In the December 2021 Musings, after alerting you to the exact day and moment of the winter solstice and urging you to take a photo of your shadow at noon, I promised to give you the exact day and moment of the summer solstice and remind you to take a photo of your summer solstice shadow at noon. So true to my word: summer solstice is Tuesday, June 21, 2022 at 5:14 a.m. EDT.
And here is your photo reminder: At noon on Tuesday, June 21, go to Topsmead to the location of your winter solstice shadow photo and take a summer solstice shadow photo. Then compare your two shadow photos. The lower angle of the winter solstice sun casts the longest shadow of the year; the higher angle of the summer solstice sun casts the shortest shadow of the year.
Three days later, on the morning of June 24, if you get up about 45 minutes before the 5:19am sunrise, you have an astronomical treat in store. You will be rewarded by a sight called the “parade of planets”—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in an arc from east to south across the sky with the crescent moon presiding. A magical, cosmic event!
According to Topsmead’s historian, Jerry Geci, Miss Edith was not an early riser. In fact, she often slept until about 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. I feel a kinship with Miss Edith because I, too, am not an early riser. But I can’t help wondering if she felt the magical call of the summer solstice and made an exception by rising early to welcome summer to Topsmead.
It doesn’t seem quite right that after the summer solstice, the days start getting shorter. Maybe a way to feel less deprived of summer’s long, lazy days is to look through the eyes of the ancients who see May 1 as the first day of summer. In that case, Midsummer, which comes three days after the summer solstice, actually marks summer’s midpoint.
According to The Farmers’ Almanac, folklore abounds around Midsummer. In Anglo Saxon days, “mid-June was the time when honey was allowed to ferment to make mead, a wine-like beverage. As one legend has it, a bride’s father would give the groom all the mead he wanted after the wedding, and the term ‘honeymoon’ was coined.” Knowing Miss Edith’s reputation for being an Anglophile and her predilection for late afternoon cocktails on the veranda, I wonder if she could have been convinced to try a mead cocktail!
In pre-Christian Ireland, Midsummer’s Eve was a time to sing and dance around bonfires to honor Áine, the Celtic goddess of love, fertility, crops, and animals. Certainly, Miss Edith would have welcomed Áine’s blessing on the crops and the animals of Topsmead.
The ancient Celts believed that Midsummer was the time of the faeries, and if you rubbed fern spores on your eyes at the stroke of midnight, you might see them. But beware of being pixie-led! They were crafty wee folk and liked to lead humans astray. Perhaps Miss Edith stayed up late on Midsummer nights to watch the winking and blinking of the fireflies and think of those crafty, Celtic faeries.
Whether you are an early bird who rises at dawn to celebrate summer solstice and view the Midsummer parade of planets or a night bird who stays up late to gather around a Midsummer bonfire and count fireflies, June is truly a magical month.
Margaret Hunt, Blog Mistress