Solstice: light and shadow


Saturday night after-dinner walk with ice cream.  The Bermuda flag is flying because the race to Bermuda just left from our town.

Yesterday was the summer solstice.  This is second to the winter solstice for me as a holy day, but it is an important one nevertheless.  The winter solstice occurs in the darkest week of the year, during the beginning of Boston’s cold, snowy months.  And yet it is somehow a more hopeful day for me than the summer solstice, which takes place at the height of light, the frenzied pitch of spring and summer’s fecundity, when the world positively bursts with potential.  I can’t help sensing, somewhere deep inside of me, that we’re now shifting back towards the darkness, towards shorter days, and from here on for the next six months we will be losing light.

That sounds pretty depressing, I know.  Particularly because I write these words while sitting in the living room of my parents’ house on the water, surrounded by books and half models of sailboats and with the ticking of the beautiful grandfather clock that lives in the corner of the room.  The clock features in my childhood memories of my paternal grandparents’ house in Long Island, and when I look up at it I sense them near.  Later in the day, I cut two peonies from a bush that my mother transplanted from her father’s garden and put them on our dinner table.  It only struck me on Sunday, Father’s Day, that it was likely not an accident that I felt both of my grandfathers so nearby all weekend.

There was some gloom on Saturday, despite it being so beautiful.  Part of that was the tangible presence of my grandfathers, who were vividly present.  Another part of it was both Grace and Whit were crabby, and more than once we tangled, tempers flared, and a few tears were shed.  It was far from a perfect Saturday.  There were raised voices, crossed arms, and hurt feelings.

Despite these shadows, the world is also awash in light.  On Friday night the four of us went to see Jurassic World, the very first time we’ve gone to a movie as a family of four, though I have taken the children to many, many movies by myself.  It was entertaining and full of messages that we discussed as we drove home.  Both children noted that nature seemed to do better when you didn’t mess with it (the movie focuses on a genetically-modified dinosaur). When we left the movie theater, around 9:15, light was still visible in the sky.  A sliver moon was rising on the horizon, and I tried to take a picture, overcome, as I so often am, by the beauty of the world.  These are the most heightened, light-filled days, and yet deep within me I’m aware of something shifting, below the reach of words or logic.

Hilary sent me a poem late last week that she thought I would like.  She was right.  I love the way this poet, who is new to me, touches on life’s ordinariness and beauty, the way she evokes the long view, the ancient vista, that essential sense of the eternal, age-old universe that throbs under my daily life and to which I feel closer at the solstice than at any other time of year.  We spin on.  The earth under our feet, the great green ball on which we live, this tiny speck in a universe whose enormity we cannot fathom.

My earthly time is sweetening from all of this, memories and ghosts and tears and crankiness as much as joy and ice cream and laughter and sunsets, I know that to be true.  It’s all a part of my life, shadow and light intertwined, even on the longest days of the year.


Tess Taylor

How again today our patron star
whose ancient vista is the long view

turns its wide brightness now and here:
Below, we loll outdoors, sing & make fire.

We build no henge
but after our swim, linger

by the pond. Dapples flicker
pine trunks by the water.

Buzz & hum & wing & song combine.
Light builds a monument to its passing.

Frogs content themselves in bullish chirps,
hoopskirt blossoms

on thimbleberries fall, peeper toads
hop, lazy—

Apex. The throaty world sings ripen.
Our grove slips past the sun’s long kiss.

We dress.
We head home in other starlight.

Our earthly time is sweetening from this.

2 thoughts on “Solstice: light and shadow”

  1. Lindsey, I’ve always felt the same about summer solstice vs winter solstice. I wonder if it’s because of all the light and warmth that the summer solstice seems like a bigger party. But like you, I experience it anxiously, knowing we’re now turning towards darkness again. The winter solstice is full of hope and promise.

    That poem was beautiful, thank you for sharing it. Happy Solstice to you!

  2. My husband and I got married on the winter solstice, and part of the reason was the promise that day holds. On a side note-I grew up in Marion, and your picture brings back many happy summer memories walking around the village!

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