Solstice, 1996

by Bill Duesing

First broadcast on WSHU/WSUF-FM, June 21, 1996

Oh the glory and pleasure of June. Cool early dawns filled with birdsong, and just-won't-quit twilights fading to the shortest nights of the year, made magical with fireflies. In between the beneficence of the sun and the multifunctional bounty of green plants provide for the most important and sensual of our needs.

Gardens behind the house are brimming with frilly lettuces, piquant mustards, tasty arugula, and healthy turnip greens. Parsley, cilantro, dill and basil are always ready to share their leaves for flavoring. Sugar snap peas and strawberries provide wholesome sweetnesses. A many-petaled pink peony and a startling Tradescantia with blue and white flowers consort at the garden's western edge. Pink and yellow honeysuckle and tall valerian lend delicious fragrances to the air. Insects and hummingbirds play their essential roles.

Near our house the shade of a tree, or forest is never far away, providing an always-cool zone for plants and humans. Native oaks, pines and ashes thrive.

The cool of the woods ends as the path enters a meadow of waist-high grasses and wildflowers. Using a scythe, Dan and I mow the grasses, harvesting their stored solar energy and nutrients to feed the goat. With a scythe it is easy to leave alfalfa, clover and wild flowers to reseed themselves, and this tool is wonderfully quiet. If kept sharp, it is a pleasure to use. A bit further down hill, as the ground levels out, gardens bask in the brilliant sunlight. Rugosa roses, onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers thrive in this intense light and heat, their roots growing in compost made from leaves and food wastes others have thrown away.

Further on, in the shade of a wild cherry, I discover a patch of blackcap raspberries. They do best when they find their own place to grow. The nicely plump berries promise ripe fruit before long.

Ten twenty-four last night was the moment of the summer solstice. Now the sun's path across our sky is the longest of the year, and for nearly a month, its path changes very little from one day to the next. We can experience the wonderful timelessness of the season lingering around the outdoor table with children and friends after an evening meal.

The sun's energy is most intense around the solstice. This is an appropriate time to appreciate the sun and its essential role in our lives. Solar energy powers our bodies. This is also the time to encourage wider adoption of the big-four, low-cost, ready-to-use solar technologies designed for a better tomorrow. These four are the home and community organic garden for food and beauty, south-facing glass on our houses for winter heat, well placed trees for cooling, and a clothes line for drying.

These technologies are inexpensive, dependable and widely available. Like many perennial flowers, these solar solutions are long-lasting, pleasant to care for and live with, and easily maintained. They can work as well on a small lot in the city as they do in rural areas, and provide nearly unlimited possibilities for satisfying and productive work.

Oh, I know, the captains of finance, industry and government would have us invest in genetically-engineered food, ever larger farms, food processors and supermarkets as well as in distant oil fields in pristine environments, improved nuclear power plants and new air conditioning systems and electric clothes dryers. Larger casinos and ever more cable channels, fast food outlets and distant leisure activities attempt to fill the void caused by the lack of connection to the real world.

But, our children and grandchildren are likely to be better off if we all make small local investments in safe, user friendly and beautiful solar technologies to supply our essential needs. This should free up our other resources for addressing more pressing problems like creating and maintaining peace in our neighborhoods and communities and educating ourselves and our children for a sustainable future built on social justice and understanding.

Happy solstice, go solar now!

This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth

This page and its contents are copyright © 1996-1997 by WSHU-FM, Fairfield, CT, and by Bill Duesing.