Tag Archives: summer

Solstice Sunset

Solstice Sunset

Dogs will run and swim themselves nearly to death given the opportunity.

A perfectly flat hiking trail is a pleasure all its own.

Where the trout-less Trout Brook at Afton State Park enters the St. Croix, a sandbar extends much further out into the river than you would think. That sandbar and the cold creek water mingling with the warm river make for unexpectedly delightful wading.

Rural Afton is rich with long, curving hills that are just made for coasting down in nuetral at dusk.

Despite the claims of its Web site, Selma’s Ice Cream is not open until 10:00 every night of the week during the summer.

But Dairy Queen in Hudson is.

Solstice Sunset

(Photos courtesy Rainier. Thanks!)

Hallelujah!

solstice.jpeg

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like the summer solstice should be declared a national holiday of some sort. It’s truly a glorious day at these latitudes… a beacon of hope when we are in the depths of winter, and cause for celebration when summer is upon us.

When you have lived through cold, dark winters when the nights are so long and the days are so short and it seems like the sun is so far away, the very idea of the sun illuminating an early dawn and light lingering long into the night is nothing short of spiritual.

I’ve found myself driving home late at night a few times in the past couple weeks. Even after warm days when temperatures reach above 90°, June evenings are almost always cool and damp. If it doesn’t rain a little bit as the nighttime approaches, at least a heavy dew falls, giving the night a particular fertile peacefulness. So these nights, I have driven with the window all the way open and my arm hanging out, touching the air.

It is also firefly season, which is truly some small magic. Late last Friday night, Fisherman and I stood looking out over a few acres of unused pasture behind his house, marveling at the air thick with the flickering lights. Fisherman remarked that pre-historic humans must have really wondered about that phenomena, when the night could be filled with light though our species still lacked any similar ability.

The news this morning said that more than 20,000 people were at Stonehenge to witness today’s sunrise. I was still fast asleep when the sun rose here, but I’ve always wanted to mark the solstice by seeing the sun rise and set, and to spend the day exploring what happens inbetween.

In years past, Rosie and I have marked the occasion by spending the long, golden evening paddling and fishing on a small lake north of Stillwater. Tonight, if the weather cooperates, we’re planning a hike with the dog and some friends. If we’re lucky, we’ll watch the sunset. It will surely be with a bit of melancholy, because the pessimist in all of us knows that this happy event also means we begin tomorrow the long descent toward those short days and long nights on the opposite side of the year.

But, I’m mostly an optimist, so today I’m just happy that everyone — us lay people and the astronomers and meteorologists — can agree that summer is really here. Much of it remains to be enjoyed, and the sun, a god any human can worship, is as close to us it ever gets. Take note of every detail, because it is in this rich season that life seems to reveal its simplest yet greatest purpose.

A Minute Here

These days aren’t getting any longer and there’s so much we still say we should do this summer. It’s easy to think fall is nearly here though it’s almost 90 degrees today. I said to Rosie the other day that summer feels like one big event.

August arrives
A little short of breath
Inhale, exhale, go

It’s in constant motion, that’s the thing. Even routine moments feel cramped and stolen. The grandeur of summer obscures its own reality. Every perfect moment, day, weekend, week is lost like wildflowers are lost in the vast green landscape.

Watch the seasons
Always coming and going
It’s hard to keep up

It is hard to write about summer. The proper perspective eludes me. Is summer the big adventures like canoe trips and days fishing? Or the little things like weeknight barbecues or baseball games? Is the heat important or something to be assumed? Where does just sitting on the deck after dinner with a beer and a book fit in?

We can’t always do everything we want to. Summer can’t be everything we wish it was. For as much fun as it is, I wish it was more spontaneous. For all the evenings I spend enjoying the warmth, I know I should be productive on an endless list of chores. But this peak of the year we call summer doesn’t seem to be anything we create or control, but rather you either step on or not and it takes you where it goes.

