Jun 24, 2012

Midsummer butterfly

02.52. That’s when the sun did rise here at the 63rd latitude in Sweden this morning. 22.58. That’s when the sun sets tonight. Yesterday at midnight, driving back home from a Midsummer’s Day dinner at friends, the sky was still red from that yellow ball dipping just below the horizon for a quick 3 hour and 25 minutes nap. The windows of the tall buildings at the river waterfront were still glowing. The old hay barns at the plains entering my village are making vague shadows in the middle of the night. It’s crazy. It’s out of this world. It’s weird and torture and orgiastic and panic and magic and sad and jubilant and breathtakingly painful. It’s Midsummer’s. An elusive butterfly.

The soul of the Swede is known to be melancholy. Our traditional music is often slow, set in minor, melodies beautiful as heart ace. The lyrics are all flowery: buttercup, red campion, forget-me-not, lilacs, lupine, peony, wild roses. Set in a scene of white nights and tall shadows. Accompanied by song thrush, chaffinch, lark and blackbird. It’s all about this. It’s all about Midsummer, the elusive butterfly. The all too short life of the light.

We are a people celebrating summer solstice like no one else. Midsummer’s is the reason for living this close to the North Pole. Midsummer’s is the motivations for staying here, dragging ourselves out of bed every morning when the schedule is the opposite; 3 hours and 25 minutes of daylight. This is what we are longing for, waiting for, desiring 11 months and three weeks of the year. Midsummer’s is the beacon we are carrying before us wandering the heavy walk of fall and winter. The Midsummer night is the lighthouse of treasured memories and imaginative future glowing ahead of us in our fantasy about next summer. Next summer, that will be warm and green and peaceful and happy and fun. Next summer, when every winter dreamed dream will come true. We are like little children expecting everything for our birthday. And we all know what can come out of that.

Twice, we have had friends from Seattle visiting at Midsummer’s. 1998, the coldest and rainiest Midsummer in a hundred years Terry, Doug, Reed and Zoey spent this pagan holiday with us. It was like a Seattle winter and two families were stuck inside with a broken dishwasher. Terry swore she would never come back. And she won’t, I’m sure. 2001 was the warmest and sunniest Midsummer in 100 years, and Matt, Elizabeth, Olivia and Rebecca happened to hit that one. Sun screen nr 40, moose outside the bedroom window, my big extended family putting up the real Midsummer show, may pole and everything. Leaving for Paris and London after the weekend Matt commented: “It can only go downhill from here.” Umeå and my village still have a glowing aura when it comes to that family.

And right now I am closing up Midsummer 2012. It has been a good one. I wouldn’t say really warm, but sunny and pleasant. No rain! Family. Friends. Absolutely good enough. But right now, when the sun hides behind a cloud and will take the dip down in the forest in a few minutes, it brings the anxiety on. Because this is the turning point. This is when we start loosing a minute of light every day. The warm weather (if there is any) usually doesn’t start until July, just as the weather isn’t safe in Seattle until after the 4th. But the light is already turning! In a month the dusk will sneak up on us at around 11PM. And we won’t be ready. No no, never ready!

So, this is why the panic. The sadness, the pain. The transparent, translucent, energy-transmitting Midsummer is equal parts euphoria and torture. It’s impossible to grasp and hold on too. We can’t keep awake all around the clock. And yet we are clinging to every second of this. Every scent, image, sound, every moment. But Midsummer’s is a rare butterfly, fleeting, gone way too soon. Elusive. Slipping out of our desiring hands.

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