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Summer Solstice

Written by Claire Speer, 2nd July 2010

Post by Leila Green, Communications Intern at TRO.

Night appeared to arrive earlier last night. At 10.05pm I was nearing the end of a long phone conversation which had began over an hour earlier when the sun was still up. Spookily my friend on the other end of the line and I remarked at the same time that it had become night-time without our realising. I remembered at that point that Summer Solstice was last week. This ‘event’ in the calendar always triggers a month or so of remarks from friends and family who notice on different days that the nights are drawing in.

June 21st is the 172nd day of the year (thank you Wikipedia), meaning that today (July 2nd) there’s 182 days left until 2011.

There may be an exact scientific date on which to pin winter’s approach, and that day may arrive every year, but personal experience of the Solstice belies regularity and reliability. Yet, though I know this, I am forever stating with self-assured conviction that today it went dark x minutes earlier than yesterday. I can never remember having officially registered at what time darkness fell on a previous night, yet today I always claim I know (intuitively or delusionally?) that it went dark yesterday exactly x minutes later than today. It’s a strange thing: attempting to understand the world via a seemingly incongruous mix of objective scientific fact, ‘intuition’ (perhaps the work of one’s body clock), and fallible memory (conscious and / or subconscious: wherever the line may be).

I like this image: pretty random. But its landscape sets the scene for the following extract from Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse,

But what after all is one night? A short space, especially when the darkness dims so soon, and so soon a bird sings, a cock crows, or a faint green quickens, like a turning leaf, in the hollow of the wave. Night, however, succeeds to night. The winter holds a pack of them in store and deals them equally, they darken. Some of them hold aloft clear planets, plates of brightness. The autumn trees, ravaged as they are, take on the flash of tattered flags kindling in the gloom of cool cathedral caves where gold letters on marble pages describe death in battle and how bones bleach and burn far away in Indian sands. The autumn trees gleam in the yellow moonlight, in the light of harvest moons, the light which mellows the energy of labour, and smooths the stubble, and brings the wave lapping blue to the shore.

Mrs Ramsay ponders the rolling on of winter nights in the aptly titled chapter ‘Time Passes’.

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