*first published December, 2011
I love this day, perhaps in part for the romance of unbroken centuries of denizens of the northern hemisphere celebrating the return of the light. True, it is not as exhilarating as watching the sun rise over jagged mountain peaks on Midsummer Day, yet the summer solstice is tinged with the faint regret of being at the apex from which the days will slowly but surely become shorter. But now, in mere moments, the days here will begin to lengthen, and the promise of everything to come is very sweet.
I have observed and marked the solstices as long as I can remember in some fashion or another, and I confess to surprise at people who pass them by, unremarked. For thousands of years they have been important celebrations in a myriad of cultures, and I suspect that something is lost to modern life when they are unnoticed. One need not be a follower of paganism, or druidism, or some colourful new age ritualism to appreciate the beauty and symmetry of the solstice.
It would be cliché to say that many modern peoples have lost touch with nature: indeed we are earnestly advised of the ‘nature deficit’ we suffer from. For myself, the hills and valleys, forests and rivers, oceans and expanses of sky form such an integral part of me, of who I am and how my very self has come to be…I observed my fellow citizens out and about today, a gorgeously sunny day, a peach of a day in the rain forest climate that I live in, and they were enjoying the parks and walkways and trails. So maybe, I would say, at least here in this place, we do not suffer from deficit of nature, but from a deficit of wonder…Maybe.
The wonder of axial tilt, that the earth’s magical, invisible axis tilts at an angle to the perpendicular that gives us the seasons of the northern and southern hemispheres, this mysterious, cyclical round of birth, growth, flowering, decaying, and dying…this seems to me to be a source of endless wonder.
That me! I! should be a part of this great cosmic order – perhaps you call it God? I do not think it matters, although in writing that I run the risk of offending some, I suppose. But if I have offended you, I hope you will take a deep breath, and join me in a hymn of praise to axial tilt. To the beauty and sheer magic of being alive on this earth, both its measured order and its chaotic uncertainties, for in this hymn of praise shall we discover what it means to be fully human.
To be fully present to the wonder is to live as humans were meant to live, I think. And by our presence, to turn the wheel one more time to the promise of all that lies ahead. Axial tilt is a wondrous thing.