Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Yesterday was the summer solstice, the one day of the year with the greatest distance between dawn and dusk.  Mankind has always had a fascination with this moment in Earth's annual cycle.  I understand why.  It is magical.  It's as if we are all at the top of an Earth-sized roller coaster, hesitating for a breath, about to start our long ride down into winter's darkness.  So it was fitting that I spend the evening outside, immersing myself in the elements.

My big boys had a swim meet.  This one was in Highland, a little farming community in southern Illinois about 45 minutes away.  There had been a storm in the afternoon, so the grass and trees were freshly cleaned and sparkly as we drove down the highway.  We saw a coyote (alive) on the side of the road which made us wonder where he lives and drew our attention deeper in to the greenery flanking the highway.  The clouds were diverse and beautiful -- huge, white, puffy ones overlapping ominous, grey ones.

Highland's facility had a pretty little pool sunken below street level in a small town park.  We observers (JoJo, Oscar, and I) sat on a grassy hill outside the pool's fence.  Adjacent to the pool, at higher elevation, was a one acre wooded glen worthy of Robin Hood himself.  It was only grass and trees, the trees intentionally planted by humans but not perfectly maintained, creating a magical forest where Jo and Oscar could imagine and act out any Brothers Grimm fairy tale.  I told them the story of Hansel and Gretel to get them started.  Jo watched not a minute of the swim meet, she was so engrossed in the natural beauty around us.  At one point she pulled me away to come see a discovery; on a sunny hillside about 100 yards away was a family of groundhogs, rooting for their dinner.

The meet itself was fun to watch.  The activity was constant, one heat after another, in constant succession. I tuned in when one of my favorites was swimming and then tuned out again, focusing instead on the many other things going on: Oscar running to and from the snack bar with quarters or candy, JoJo building a pixie house in the woods, the other spectators' family dynamics.  One fellow spectator had two puppies with her.  Puppies.  I'm not even going to waste energy typing about puppies. You know the happiness of a puppy.  This lady had two.

Midway through the meet it started to rain.  The sky was half cheerful blue, half threatening purple.  We could see the rain falling in the sunlight, like the little town of Highland was taking a shower.  The kids kept swimming, some parents scurried for cover, but somehow the rain just made the moment better,  like running through the sprinkler on a hot day.

These sun showers happened off and on for an hour without disturbing the meet.  But when the thunder started we postponed.  And when lightning struck we cancelled.

Excitement was high as hundreds of people ran to their cars.  We all drove out of that little town single-file down the main road.  I could barely keep my eyes on the road for all the beauty in the sky.  I don't have the words to describe it... you know the feeling when you look in your baby's eyes?  Or when you watch your toddler sleeping?  When you are so happy you are almost sad?  The sky looked like that.  And because of the solstice and its nearly endless daylight, the sky's beauty just went on and on and on.  The lightning looked like bright, white veins.  The clouds were every color of blue, red, pink, purple, and yellow.  The trees got darker green every second.  There was a rainbow, of course.  The combination of rain and sun demanded it.  But the sheer beauty of the evening demanded it too.  The sky was so magical it had to have a rainbow.

Then a pink unicorn galloped in the grass next to our car and winked at me.  And a leprechaun skipped across the road and threw a million dollars in my sunroof.  And a fairy godmother turned my Explorer into a carriage and granted me three wishes.

The summer solstice is magic for sure.