June 21, 2006

Today is the Summer Solstice, otherwise known as longest day of the year up here in the Northern Hemisphere. In Arizona, the relative importance of this day is lost amidst the seemingly endless stream of 100+ degree days we’ve had for the last several weeks, but up here in the northern climes, it’s a reminder that, even though summer seeems to have just barely started, the succession of shortening days – at first, hardly noticeable but more so come August – can only lead to their ultimate conclusion in the cold, dark days leading up to Christmas.

Some interesting facts about this day can be found here.

For some, this day means a trip to Stonehenge, where the Summer Solstice attracts thousands of pagans, revelers (a.k.a. drunks), and curiosity seekers. Catholics use this day (or thereupon) to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. For those who live north of the Arctic Circle, today begins a period where they are given the relief of a brief period of constant light following months of darkness.

One of my favorite associations with this day comes from the 1974 film of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby (also one of my all-time favorite films, by the way). In the film, there is this wonderful scene where Nick Carraway first meets his cousin, Daisy Buchanan and her friend, Jordan Baker:

Nick: Why candles?

Daisy: In two weeks, it’ll be the longest day in the year. Do you watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it? I do.

Jordan: We ought to plan something.

Daisy: All right. What’ll we plan? What do people plan?

Ever since I saw that movie, I have always tried to remember to light a lot of candles in the house on this day – I don’t know why, maybe it’s just stupid, or maybe it’s associated with some deep, ancient inner need for warmth and illumination of all kinds.

Of course, there are likely those whom, quite to the contray, dread this day because there’s just too much damned light. Like “the Judge” character in another of my all-time favorite film, The Natural (1984). In this scene, the new star hitter of the baseball team (Roy Hobbs, played by Robert Redford), is called into the office of the team’s owner (the afore-mentioned “Judge”). And here’s their disussion about the necessity of light:

Hobbs: This is a swell office.

Judge: Mere creature comforts.

Hobbs: Could use a little more light though…

Judge: Where you from, Hobbs?

Hobbs: All around, really. What about you?

Judge: …Please pardon the absence of light. You see, as a youngster I was frightened of the dark, and I used to wake up sobbing in it as if it was water, and I was drowning in it. As you will observe, I have disciplined myself against that fear, that now I much prefer a dark room.

Hobbs: The only thing I know about the dark is, you can’t see in it.

Judge: A pure canard.

Hobbs: What’s a canard?

Judge: A prevarication.

Hobbs: What’s that mean?

Judge: A lie. You can see, you know.

Hobbs: Well, not good enough.

Judge: You see me, don’t you?

Hobbs: Maybe I do, maybe I don’t.

Ain’t that just a great scene? Well, tonight, me and two of my fellow Goodboys – “Killer” and “The Funny Guy” celebrated this longest day of the year by playing nearly 9 holes of golf even though we didn’t tee off until nearly 6:30 PM. Because the course we played was carved out of the woods, there would be holes where we’d be bathed in a warm, golden late-day sun, while on other holes we’d find ourselves immersed in the refreshingly cool and deepening shadows of dusk. By the time it was too dark to see where we were hitting, it was nearly 9 o’clock – just a perfect way to end such a day.


One final note: The Funny Guy says he heard this on the radio somewhere, so take it for what you will: the word is, if you own or rent the classic version of The Wizard of Oz, and then, as soon as the MGM trademark lion at the start of the movie roars for the third time, then simultaneously start playing Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side of the Moon with the movie’s sound turned down, Pink Floyd’s music provides a perfectly synchronized musical score from beginning to end. I don’t see how that’s possible, but who knows?

If anyone wants to try this out there to see if it’s true, please report your findings to The Great White Shank!

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 21:43 | Comments Off on The Longest Day of the Year
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