Posted by: christinelaennec | June 22, 2015

Summer solstice, and Father’s Day

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.

The back garden is flowering despite chilly weather.  21 June 2015.  Photo taken about 9 pm I think.

The back garden is flowering despite chilly weather. 21 June 2015. Photo taken about 9 pm I think.

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)

Father's Day bouquet, 21 June 2015.

Father’s Day bouquet, 21 June 2015.

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.



  1. Beautiful garden bouquet. The weather is not fairing well here either, I do feel that we are missing out on our summer activities.

  2. Beautiful garden and flowers! Great news to hear the Dafter has been on a bike ride and is back at school! Those are good kinds of aches. 🙂
    Enjoy your day!♥

  3. Great to hear that you have had some bike riding weather, at least, and that Michael and the Dafter have been taking advantage of it together.

    I know very little about these things, but I’m always a little perplexed about the possible relationship, if any, between the length of the day and the average temperatures. Presumably the maximum length of day of the summer solstice means the maximum theoretical possible amount of sunshine, but the Met Office tells me that the highest actual amount of daily sunshine in Glasgow is in May (obviously clouds and rain play a big role!) and the highest average temperature is in July (presumably water temperatures, ocean currents and winds all play a role). I guess a meteorologist could talk at length about it . . . but the rest of us are just grateful when the weather is good and hoping for a change when it’s not so good.

  4. your talk of the magical quality of that wonderful evening light in Scotland when it gets to this time of year brought back good memories. it truly is a special experience. your garden is just lovely.

  5. Good grief we were so busy celebrating Fathers Day and our reunion that we completely missed the summer solstice. Thanks for reminding me.

  6. Your garden looks lovely! Love the bouquet too!! Your weather sounds like it has been so unusual this spring/summer. I hope the rest of the summer warms up a bit for you. We are still having a very wet summer. It is so nice not to have to water lawns or flowers. I am enjoying that!!!! The air is much more humid, and with high temps that is not very nice. So glad to hear the Dafter got out on a bike ride!!!!!!!

  7. I do love the evening light in Scotland at this time of year. I particularly enjoy a few quiet moments in the garden, late in the evening. It is the best time to hang out the washing I think. Last night at 10:30 all was still but there was plenty of daylight to see the colours of the laundry I was pegging up. The fathers day bouquet is beautiful. School finishes tomorrow. Yay! I am off until the first of August. Have a wonderful week. x

  8. I especially enjoyed reading “all he does”. Michael is a man to be honored for sure! It is so special to share your life with one whom you both respect and enjoy, isn’t it. I notice such a difference in the light here and in the San Francisco Bay area, I can imagine I would be amazed by the Scottish norms described in this post as well. I will try to send some of our unusually warm and sunny weather to you, Christine. It is supposed to reach 100 on Saturday so I am certain we will have warmth to share with you 🙂 xx

  9. I popped over from my good friend Gracie’s blog.. she has told me many times how much she loves your blog. I hope to visit you more often. I might have to borrow your book when she’s finished.. and finished re-reading it.. ((hugs)), Teresa 🙂

  10. Il y a quelques années, j’habitais en Alsace et le 21 juin était fêté autour d’énormes tours de bois auxquelles on mettait le feu à la nuit tombée. C’était un magnifique spectacle… J’espère que le temps va être plus doux en Ecosse. Ici c’est le cas et les températures vont encore beaucoup monter dans les prochains jours !. J’ai beaucoup aimé votre façon de parler de la fëte des Pères. Pas un simple rite vidé de sens mais en effet dire merci pour tout ce qui est fait.
    Très bonne semaine Christine !

  11. Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I always enjoy reading them.

    oldblack, you are very right – there isn’t a straightforward correlation between more/less light and the temperature here in Scotland. To the extent that we have warmth in the summertime, it’s more likely to be in July and August, which is after we have the most light. I know the seas are at their highest temperature in October, after the months of summer. Similarly, in the wintertime there’s that old saying “As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens”. Depending on the winter, once we pass the Winter Solstice on December 21st, we can look forwards to much more snow and ice than before it. This year has been unusual, and a friend told me that the Atlantic Ocean is colder than normal for this time of year, which may explain why Scotland’s West Coast has been battered by storms for months now. And there’s also the jet stream, which I really don’t understand… When you live here you can understand why the weather is a major fascination!

    Heather, it is somewhat comforting to know that it’s not just the UK that is experiencing strange weather.

    Christina, I love the mental image of you hanging your laundry out at 10:30 pm. Yes, it is still light then. I wish you a fantastic summer holiday!

    Gracie, whenever I go south to England (London is about 400 miles south of Glasgow) I feel there is a huge difference in light levels. I’ve had the experience of going to England at Eastertime, enjoying all the spring flowers, then coming back up to Scotland and experiencing it all a second time!

    Teresa, a warm welcome to you. If you do read May’s diaries I hope you will enjoy them. The most common reaction I have heard to them from women readers is: “I will never complain about hard work again!”

    Gracie et Annie, I’m glad you appreciated that for us Father’s Day isn’t an empty holiday (as you wrote, Annie)! We are very lucky to have Michael for a father/husband.

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