On Friday at 1:04 a.m. the summer solstice heralded the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Did you ever wonder what the word “solstice” means? Probably not, so I’ll tell you.
Solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, which is a blending of the root words sol (sun) and stitium (stop), which describes what actually happens – at midday Friday, the sun seemed to stop.
I won’t go into the astrophysics of how this happens but will only report that this celestial event had major influences on our ancient brothers and sisters. In times gone by, the solstice marked a time of serious celebration as our ancestors anticipated months when the world would be full of renewal, warmth and growth.
I recently had the opportunity to go to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. Our tour guide told us that at this year’s solstice more than 20,000 people were expected to be gathered as the rising sun’s light burst through the arrangement of rocks known as the Heel Stones.
By the way, that has been happening at Stonehenge for at least 3,000 years. As you might imagine, a “celebration” follows.
If we fast forward a few thousand years, we might get a sense of what it was like in ancient times. In 1935, George Gershwin gave us the signature lullaby from Porgy and Bess: “Summertime and the living is easy.” And so it is with us. Summer life does take on a different rhythm. Summer life affords many of us the opportunity to relax a little more, be refreshed and be re-created. By that, I mean re-created by God’s renewing Spirit.
God programmed re-creation into creation. He set a rhythm into the cosmos – a renewal. Somewhere along the way a poet called this the “cycle of life.”
Summer is Sabbath time. By that I don’t mean going to church (forgive me, my fellow clergy). Instead I offer the Hebrew definition of Sabbath: to cease, to rest. Something happens when we somehow figure out how to “cease and rest.”
So, how does one “cease and rest” in God’s gift of summertime? I never knew the answer to that question until my late daughter Angela gave us a large poster she had adapted from Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, the author and illustrator known as SARK.
Angela was a true “summer child.” She was more connected to creation than the rest of us. We called her a “free spirit.” I eventually came to realize that somewhere along the way she knew what it meant to be alive. These are a few things she left with us. You might try them this summer:
• Drink sunsets.
• Make “yes” your favorite word.
• Keep toys in the bathtub.
• Send a love letter to yourself.
• Delight someone.
• Develop an astounding appetite for books.
• Celebrate an old person.
• Allow yourself to be rich without money.
• Stop worrying now. If not now, then when?
• You are always on your way to a miracle. The miracle is you.
Happy summer! May God restore and replenish your spirit with His comforting Spirit.
THE REV. JOE BOWDEN IS ASSISTING PRIEST AT CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMFORTER IN MARTINEZ.