Once, humans were intimate with the cycles of nature, and never more than on the summer solstice. Vestiges of such awareness survive in White Nights and Midnight Sun festivals in far northern climes, and in neo-pagan adaptations of Midsummer celebrations, but contemporary people take little notice of the sun reaching its far point on the horizon. Tomorrow is the longest day of the year, the official start of the summer season, the fullest of light — yet we are apt to miss this phenomenon of Earth’s axial tilt, as we miss so much of what the natural world does in our surrounds.
In recent months, catastrophic weather events have dominated headlines as rarely before — earthquakes and tsunami in Asia; volcanic cloud in Europe; massive ice melts at the poles; tornadoes, floods, and fires in America. “Records are not just broken,” an atmospheric scientist said last week, “they are smashed.” Without getting into questions of causality, and without anthropomorphizing nature, we can still take these events as nature’s cri de coeur — as the degraded environment’s grabbing of human lapels to say, “Pay attention!”
To our ancestors in the deep past, that attention to nature was, well, natural. They made the evolutionary leap into human consciousness through close observation, among other things, of what heavenly bodies do in the sky. In a cosmos over which they had no control, paying attention to patterns of heat and cold, light and dark, rain and drought was a matter of survival. The invention of agriculture depended on awareness of seasons, so that times of planting and harvesting, herding and grazing, could be depended upon. Movements of the sun and moon were seen to have both influences on, and counterparts in, individual human experience — from mood swings to menstruation to aging. Astrology opened into astronomy, calculation into mathematics, scrutiny into science. Definitions of the calendar were essential to culture. The solstice was a marker of all this.
But this habit of regard for nature was essential also to the transition into modernity. Contemplation of the sun was nothing less than the incubator of our age. Copernicus and Galileo, after all, ushered humans into the breakthrough of testable knowledge by means of their study — one theorizing, the other experimenting — of Earth’s place in the solar system. The solstice, previously perceived as the sun’s standing still for a moment before reversing course on the horizon, would never be understood that way again. Heliocentrism initiated the maturing of science, which eventually would demonstrate that seasonal rhythms not only produce global dynamics of climate but also hormonal changes — daily, weekly, monthly — within the individual human body, each person biologically synchronized to the cosmic clock. Because of science, we were able to grasp the age of the earth — to know that there have been more than 4 billion summer solstices. Humans awakened to the full complexity of the universe.
Ironically, the accompanying social revolution of industrialization led to illusions of human mastery over nature, and ultimately to detached indifference toward it. Contemporary technological civilization became blinded to key phenomena of the living world, much as the night sky is blotted out by the artificial light of cities. Most recently, the cycles of time have given way to the eternal present of the computer screen — detachment squared. As humans came to know so much, we lost our grip on the knowledge with which we became human: our familiarity with the physical universe we live in. Imagining that we no longer needed nature, we ourselves became the great threat to nature. As our sense of the complexities of life quickened and deepened, our destructiveness of life also quickened and deepened. Through ambitions of unlimited growth, consumption, competitive manufacture, and self-expanding technology, we humans have become a mechanism of extinction. When we stopped noticing Earth, we began to destroy it.
Intimate awareness of nature and its cycles, as we saw, was an ancient mode of survival. But survival is at issue again. Noticing the length of light now, reveling in the sun’s achievement, rejoicing in Earth’s perfect balance, honoring the summer solstice — loving it: This is how we became human, and it is how we stay human.
Night in Day
By Joseph Stroud
The night never wants to end, to give itself over
to light. So it traps itself in things: obsidian, crows.
Even on summer solstice, the day of light’s great
triumph, where fields of sunflowers guzzle in the sun—
we break open the watermelon and spit out
black seeds, bits of night glistening on the grass
Ancient farmers and mariners could
“read” nature,this form of empathy
has been eradicate by modern technology. modern human have lost the feeling of being part of nature.
Lets not romanticize: earth’s
perfect balance suggest equilibrium,
no such thing,this planet is in constant flux.
I AM a farmer. I don’t miss any solar point. I have made ceremony on full and new moon nights repeatedly,
can tell you where the hawk and swan are; the position of the big dipper during any month of the year, so I think the “we” should be dropped to “some.”
Perhaps an alternative perspective will help “our” understanding, though how can a celestial understanding come from a people who don’t know where Alabama is let alone what the Solstice means, or even a simple document like the Constitution, records that have been smashed are relatively recent in cosmic time, in fact, if the length of the life of the Earth was put into a year like frame, human occupation amounts to the period (the dot) at the end of December (University of Wisconsin Madison television production circa 1978). That means whatever records chill your bones may be an illusion of human self importance. The real “we” is the miniscule aspect of life we represent, dancing on a dust ball with a magnet for a core. Where there’s magnetics, there is electricity.
On top of being a farmer, I am also a “mariner” of limited range, but nonetheless much more flexible than the ancients mode, to be out at night off the Atlantic Coast, out from under the glow of cities, like a few miles up the road from where I am now, one can see a detail to stars of magnificent lace. Our Luciferian arrogance blinds us to the light of Divine Creation.
Cosmology is changing from the warrior nuclear model to a technician’s perfection of the electromagnetic pulsations of the Tesla coil galaxy we inhabit. Tesla was right, electricity can be free.
I have built a circle of observation recognizable from Google Earth. When my fanatic and elder farm mate chants about “Planet X” and the “wobble,” I can take you out and show you the stones of Solstice-Equinox-Solstice. There is a Venus calculator within the circle. In my farm mate’s life, the tilt has advanced one degree. There has been a small creep, which allows for the reports from Greenland of a one day earlier Solstice.
More important right now is what we do one the ground. In the distance I can hear a Wood’s Warbler. Its deep woods echo and melodic song are slowly slipping away. Invasion of its habitat forces it deeper and deeper into the last pockets of the forest it must have to survive. When its trilling, cackles, and whistles, disappear, and the lights blind all stars as Luciferians capture and enslave and dump Prometheus’ Sacred Fire all over the place, and remember there was a time when men were made of iron and sailed wooden ships, but now men are made of paper and sail in sheets of metal. Don’t fly too close to the Sun.
I think people who work the land are more in tune with the
cycles of nature. Success or failure depends so much on
the vagaries of the weather.Since we started growing the
majority of our vegetables, I am constantly watching for
weather signs. It is so much easier to work with nature
than against her. She has an amazing way of keeping things
Also, the solstice here was quite enjoyable…not so hot
for a change. 🙂