When my children were little, they used to enjoy Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” on a story tape during car trips. Really. The tape was by a professional storyteller and was meant for children. That tape, and the fact that their father teaches astronomy, meant that they knew of the summer solstice from both an astronomical and a cultural point of view at a very young age.
My daughter in particular loved the whole idea of fairies. For years, she would insist on leaving out food (usually Cheerios) for the fairies on Midsummer night. Naturally, the fairies obliged by leaving a mess behind, along with a small gift. My kids have since outgrown their concern for the snacking needs of Puck and crew, but I still feel the need to mark the passage of the Solstice in some small way.
The Solstice is a natural pause in the annual rhythms of the Earth. It is the moment before the pendulum swings again. It is the split-second before the exhale. Something is about to shift. The tide turns. In our deep subconcious, we realize this.
Winter Solstice is all about celebrating the return of the light, whether consciously recognized or not (it’s no accident that various December religious festivals have light as a theme). But Summer Solstice? Logic would dictate that we celebrate the return of the darkness, but we don’t do that, do we? We tend revel in the long days, and deny the impending change. In truth, both light and darkness are with us all the time. Even now, at Solstice, darkness is there like a seed waiting to grow.
Perhaps the magic of Midsummer (with or without fairies) is the realization that the natural world is balanced by natural limits. Nothing grows forever. Light and darkness exist in balance. Here at the edge, the limits of the light, we need to take a moment or two and acknowledge the darkness. Nature knows its limits. We mortals (as Puck would say) need to learn ours.
Celebrate the seeds of the darkess, ready to grow. Revel in the light. Ponder natural limits. Use Cheerios if necessary.