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CHIAROSCURO
It's a bittersweet feeling for me, this day, the longest of the year. Before I moved to Sweden, I was never as aware of the presence or absence of sunlight as I am now. It's in the back of my mind all the time these days; the light. Whether it is shining or obscured partially or wholly by clouds. How much of it there is, and the increase and waning of it yearly.

Before I moved so far north, I didn't realize how much I would be affected each year by the two halves of it: the first half which heralds the return of the light to its zenith and the second half which is the long slow descent into darkness. It sounds depressing, but the other side is knowing that the return of the light always follows. The point of this, however, is that midsummer celebrations are not exactly a high point for me, though they're probably the best-loved holiday for every Swede on the planet. I, on the other hand, am much more excited about the solstice that falls deep in the heart of winter, which to me is a signal for hope and rebirth.

It's not that I don't appreciate the rest of the summer or the long slow days or the sunshine that we are blessed with during the rest of the growing season, it's just that I know we're moving away now, turning gradually aside, decelerating.

For Swedes, midsummer is about gathering flowers to put under your pillow (7 kinds) so that you will dream about who you will marry. It's about the red stitching of poppies on the hems of every field and the tall spikes of lupines in their star-leaved clusters. It's the raising of that old fertility symbol, the midsummer pole, wrapped in green leaves and flowers, and the dancing that follows. It's the entrenched menu that every single table boasts: herring and new potatoes, meatballs and small sausages, and sun-drenched strawberries with cream and sugar.

But most of all, it's about the light that affects them, and has affected them from birth in this northern clime, much more than it does me, a relatively recent transplant. The awareness of the light, I think, must be an integral part of their cellular make-up, much more so than blond hair and blue eyes and planed viking cheekbones. What they are celebrating, and what I am celebrating with them, is a thank you to the sun for the first half of the year, for returning and rebuilding and regrowing and lightening the way, and the appreciation of the knowledge that though it now begins to recede, it will not forsake, but come again.

 calm
mood: calm
music: Girlyman—Early Morning Bird


Comments

Happy mid summer. I know what you mean, although I've never been to sweden. Yesterday I was looking out at all the green and suddenly I was dreading the time when the leaves would be gone. We have 6 full months of barrenness here. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder how people without the dark and grey truly appreciate all the green and light.

It's so true...I am thankful every day the sun shines here and drink in every sight of the green wonder around me. I've thought about moving someplace like southern California where temperatures and weather are "ideal" but I also wonder if I would become blasé and begin to take it for granted. It does take the dark and the grey to truly appreciate the sunlight and the summer.

I love this photo.

We ate SO many strawberries yesterday and there is still a HUGE bowl left!

I tried to "pet the kitty" but nothing happened when I click, several times. : (
So here I am replying to a reply...

I had strawberry shortcake for breakfast today. Yes, breakfast. Yumm. I remembered this photo and how I had never gotten back to comment on it or a number of other things after my friend Serena died on the 22nd.

Anyhow, great photo. And last Tuesday I went out to a farm and bought a flat of strawberries to freeze to light up the days of winter with a little palate tinkling.
We still have a good sized handful of strawberries from out garden every day or two. Yumm.

Great thoughtful entry Liz.
Here we have the maypole and the maidens in white dancing around it. More veiled penis worship I guess.

Ooh, just look at those strawberries!

I was just thinking on my drive into work, that as a child I never realized that from here on out, it would get darker earlier, mainly because I was still being forced to go to bed while it was still light out. But now, being acutely aware of the amount of day light, I was wishing that midsommer would actually be in mid-summer, rather than at the start of it. That by now, we all could have been enjoying summertime temperatures along with the run up to the longest day of the year. That the waning light would match with the waning temperatures. Instead we're just getting started. And that saddens me a little.

Naturally, if we'd move to Sweden I reckon the amount of day light would still be enough for me and the temperatures nowhere near as hot as I am accustomed to so maybe it's all a wash.

It probably depends a great deal on where in Sweden you moved to. I couldn't manage if we lived way up north where it's so dark for so long...it's bad enough down here. And the strawberries were divine and we have tons left. :)

What a lovely post, Liz. Like you, I find the winter solstice much more meaningful and celebration-worthy, but this is a nice time, too.

Oh, it totally is a nice time! It's a wonderful time. I just wish it would last longer :)

oh.. so nicely said!!!!

thank you :) Happy midsummer!

(Anonymous)
beautiful post

i especially liked learning (why did I not know this?) that the maypole dance is really about celebrating the PENIS! woot! Does Neil (citizen of the month know this? I think you should bring it to his attention!) it makes me laugh because I have photos from when my brothers and sisters were little all dressed up in beautiful clothes with other little children in beautiful, pristine clothes weaving the pastel colored banners in and out around the maypole-- I doubt very much the proper Bostonian mamas realized what was at the heart of that old ritual their pweshus puddin' heads were participating in.

Hee-- bp

Re: beautiful post

What else could this symbolize??
giant green penis

These types of entries are my favorite lizardek entries. Yum. Thanks.

aw thanks! :) It's funny, I never know what kinds of entries are going to get responses (unless I ask people to talk about their favorite breakfast foods, of course)...it always feels very hit or miss to me.

(Anonymous)

Mmm, I just picked up strawberries from the farmer's market and as I looked at yours, I brought my fingers to my nose and smelled... yum.

I forgot that today is the longest day of the year... doh! I just knew it was my friend's birthday, the anniversary I had with an old flame, and Solstice. Sometimes the most obvious things don't occur to me.

You really should plant peonies... I just put in three bushes a week or two ago. It's not too late! I didn't put in bulbs because I haven't had good luck with bulbs. :)

xo
- Molly

I thought it was way too late! I will go to the nursery tomorrow :)

Yes, peonies! They are very connected with this time of year for me. You must have them in your garden!

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