The End of Summer

After the solstice, it’s all downhill



Of course I know we’re only officially one week into summer. But last week’s solstice means that summer is beginning to end.

It also means we’re in the midst of summer’s fiercest frenzy. Homer buzzes with tourists. The harbor is a zoo, except for the empty slips belonging to fishing boats at sea. Every beautiful day begs for a grand adventure—a long hike, a beach cookout, a fishing trip, or a yard party with friends. After a rain, you can practically watch your garden grow.

But the summer solstice is really about light—about coming to the day when the sun’s path is its most extreme in the sky. The sun rises and sets to the north, and the horseshoe-shaped arc the sun traces above our heads is as long as it will be all year. We rarely turn on lights in the house at this time of year, and there’s no need for headlamps or lanterns on camping trips. There’s enough light to work in the garden or read outside at 10 P.M. For weeks it’s seemed the days couldn’t get any longer. And as of last week’s solstice, now, officially, they won’t.

It has always been a bit baffling that the first day of summer is well into these crazed months of fishing and gardening and playing outside. Summer has been here for quite a while. But now, we realize, the season will come to an end. The light will start to wane. We won’t notice it for a month or so, but then, by late August, stars that we haven’t seen for a long time will appear in the night sky, and darkness will race back into our lives.

This can be cause for panic. We wait all year for summer. And summer solstice is the hinge upon which our year swings. So I force myself to remember: we have quite a bit of summer left. Next week, we’re heading to our friends’ remote commercial fishing camp for two weeks. When we return, berries will be ripe enough to pick. There are months left of fresh vegetables and herbs in the garden. In August, we’ll plan an adventure or two before the kids go back to school. And some friends and I are talking about an early September backpacking trip.

Then we’ll eagerly wait for winter solstice—the cause of unadulterated celebration—when the days will start getting longer. For now, the passage of summer solstice is bittersweet.

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Miranda Weiss is a science and nature writer. The author of Tide, Feather, Snow: A Life in Alaska, she also wrote the Northern Lights blog for our website.


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