self-sufficiency I'd turn;
I 'd seek new comfort and be hard to please--
Far in a meadow by an isle of trees,
All summer long amid the grass and fern.

Forests would have to be all round about,
And the mead silent, and the grass deep,
Else I might not gain such a tireless sleep!
I could not slumber if the wains were out!

-- Robert Frost --

Summer has many faces. Robert Frost's summer is closest to mine. Which one is yours?


  1. Fred,

    I'd pick Summer Solstice, by Peter Blue Cloud. I especially like this line:

    Let them experience
    the wonder of green shoots emerging
    from earth, earth given us
    in guardianship from the Creation.

    Summer makes me feel like a child again, and evokes that childlike wonder and joy. It reminds me to value and take happiness from the simple things in life, like a child would.

  2. Cheryl,

    Soil and green shoots--I agree, but I'm afraid that doesn't seem too fascinating when set against our electronic virtual world today.

  3. Nothing to do with summer, but the name Basho reminds me of this little ditty from which Robert Crais got the title of his first novel: THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT.

    Winter downpour -
    even the monkey
    needs a raincoat.


    I wouldn't mind the heat of summer so much if only we'd had a Spring.

    Have a good one, Fred.

  4. Yvette,

    In New Jersey? No spring. I'll bet you have more of a spring than we do in Tucson. [g]

  5. I live where there is no winter, no summer, little change in day light periods, no sense of rebirth when spring comes. I often think if the lack of these weather patterns basic to the temperate zone has impacted the literary production of the tropics. Does a Thomas Hardy from a

  6. Does a Thomas Hardy of the tropics make any sense at all. How much gloom comes from oppressive weather?

  7. mel u,

    Good question. Perhaps the contrast between summer and winter gives one to think about contrasts such as warm and cold, happiness and gloom, etc.