We had a lovely week in April, and a lovely week earlier this month (by lovely, I mean temperatures reaching the low 70sF / 22C – nice and warm for here). But the past week has been very chilly, cloudy and damp. I made the mistake last Thursday (June 18) of wearing mid-calf jeans to go on an errand across town. I had shoes and socks on, about two inches of bare leg exposed, a wool cardigan, a wool/silk scarf, and my hooded jacket. By the time I got home I was so chilled that I had to warm up with plenty of blankets and a hot water bottle! So everyone has been complaining about the autumnal weather.
Yesterday was the summer solstice, which, given the swings of light that we have here in Scotland, is very meaningful to people. “Soon the days will be on the turn again” you hear. Many people have been feeling a bit cheated of our mid-summer, as we have had very few summer nights where the sky is clear and you can sit outside.
Of course it has been light late, but because of the clouds it hasn’t been light as late as we would like, or with that magical quality of light that is so special here. However, we can’t have it all our way, and if every summer solstice were reliably bright, we would never appreciate it when that does happen.
About 20 years ago there was a Midsummer celebration in Abriachan. Katharine Stewart writes about young people from Scandinavia building “the christianised version of the maypole”. (p. 82, A Garden in the Hills) She writes, “I remember how wise the early chistianisers were to take over pre-christian customs – the veneration of wells, for instance – and this, the acknowledgement of the power of the sun to bring out life in everything on earth – humans, animals, plants. In northern lands in particular the warmth and light of the sun are valued above all else. …
Now… the light is at its zenith. In the Scottish Highlands the sun was venerated well into Christian times. It is said that, even barely a hundred years ago, old men in the Islands would uncover their heads when they first saw the sun in the morning. In the evening, at sunset, they would again remove their head-covering and bow their heads to the ground, and say a prayer –
I am in hope, in its proper time,
That the great and gracious God
Will not put out for me the light of grace
Even as thou dost leave me this night.
… [that evening] To the music of fiddle and pipe we dance round the garlanded pole, holding hands and singing. The words may be Swedish or Danish, Norwegian or Scots. We all follow the gist and the tune. Some of the children do an action song. … Song after song and dance after dance we do, till the sky miraculously clears and the sun gives us a farewell gleam, almost as though on cue. The western sky will scarcely have faded when the east will begin to shine.” (p 82-83)
As well as being the summer solstice, it was Father’s Day. I was able to make a nice bouquet for Michael, with our roses, some catmint and astrantia. He enjoyed his cards and presents, and we were glad to thank him for all he does. Later he and the Dafter went on a bike ride! She is at school this morning, with achey legs but at least achey in a good way rather than from ME pain. School finishes this week, for six weeks. And then, regardless of the weather, it really will be summer!
I wish you all a good start to your week.