It’s here. The longest day of the year. The official start of summer.
As a teenager, I was fixated on the phenomenon that the summer solstice marked. I mean, how can one deny the poeticism of such a day? To teenage me, it felt steeped in resplendent expectation: what can you accomplish when the sun shines longer? Seemingly everything, I thought.
But this year, I’m caught up in the irony of the situation — namely, that the longest day of the year marks the start of the season most closely associated with late sunsets and early sunrises. Longer days! Shorter nights! We exclaim. Except, not really? For much longer? This summertime-ness starts to die on the very day that it starts.
My internal clock has felt the throes of this shift for months, already. I can’t remember the last day I didn’t suddenly bolt awake at 3:45 a.m., just moments before the sky begins to lighten and the birds outside start anxiously chirping at the start of another day. Some days I fall back asleep; some I don’t. Each unwanted awakening serves as a reminder of all the dreaded, sun-soaked fun to come. I throw a pillow over my face and wish it away.
When I lived on Martha’s Vineyard, this season was marked by screaming crows, stationed in the trees outside my open window. Day after day, their caws ripped me from sleep, and I loathed them. Not only did those caws ensure I got less sleep, but they also triggered an upsetting adrenaline rush in my stomach — the result of being wrenched from a dead sleep by a large bird’s screaming in my ear as I tossed and turned in my humid, rented bedroom. I was working as a fledgling reporter at the time, having moved to the island alone just weeks after graduation. Struggling to find my footing professionally and socially, those birds felt like a curse, announcing the start of every day before I was ready to accept that it was happening.
There’s an episode of “Dawson’s Creek,” (yes, we’re talking about it again,) called ‘The Longest Day.’ Two of the main characters (Joey and Pacey) relive four possible scenarios wherein they tell their mutual best friend, Dawson, that they are dating, something that will surely upset him. The episode is excellent on first viewing, I’d argue, but monotonous upon re-watching. Just make a decision, already! Pick one path and commit to it, at least for the span of a single episode, I found myself thinking recently, as I plod my way through the show yet again.
The monotonous repetition of that episode comes to mind when I think about the summer solstice this year. Myself a veritable summer bunny, I spend most of the rest of the year daydreaming for longer days, with all of their vitamin-D-induced emotional stability and their open hours for spending time outside. I fantasize about living in a part of the world where daylight extends beyond what must surely be reasonable for a person’s sense of passing time. But in practice, I think life would start to feel a bit like that one episode of “Dawson’s Creek.” I can’t imagine a version of that type of life that wouldn’t come with increased pressure to get as many things done as possible between waking and sleeping.
Adding hours to the day sounds great in theory when my to-do list is bursting at the seams, as it is this week. But if I’m being honest with myself, I can’t handle it — and I certainly don’t want it. Instead, I’d rather focus on the leisurely delusions I have for this season. And if that means progressively sleeping more over the course of the next several months, so be it. I’d love that. I’d prefer it.
So, happy summer. And a happy longest day of the year to you, reader. May we keep our sights set on longer nights and deeper sleeps ahead.
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