Summer Solstice 2021


“Summers had a logic all their own and they always brought something out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure and exploration. Summer was a book of hope. That’s why I loved and hated summers. Because they made me want to believe.” Benjamin Alire Saenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

While most of the west had been under the big heat dome, we had pleasant 75 degree weather with clear skies and a new crescent moon. Fletcher and his girlfriend stayed with us for nearly a week, soaking up the cool air before their move to Tuscon later this month. They kayaked, paddleboarded, had s’mores at the campfire, and the four of us had a lovely sunset cruise on the lake in our old aluminum fishing boat, motoring along on still water under fluffy white clouds. “Summer has arrived”, Don and i kept saying to each other, as if it is was a complete surprise–that somehow we had made it this far, again.

The first official day of summer began with rain and a chilly 52 degrees, but, by the end of the longest day, it was gloriously green and sunny and 70 degrees. I drove Don and two sailor buddies down to Dayton early in a clearing rain, to get our sailboat into the water, and their three hour sail up to our house had perfect winds and sunshine. We all met later for dinner over on the other side of the lake, and when we drove home after 9 pm, the yellow canola fields glowed under a still bright sun and the three-quarters moon was stark white. It felt like darkness would never come. In spite of everything, it’s summer again, and like everything since the pandemic closed down the world as we know it, it’s hard to get my head around the fact that we are in a new season now.

We’ve met up with friends who’ve also been vaccinated, we’ve eaten dinner outside at restaurants a few times–we even did that flight to California to see our family. But, outside that bubble we’ve lived in for a year and a half, it all feels so fragile, so tentative. Everyone seems to be looking for missing employees. If it isn’t the local restaurants, it’s American Airlines announcing they are cutting hundreds of flights because they are short of workers. A friend showed up at an urgent care clinic yesterday and was told sorry you have to wait, but we are down five employees who are staying on unemployment. Even the spectacular success of the vaccine (so far) is muted when most of the world does not have access to them. The big heat dome last week reminded us of climate change and forest fires and lack of water. Who really believes there is such a thing as getting back to “normal”.

Sigh. What is there to do but let go of “normal”. There was a lot that was wrong with our “normal” anyway. This new season has its lessons for how to live in this world, like all the other seasons in the past, and forevermore. There is so much to love in summer–a season so short up here in the north country. As Mary Oliver tells us, we must “hold it against our bones”. Happy summer!

Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires and the black river of loss whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know. To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

–Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems, Volume One

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