The bittersweet summer solstice

Day 172. June 21. One of my favorite days and one that also makes me sad. “Bittersweet” best describes it.
Ohio’s lush June verdancy appears especially striking after three days camping among pine trees in the Cape Henlopen sand earlier this month. Wearing shorts, my feet bare, kneeling in dirt enriched by years of caprine output, I pull weeds so that our onions may flourish, and I dream of salsa.
Pulling weeds is not my first choice this day. I would rather play mandolin. But I enjoy the sun, which is not too hot, and I have burned into my brain sharp memories of dark dirt, goat berries amongst rotting hay, bugs and worms, and pea vines crawling up their fence. I hope the memories will resurface when I chop onions and press masa into tortillas, and I hope they survive to fortify me next winter.
Sunday was the longest day of the year. At 1:46 a.m. EDT the sun reached its highest apparent position in our now-summer sky, the Earth’s rotation about the sun causing our most extreme tilt sunward, bringing the heat I’ve craved since October and the lush green growth that is about as lush as it will get, for the late spring leaves, fresh from the buds, are not yet battered by sun and drought and bugs, and sometimes goats.
Don’t go south, summer sun, I think. Stay green and fresh, leaves.
But nature ignores me, and by month’s end the sun will have slid south 18 minutes of latitude and the day will have lost three minutes of life-giving light. The hottest weeks yet approach because Earth takes time to absorb the sun’s heat, but the longest day is gone, and the leaves and grass won’t look quite as fresh again until June a year hence.
I want the sun to stay. I vow once more that never again shall I drive on slick snow-covered roads and waste half the year looking at brown and gray landscapes and a dull sky where the sun, on those occasional moments when it can be seen, whimpers in the south, a poor pale mocking imitation of the glorious yellow god who smiles on us in June.
I’ve never been one to consider the beauty of the changing seasons worth the months of torture. I would be happy if spring began on Jan. 1, and I agree with John Denver in “Winter” from “The Season Suite” on his “Rocky Mountain High” album from 1971:
“And though the changing colors are a lovely thing to see,
If it were mine to make the change I’d let it be —
But I don’t remember hearing anybody asking me.”
So this week the sun begins its southward run, heading back to the tropics, despite the impending 90-degree days that drip with humidity and mock drought-lowered rivers and reservoirs. Life begins to end even while it is still fresh on the branch. All I can do is cherish it while it lasts.

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