Summer Solstice, 2017
At thirty minutes to midnight, I remember I’ve left something outside in the car. I place the door ajar and across the dew-touched grass I walk out and into the night, looking up from my bare feet only to get my bearings. There is more light than I expected. To my astonishment, I realise it’s not artificial, but real. Across the tips of the hills, the edges of the sunset are still curling around like a cat to a darkened flame. I check my watch, once, then again. There shouldn’t be any sunlight, not now, not this far south of the Arctic circle, surely? It is five days before the summer solstice, and it seems I still have a lot to learn from the country I live.
I slowly awaken that I’ve been standing there for a long time, in a loose shirt and bed shorts, clutching a cup of freshly brewed camomile tea that’s quickly losing its warmth to the cooler air. A summer breeze is tasting, but not biting, my bare legs. The finale of the sunset is brimming, brimming, a yellow liquid poised on the edge of a cup that is the horizon, and if tilted too far, I would fall with it below it for two, maybe three hours of quietly retreating blue and navy, never quite black. Then I’d be back. Something is trembling on the edge of my skin, but it’s not goosebumps; it’s a quivering excitement.
This summer solstice has been coupled with the most beautiful of Junes I have remembered in a long time. A lot of people have said to me something that’s absurd, but I’ve been feeling the same truth – ‘This year, the nights have felt longer. The nights seem to have been lighter until later.’ No wonder there is an acceptance that even as the summer holidays for many are beginning, it is already over.
When I was younger, like most natural phenomena, I didn’t pay much attention to the solstice. But it’s been different over the last three summers, where I’ve spent the tip of the season just outside of the Arctic Circle’s circumference. Slowly, slowly, I’ve been falling in love with the ‘forever-days’ that decline but never touch down, a sun that pokes gingerly to the horizon with a long silent stretch of indecision, before retreating back to the skies.
This year, it’s not just been the sheer luck of beautiful weather, but also a natural power I’m noticing. For the past months, I’ve felt a creative energy that left me scurrying and retreating with every spare second into notebooks and pens, a creativity energy that has been introspective rather than wanting to perform, inside the exploration of the self. Maybe, I wonder, I’m more in touch with myself, and so more in touch with the natural world. I ‘possess’ less time than ever, this year more than ever, but I am learning to spend it more wisely.
I’ve loved it so much, this year’s forever-days. Even the older I get, I find I am more nostalgic always about the summers past. I have these memories, recently, that are not very clear, but are more of a blurred moment, a sense more than a sight. The feeling of old school holidays where it felt like the weeks would last forever, where I had nowhere particular to be. This summer I have been committed, am still committed, to more sunsets, more peace, more breaking free of routine. Laughter in the sun, alone moments on the trail. Captured moments. Fragments of speech and art, rather than the whole text and picture. One day, not so soon, this will all be a nostalgia as well. This summer, I am finding, is a summer lived.