The Longest Day

After today, the days will start shortening up. It will happen slowly, at first. I probably won’t notice for at least a week and then I’ll start to wonder if I’m working later than I thought I was because the sun seems lower in the sky than it should be. A strange feeling will creep over my skin and I’ll look over my shoulder to see the sun sliding below the horizon and then, suddenly, almost before I am aware, we will be at the fall equinox and the unstoppable juggernaut of winter nights will be on its way. Everything will get cold and dark again.

I think I view the seasons the opposite of the way other people do. Summer is when I get all dry and dusty and feel like everything is wrung out, like there’s nothing left. Juiced dry. Winter is when I’m storing up energy and growing, somewhere inside. You usually don’t see it because it’s happening deep beneath my roots, but they’re getting ready so that, come spring, they can burst into a riot of color. If I was a plant. But you know what I mean.

You’d think I would think about happy things at the summer solstice. After all, it is the longest day of the year. I have so many hours in which to enjoy the sunshine. I can bask in it and suck up the warmth like a lizard on a rock. But turning points always make me panic about the other side. On Saturday afternoon, I’m already nostalgic for the weekend and resigning myself to the fact that it’s over. By Sunday night, I’m in a deep funk. Which is funny, because I work on the weekends, too, so it’s not like the weekend represents some kind of break for me.

That’s sort of how I feel about the summer solstice. I want to revel in the sunshine and the long day but I’m already starting to think ahead to winter because if we’ve hit the solstice, it means that winter is absolutely not avoidable at this juncture and it’s time to buckle down and recognise it. Winter will come. Well, unless I decamp for the southern hemisphere and enjoy the anticipation of slowly lengthening days eventually leading to summer. Then I suppose I could skip back here and do it all over again. I think they made a movie about that but I don’t remember it turning out well.

My preemptive nostalgia for warm, long, bright days might be some sort of bizarre defense mechanism; don’t enjoy it too much, because then you’ll be even more unhappy when they are really, officially gone and the days are brief and brutal. If I pretend hard enough to be indifferent to the summer months, I won’t be as woeful when they’re over.

I used to love the summer so much. I was free to do whatever I wanted on those long days. I could go to the beach or read on the porch or engage in baking experiments. It was pure delight, that giddy anticipation in May as the days started to get longer and our minds got unfocused and even our teachers were starting to turn their minds to summer and we’d have class on the lawn so we didn’t spend the whole time looking out the windows with a building sense of longing. Smelling the cut grass on the breeze. Making cold drinks to stick in the fridge so they’d be ready after a long day and we could sip iced tea while working on dinner. The extent of my future planning was measured in hours, not months, or years.

It was, you know, carefree? Sometimes I’d go days without talking to anyone or seeing anyone and other times I’d be in the thick of social activities and I didn’t have to think about all the myriad things that seem to consume my days now. Now I’m just bitter about the summer because the nice weather goes on but I’m trapped inside. The most I get to see of it is the glare off my screen that forces me to close the blinds so I can see without slitted eyes. Or the flit of the sun along the horizon as I’m driving somewhere to do something for someone. Those puffs of warm air that waft through the house and make it so hard to focus because my whole body is twitching in my desk chair and I want to go bolt across the lawn and fling my limbs around in the air and then flop down. Even though the grass is starting to dry up and it will crackle and the little stickyburrs will adhere to my clothes and I’ll be picking them off for an hour. Even though.

Summer just feels like a torment, now, and maybe that’s why I get so dour on the solstice because soon, I think, soon, everyone will be trapped indoors, not just me. And it will be dark and murky and overcast. There will be no glare because there will be no sun. I won’t want to run around on the lawn because it will be wet and cold and there will be puddles that could swallow my feet whole. I won’t resent everyone having fun because no one will be having fun.

Evidently I’m becoming more bitter with time. Luckily, it’s traditional to set things on fire at the summer solstice.