The sun's rise into summer

by Lorin Michel Wednesday, June 22, 2011 10:37 PM

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice; the day long with sunshine, light and heat, the longest day of the year, with the sun rising before dawn and setting quite late in the evening. When the sun rose again today, it was equally early; its rays piercing through open windows and drenching the dry earth of Southern California. The sprinklers gushed to life just before 8, and as the sun pushed through, tiny rainbows danced above the lawn. It was just after 8 when I left the house, climbing into my trusted steed for a journey east and thus into the still rising sun. It bathed the foothills in an eerie, dusty light, heavy with shadow. As I descended into the San Fernando Valley, the foothills in the distance were dancing in the morning. The heat was already rising from the asphalt jungle, obscuring details and allowing the city to hide in the hot smoggy air.

Summer has arrived.

I love summer; the sheer force of it. There are days when the heat rises too high, nearly as high as the sun itself, and on those days, by the end of the afternoon, my skin is slightly damp and sporting a sheen, and my fingers, as they pound away on my keyboard, are wrinkled. But it’s OK because it’s summer and summer is a time of play, of rejoicing, of travel and of love, of kicking back on a Sunday afternoon, on any night, and enjoying the nothingness for even just a few minutes. It is universal, this love of summer, this desire to simply bask in the warmth of the season.

Summer this year is buffered by the solstice, which happened at 17:16 yesterday, June 21, and the equinox, happening on September 23 at 09:04. The solstice, a “sun-standing,” occurs when the sun is at its northernmost or southernmost extreme and the day is the longest. The equinox, which happens twice a year, like the solstice, is when the sun is in the same plane as the Earth’s equator, when the night and the day have just about an equal length of time. The solstice and the equinox border the summer season, bringing it in with great length and ushering it out with grace.

Today, though, was all about the long day and the long rays of the sun, not visible to the human eye but felt by the skin, the plants, and the earth. It was about a thin white tee and an open sunroof. It was about drifting through Southern California under a rising summer sun, on my way to a meeting. In an air-conditioned building.

The English poet, satirist, lawyer and priest John Donne wrote in his 17th century poem The Sun Rising: “She’s all states; and all princes I; Nothing else is; Princes do but play us; compared to this, All honour’s mimic, all wealth alchemy. Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we, In that the world’s contracted thus; Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.”

Rise and celebrate.

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