Happy solstice!

Derived from the Latin words for “sun” (sol) and “still” or “stopped,” solstice marks the point at which our planet’s relationship with the sun once again alters. It is the opposite point from the equinox, literally “equal night,” and it is a time of extremes.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

At the solstice, the Earth is at its most extreme tilt. In winter, it gives us the longest night, but in summer this means we get the longest, most glorious and sun-filled day of the year.

Of course, if you live in the southern hemisphere – Australia or New Zealand, for example – it is the opposite. But that bends my brain, so let’s stick with our own backyard for now, shall we?

This pivotal moment in our Earth’s rotation and the procession of the seasons has been marked and celebrated for about as long as we have indications of human existence.

Naturally. If you are dependent upon crops or the movement of animals for your survival, you are going to be aware of and celebrate the important markers of time.

In northern Europe, midsummer celebrations, often involving bonfires and fertility rituals, were used to ensure a good harvest. Interestingly, in Egypt, prior to the Aswan Dam being built in the 1960s, this was also the time of year the Nile River would flood, replenishing the land with vital nutrients from the river bed and fertilizing the crops in the process.

The ancient Greeks marked this time with wild abandon and the ceremonies of the original Olympic Games, while their Roman neighbors celebrated “Vesta,” the goddess of the hearth and home, and Indigenous cultures in North America marked the time with dances, rituals and structures.

Ancient China marked the summer solstice with festivities in celebration of the extremes as well, with a nod to both the “yang” energy and a need to balance the extremes, noting sagely that this much sun can also disrupt healthy sleep cycles.

The Vikings marked the solstice as a time to gather and settle important legal disputes, and there are all manner of interesting studies on truly ancient cultural celebrations of this time of year.

It is in our natures, maybe even our DNA, to pay attention to the solstice.

In practical terms, this means we are in summer proper. What it also means, and what I am trying to avoid thinking about, is that, like a roller coaster that has just crested the climb, we are now about to start our downward rush and are heading towards shorter and shorter days. Egads.

For me, the summer solstice inspires not only joy in the promise of lazy, sun-baked days ahead, but also a mild form of panic and a sense of wasting the glorious days of sunshine while they are here. I know, ironic.

On my refrigerator door, to combat the panic, there is a map of the days of summer. Wedged in amongst the baseball games, books to read and intended hikes, there is a reminder that time is indeed passing and that the end of this summer also marks the departure of my youngest for his own, semi-adult life. Therefore, I also intend to pause. Often. Take it in. Be aware of the gifts of summer and give thanks.

What’s your solstice ritual? How do you intend to consume this beautiful gift of summer? For what things are you thankful and what constitutes your “harvest” – the things you set aside to get you through the winter months to come? Whatever your plans, I hope your summer is bountiful.

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