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The Sun Stands Still
By LA Fiore
Published/Print 2006
Copyright 2006-2008 All Rights Reserved



We all know it as the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. But what exactly is the summer “solstice,” and what does it really mean? Let’s begin with a bit of a crash course (or a refresher course) on the workings of the sun and the earth. The summer solstice is simply defined by the fact that in the summer, the days feel longer because the sun rises earlier in the morning and sets later at night. More technically defined, it is the day that the Earth's North Pole is tilted closest to the sun, and when the sun reaches its highest point in the sky. When the North Pole of the Earth is tilted toward the sun, the northern hemisphere receives more sunlight. This natural occurrence happens each year around June 21, when the sun is in the zenith at the tropic of Cancer. With each orbit of the earth, changes come, hence, bringing autumn and fall.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere” meaning to cause to stand still. It makes me wonder if that is where the term the “lazy days of summer” came from. Yes, I know that the real quote is the lazy, “crazy” days of summer. The crazy just means that someone, somewhere on a magical summer’s day (or night) had too much fun.

There are many possible relationships between the meaning of the word summer “solstice” and the actual event. Possibly, God and his universe wished us to re-arrange our lifestyles during this time of year. Perhaps, we should all be reminded that it is now that we are extra-blessed with an overabundance of light, allowing us to explore our natural surroundings without the aid of artificial light sources. The sun takes up its position of authority in the highest point of the sky, nearly commanding our allegiance… “Look at me!” And we should. (Well, not directly).

Within each summer “solstice,” some of our fondest memories are made. For me, my memoirs detail a rickety, old camp in upstate New York, called the “San-ton-chi-lori.” Those long, bright days were filled with exploration and innocence, and the “solstice” meant there was more time to catch fish, pick berries, chase fireflies, and canoe around the lake. It even meant taking that fresh smelling bar of Ivory soap down to Lake Hanawa for an evening “bath.” And even though it was not fun at the time, my sister and I still talk about the scary trips we made in the pitch dark night to the old outhouse. But, even the thought of sitting on a wooden bench enclosed in a wood shack with nothing but a hole between me and god knows what else is reserved in my mind as a “good summer memory.”

Returning home from camp meant change was on the way-- from the summer solstice, to the autumnal equinox. We still enjoyed the summer nights at home, with the evening games of kick the can, and stargazing, catching fireflies in old jam jars—well you get the picture. Ah-- good times…Most of us have great memories of summertime. Stick ball in the city streets while being cooled off by an open fire hydrant or rock climbing in the high mountains of Utah can both make for awesome memories. If you are a parent, you have probably done your fare share of story telling to your children and even grandchildren about your summer vacations… BUT…

We don’t have to keep the solstice locked away in our memory, only to be enjoyed for story-telling. I, for one, think that as we get older, we should truly pay more attention to that first day of summer, which this year, begins June 21. For years, life has gotten in the way...and I've let it. Have you? I for one am taking charge, and pledging my allegiance to the length of the day. How? I’m celebrating in Germany, beginning June 21. There, the days are a bit brighter, and longer, even more so than they are here. I plan on waking early and staying up late. I hope to camp beneath the stars in Bavaria, and walk through the majestic forest at night. I hear the fireflies are in abundance this time of year. I might just take a nap in the sun while at the lake, and if the mood strikes me, I just may get a little “crazy” to keep consistent with the notion.

Now, if I can do it, so can you. Make a new “solstice” memory, and relish it as if you were a child again. There are many options to choose from. Take a trip to Chichen Itza in the balmy Yucatan of Mexico for their annual Celebration of the Sun or do The Dance of the Sun Dagger, A Native American Solstice Celebration. Visit a sacred site, such as Mesa Verde National Monument, or Chaco Canyon and Canyon de Chelly.
Some cities celebrate with parades and special events…Don’t forget to check your “adulthood” at the door.

Whatever it is you like to do, go ahead and take delight in the longer days. If your idea of a summer celebration means curling up with a book in the back yard hammock, then by all means steal the day--- and be still like the sun.



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