Already late
Looking forward
A summer weekend ahead

Up

Summer

sun and wind
clouds every shape
green leaves
and grass
popsicles and
lemonade
i’m not joking
chips and salsa
beer and cheese
and white wine
in the backyard
burgers
on the deck
walks
ice cream cones
boat anchored
swimming
on a sandbar
hotrods
on university
afternoon rain
weekend construction
driving
here and there
an hour our own
off again
bonfires
fireflies
in the damp woods
air conditioning
and fans
sweat and cold water
from the sink
on my face
sunglasses
baseball cap
sunburn
and bugs
and bug dope
and sunscreen
long evenings
kickball and drinks
coolers and coozies
friends
frisbee
fishing
from the canoe
short nights
and bright mornings

summer

It Flows Through Me Like Rain

Today was the first day in nine days that it hasn’t reached 90 degrees in Minnesota. Though I’m usually no fan of hot weather, this hasn’t felt like a heat wave. It’s felt like July. Summer in Minnesota.

We were at a music festival (though it was about so much more than the music) all weekend and spent a lot of time under the sun. As I sat on the hillside listening to T Model Ford on Saturday afternoon, there was a pause in the music. I heard a woman behind me say to her friend, “On the coldest, nastiest day in January, I’m going to think back to sitting on this hill with Jerry.”

I tried to think about the coldest, nastiest day in January but couldn’t call up even the faintest feeling of it.

Earlier that morning, Katie and I had walked up from the shady, fern-carpeted campground. I got a delicious iced coffee from the good folks at Peace Coffee and we went and sat in the tent where maybe 100 people were watching Charlie Parr perform. He plays Piedmont-style blues. I don’t know exactly what Piedmont-style blues is, but I know I like whatever Charlie Parr plays. In a style all northwoods, he played songs about “drinkin’ and killin’” on a guitar, making good use of the slide. At one point inbetween songs, a five-year-old boy came charging up through the people sitting on the ground and went right up to the stage. He said to the musician, “Daddy, it’s too loud.” They talked for a second and his dad smiled gently and said, “It’s too loud?” The little boy got self-conscious then and turned to walk back but as he walked away he said, “Yeah. Waaaay too loud.”

Parr smiled and then said, “This song is also for my dad.” He put his chin down to his guitar and was silent for a beat, then lit into another tune.

The next day was the hottest day of the weekend and I couldn’t bring myself to go back out on that shadeless hill. All eight of us that had camped together hopped in a couple cars and drove down to take a swim in Lake Superior. I had never swam in the big lake before. The heat of mid-July is about the only good time to swim in its waters, by all reports, and it felt great. We found a miles-long stretch of beach that seemed like it would have fit in better in Florida than northern Minnesota and swam for a good long while. The sand sloped gradually out so we could stand off-shore quite some ways and throw the ball around and wash away the layers of sweat and sunscreen and dirt.

When we got back to the festival grounds everyone else headed up to see local folker Mason Jennings play. I still couldn’t stand the thought of that heat so Katie and I stayed in camp, where we could luckily still hear his set pretty well, and eventually we decided to pack up and head home. Packing up after a party weekend and then dragging it all back up to the car was no small
chore, but soon we were on our way. I had felt some strange calling to drive down Skyline Parkway all weekend so we did that. Skyline winds along on top of the ridge over Duluth and is both a fun road to drive and freely offers amazing views of the port and the lake.

Finally, it was time to really put Duluth behind us and head back. Interstate 35, the main corridor from northern Minnesota to the Twin Cities, is a hellish drive on a summer Sunday with everyone returning home from weekends at the cabin apparently much angrier than they left on Friday. We were just about to commit to I-35 when we recalled Deb’s advice to take Highway 23 through her neck of the woods. It didn’t take a lot of debate before we’d exited and headed down this new road.

Thank you, Deb. Highway 23 was beautiful and very quiet. We saw few cars on the wide, two-lane highway. The road was lined with tall pines, we saw some lakes and rivers, and then, when we were maybe within 15 miles of rejoining I-35, I saw an Adopt-a-Highway sign that told us that this mile was under the care of “Deb’s Brunofarm” or something of the like. I can only assume that that was the homestead of my esteemed blogger and steward friend and I want to say “thank you” and that the road looked great.

We returned home exhausted. The past month has been one whirlwind after another. It’s been hard to complain because it’s all been quite wonderful, but nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say we’re both “partied out.” Work today was a story in survival and this evening was one of recovery. Nonetheless, though I probably should be sleeping right now, it seems that writing is more important.

Was more important.