The Longest Day

There’s nothing the least bit Pagan about us, as we’re far too Christian and Burkean and Rationalist and downright fuddy-duddy for all that veneration of harsh nature and dancing-naked-in-the-moonlight nonsense, but as is our wont we nonetheless took time out on Sunday to observe the summer solstice.
After our habitual Sunday morning worship at the West Douglas Church of Christ, where our learned preacher delivered an inspiring sermon drawn from Hebrews’ chapter two, verses seven through 13, and shared the pain he feels following the recent deaths of some long-cherished friends, and his looming sense of his own mortality, which had a special poignance for us after the last rough couple of weeks of death we’ve endured, we drove with the top down on our aging but still chugging automobile to Riverside Park. A couple of local artists whose work we enjoy have built a decorative solar calendar there, right near the fountains where the impoverished but adorable children from the nearby barrio frolic in the cool respite from the summer heat, and at high noon of the summer and winter solstices and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes the sun will shine on a cloudless day through an eye-shaped hole in colored glass directly onto one of three precisely placed pieces of marble. It’s really something to see, and there are always at least a handful of interesting people who show up to see it, and as always one of the artists was on hand to explain how the miraculous alignment of the Sun and the Earth and its tilting rotations and constant revolutions create this pleasing artistic effect. He explained it terms of how the Sun is moving across the horizon, then quickly corrected himself that the Sun is keeping its usual place while we’re the ones moving along through the universe, but in either case the gist of it was that at approximately 1:27 p.m. in the lovely Riverside Park of Wichita, Kansas, right near where the barrio children were frolicking in the fountains, the sun shone through the cloudless skies right onto that precisely placed piece of marble and summer had officially and meteorologically and undeniably arrived.
This was much-needed good news, and it was nice to have it meteorologically and artistically confirmed, as summer is our favorite time of the year. We attribute this to our childhood memories of summertimes with no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks, and the exhilarating freedom of nothing to do that the season provided. Summers are hot as hell around here, and this one already has been even before the sunlight hit upon that piece of marble, and given our warm-blooded and cheapskate ways we haven’t yet turned on the air-conditioner, which has had a discombobulating effect on our sleeping, but all that seems a small price to pay for the glorious feeling of summer. Even when the thermometers hit 115 and the electric bills start climbing, this is a good time around here. The city looks great, with a veritable forest of trees and grass and gorgeous flowers flourishing in the middle of what the original Spanish explorers described as a “treeless desert,” and our cheap-but-fashionable Riverside neighborhood looks especially good and full of flowers, with even our own neglected yard in pretty good shape thanks to the delightful high-school girl who just moved in next door with her friendly and artistic parents and mowed our lawn just because she’s so damned nice, and the city work crew that showed up and trimmed the front lawn tree, albeit so early that it further discombobulated our sleeping, and the Arkansas and Little Arkansas Rivers that border the neighborhood are still high from all the drought-ending rains that came in Spring. Last week we joined a dear friend at the Wichita Botanical Gardens just down the street for a concert by some more musically-talented dear friends, and with the latest impressive improvements the garden has made that’s also really something to see.
Sunday was Father’s Day, too, and we had a heartening telephone conversation with our most excellent Pa, who will be be coming back to town with our most excellent Ma soon. We also got the news, via the miracle of Facebook, that two of our most favorite people gave birth to a son on Father’s Day. All the world really is a stage, as William Shakespeare shrewdly observed, and it truly is full of entrances and exits, and we hew to a faith that this most recent entrance and newly-fledged friend will eventually prove a full recompense for all the painful exits. Our newest pal picked a good day to be born, because those lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer really are the best the time of year. It’s the time of year when we adjust the playlist on our cheap stereo, adding The Rascals’ “Groovin'” and The Rivieras’ “Warm California Sun” and almost anything by The Beach Boys, and the many versions of Irving Berlin’s “We’re Havin’ a Heat Wave,” and all of  the even more numerous versions of the Gershwins’  classic “Summertime” to our turntable, and of course the great Jonathan Richman’s cautionary song about “That Summer Feeling.”
Summertime is when there’s things to do not because you gotta, when you run for love not because you oughta, when you trust your friends with no reason notta, when the cool of the pond makes you flop down on it, when the smell of the lawn makes you drop down on it, when the Oldsmobile has the top down on it and when the teenage car gets the cop down on it, and as the great Jonathan Richman also reminds us, if you’ve forgotten what we’re naming you’re going to long to reclaim it one day, because that summer feeling is going to haunt you one day in your life.
We also head down to Riverside Park’s solar calendar for the the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, and especially on the winter solstice, when on those occasional cloudless days the sun shines through that eye-shaped colored glass and assures us that we have reached the shortest day of the year and that the sunlight will begin to linger two minutes longer with each inevitable rotation of the Earth. The summer solstice also proclaims that the days will grow shorter by the same inevitable measure each day, but until the autumnal equinox the days will be long, and our daddy is rich and our mom is good-looking, and the cotton is high, and the livin’ is easy. We hope it is for you, as well, and wish you a happy summer.

— Bud Norman