Titania Sleeping in the Moonlight, Protected by her Fairies – John Simmons

The earth languishing in axial tilt, monuments glowing, heat and light and the bald face of the sun.

Summer, in all her loose and fragrant glory, arrives at the party.

These days, we eat strawberries in January and work long past dark, but there was a time when we didn’t think of ourselves as separate from nature, or above the influence of the seasons. Our internal lives are supposed to be consistent – we’re convinced we have to be the same person, with the same needs, throughout the cycle of the year. We tell ourselves we’re above the animals, as if indoor plumbing and a few trips to the moon could erase our base nature, the creature part of us that shifts with the seasons.

Midsummer’s eve remind us otherwise.

It’s almost impossible not to feel that symbolic weight, the mystical gravity of this long, long day. Our ancestors felt it, built pyramids and stone circles around it, wrote endless verses about it, threw bacchanals on it. The frenzy of solstice is undeniable, thick with life and magic.

Rene le Begue

I remember a solstice long ago, when I was a teenager. Before the valley behind my parents’ house was paved over and filled with gray McMansions and a golf course, it was a beautiful grassland, full of wildflowers and waist-high wheat. A white owl lived in the little clutch of trees there, and you could dig up arrowheads down by the river. My little group of friends and I, drunk on cheap wine, spread out into the valley under the moonlight. We rolled in the cool, plump grass, thick and soft, more plush than any mattress. We kissed our tentative youthful kisses, held hands, giggled, accidentally scared away a sleeping doe and her fawns, galloping hides glowing blue in the night. The gibbous moon was bright, and we were deep enough into the valley that the light from the streetlamps and the distant highway barely faded the stars.

I remember feeling so elated to be alive, to bear witness to the twinkling lights in the sky, to be young and sure of myself and the path set before me. That’s the magic of the solstice – the world is bursting with life, and you are too.

So take this day to celebrate that. Shed your clothes and swim with the trout in the river. Gather herbs and braid flowers into your hair. Jump over bonfires, drink cheap wine, make love, make art, sleep in the grass or stay up all night. Confess your love, commune with the creatures. Be alive, just for this moment, just for this day.

Remember that you’re not above it all. You’re a part of it. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver, The Summer Day