And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten. – James Russell Lowell, “The Vision of Sir Launfal”
The apparent path of the sun crossed the celestial equator at 23:09 Universal Time last night, making today the first day of astronomical summer in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year (and of course the shortest for those of you reading this in the southern hemisphere). In European tradition today was Midsummer, the holiday called Litha (from an Anglo-Saxon word for “summer”) by neopagans and St. John’s Day by Christians. It was the most important day of the year for many ancient peoples, and even today is extremely popular in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, where there is scarcely any night at this time of year.
In my column of one year ago today my friend JustStarshine explained the spiritual significance of the day, and I shared my own feelings about summer: As a child I loved it because I was out of school, but once I grew up and could no longer take a three-month holiday the oppressive heat of New Orleans summers made them my least favorite season. But where I live now, the real summer heat does not arrive until July, and so I can once again enjoy the loveliness of June as I did in childhood. One of the chief pleasures of the season for me is the availability of fresh blackberries, picked by my own soft white hands from the vines on my own land; I gladly suffer the many thorn-scratches and insect bites to win buckets of the delicious fruit, and we enjoy blackberry pie, blackberry muffins and waffles, blackberry ice cream and other such treats, then blackberry jam after the fresh fruit is gone.
May all my readers, no matter what your personal beliefs, find joy and abundance in your lives, and may your fortunes increase through the summer and autumn as the fruits ripen for harvest. Blessed Be!