And God Saw the Light, That It Was Good

I try to mark the solstices whenever possible. It’s the pagan in me, I guess, but among the ingredients in my personal gumbo of a spiritual life, observing the concrete astronomical and natural forces at work in the universe seems to me like a pretty good hedge.

Edward Abbey said, “I stand for what I stand on.” To Ed’s sage wisdom I would add: “and also what I stand below.” And by that I mean the sun, the moon, the stars, galaxies, nebulae and the like. Those things are real. They’re THERE. We are made up of the remnants of other suns and moons and stars and galaxies and nebulae and…you get the idea. That’s a fact.

Mimosas, baby! Now THAT’s how
you toast the solstice.

So observing the natural patterns of our little dance in the universe makes me feel grounded. Makes me feel like I’m saying “thanks” to all the forces and processes and, well, magic that have led me to what is a pretty cool existence.

From winter camping in the Uinta Mountains of Utah with my pup Spooner, both of us surrounded by coyotes out in the darkness whose eyes were visible in the glow of the firelight, to an early summer morning toast on a hill in the woods of Kincaid Park in Anchorage, Alaska, with an amazing view of the sun rising over the Talkeetna Mountains, I’ve created some great solstice memories that I cherish.

But not all of the locales in my life have been so pastoral. No matter. The sun is the same sun and the solstice still occurs at the same moment no matter where on this planet you happen to be located. There’s no reason NOT to observe a cardinal point in the annual calendar of our biosphere, however subdued that observance might be.

One such subdued observance just took place on the fire escape of my apartment here in Newburyport, Massachusetts. No, it wasn’t the Uintas. Nor was it the woods at Kincaid Park. But it wasn’t as paved over as one of the summer solstices I observed while living in San Diego: for that one, which occurred while I was at work, I walked out to the edge of the parking lot overlooking the canyon below the office building. You could see the Pacific Ocean off in the haze. I marked the moment, nodded, and that was that. It was enough. Back to work.

Rose on a hot New England
solstice. It’ll do.

This year’s observance found me out on my fire escape with the sun peeking from behind the chimney of the neighboring multi-family dwelling. And I toasted not with Veuve Cliquot (my toast of choice) but rather with a chilled rose because it’s just too damned hot here in New England today. First day of summer? And then some. It feels like the tenth level of Hell. This northerner is feelin’ it (although the beach was wonderful today; even had some small waves to play in).

Now I’m back inside, in the air conditioning, praying this apartment will cool down enough by bedtime or else getting any sleep tonight is gonna be a challenge. It’s so hot today that I’m wearing my Park City Muckers tank top. A tank top? I haven’t worn this shirt in probably fifteen years (and if you’ve seen the photo, I’m guessing you’re saying: Luke, make it another fifteen before you dig it out of the dresser again). But anything beyond a tank top feels smothering.

In any case, the point is: regardless of your religious persuasion, the fact remains: you’re a human being, an animal on this planet that is home to ALL human beings that have ever been. That planet that sustains all of us (for the time being, anyway) has patterns that have been going on for billions of years. Taking a moment to observe those patterns is simply paying homage to the forces that have made you YOU. No, I’m not saying God didn’t play a part in making you you (if that’s how you roll). But if that is how you roll, God still made you YOU within the construct of this universe in which you live. Paying your respects to that teeny bit of God’s creation is the least you can do, don’t you think?

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