It’s the longest day of the year, and even with the remnants of tropical storm Bill passing over this morning, with a lovely drenching the parched soil craved, there was a sort of thirst in the moist air. The sun beat down on even the purple morning from the highest the sun ever gets, and even the rainy day was bright and warm like winter never is, and yet the thirst still thirsted. When I thought about it, I was uncertain if the thirst was for even more light, or for less.
In one sense there is never enough summer, and never enough light, and it creates a sort of anguish to know that starting tomorrow the days get shorter. It is like seeing the first fine wrinkle on the face of a young beauty, and knowing of mortality.
On the other hand, when the Light is at its most intense one seeks the shade. One gets shy, and hangs back in the shadows. Winter makes it easy to yearn for the Light, for all is dark. In a sense winter is like singing in the shower, far from the spotlight. It is quite a different thing to step out into the Light on the longest day, when the Sun King is ruling.
The longest day has ended now, and a muggy night has fallen, but even in the starry dark there are still flashes of heat lightning on the horizon, and a moth battles against the screen, continuing the theme of an attraction towards, and a repulsion from, brilliance.
The lightning has faded away to the south, but now there are new flashes far to the north in the night.
I feel surrounded by the Light, even at night, with this lightning creeping around the edges of the sky. It isn’t entirely comforting. The sweet shadows of sleep have fled, and brilliant insomnia stalks the hallways of my mind, restless, thirsty, relentlessly dissatisfied.
I think when I was younger I could simply bury myself in work, and delay the issue into some distant future, when either I would see the Light or I wouldn’t, but heck if it was something I had time to worry about today. Today was the work, the job, the project, the Great American Novel, Chapter One Page One.
But now I’m sixty-two, and my truck is twenty-one, and my rider mower is twenty-five, and during the past ten days all three of us had problems, and it was hard to get anything done. It was hard to bury myself in work when I couldn’t even start to work.
First the clutch pedal of my truck abruptly went to the floor, and I couldn’t shift. Or I could shift, if the engine wasn’t on. I couldn’t shift when the engine was running. So I could shift to neutral, and start the truck, but then I couldn’t shift to first gear. So I turned off the truck, shifted to first gear, and turned the key with the truck in gear, and with a lurch and sputter the truck started down the road. I couldn’t shift to second, so top speed was around 12 mph. Nor could I shift back to neutral, so I would only slow to around 3 mph at stop signs. It was an interesting drive, and I found myself thinking that this was the speed people went, back in the horse and buggy days. And I did make it to the country garage, where I stalled the truck. Then they had to fix it to get it out of the way. (It was the master cylinder for the clutch pedal, and not the clutch itself, which meant they didn’t have to take the engine out. They actually like working on my truck, as it from the pre-computer days, and hardly has any wires.)
However they had to order the parts, so I was without a truck. However at least I could bury myself in the work of mowing the grass at the farm-childcare, however I hit a huge, round cobble a child had decided to secret in a clump of grass about three minutes into the job. I didn’t wreck the blade or the pulley or belt, but the spindle and bearing, where it goes through the deck, which is beyond my capacity to fix, so all I needed to do is load the mower onto my truck and bring it to…but wait…I don’t have a truck.
So I had to get the guy to come and pick the mower up, but at least I could bury myself in the work of hoeing and tilling and planting in the garden. However I’m sixty-two, and stuff I once could do in a flash now gets done as slow as molasses. Rather than a sense of weary satisfaction I wind up wanting to fire myself, and aggravated as hell. I was working as hard as I could, but falling farther and farther behind in my planting.
What I need to do is to sell a hit song, and become a one-hit-wonder. Then I can afford to hire some strong young man, and to wear a white suit like Mark Twain, and sip mint juleps in the shade. However I’m so far behind in my planting I have no time for writing.
I don’t much want to face the real writing, which is on the wall, quite yet, as I fear the writing on the wall will say I “have been measured and found wanting”. So I usually avoid the entire subject by withdrawing into the cooler world of blogging about sea-ice. However June tends to be a particularly boring month at the Pole, so eventually I have to stand and stare into the darkness.
Sooner or later all that this world has to offer fails to distract us any longer, and even if we lack the wisdom, wealth and many wives of Solomon, we wind up seeing the emptiness of Creation, and saying, as he did, “Vanity, Vanity, Vanity.” And then we either seek a prescription for lots of antidepressants, or we turn from the shadows of creation to the Light of the Creator.
This is actually what religion is suppose to be about, though most modify it to a degree where it is more less unrecognizable, and people become engrossed in blowing each other up, and other loving crusades. If people actually think about the Creator, it is like singing in the shower, and is timid and private, and never steps out into the spotlight and belts out The Song.
The fact of the matter is that most of us know next to nothing about the Light. We know much, much more about the shadows. Yet people talk with great authority about the Light.
For example Christians insist the One Life consists of a single lifetime, and Hindus insist the One life consists of many lifetimes, yet when you cross-examine both, neither can remember much about this lifetime, before age two. In other words, they are talking through their hats. They have no first-hand-experience they can access.
As far as I’m concerned, maybe the Hindus are right, and maybe when we Christians talk about “everlasting death” we are talking about reincarnation, for wouldn’t that involve dying over and over and over and over again? And who the heck wants that? Dying once seems enough for me, so I’ll look for a way to avoid dying twice, if it is a door to Light I dare open.
However we have little first-hand experience of what happens after death, either. When you talk heart-to-heart with believers you discover they may have faint glimpses, glimmers in the dark, that may have occurred to them when people they were very close to passed away, however these experiences are so tenuous most are reluctant to even bring them up, because they are delicate, private, intimate, and a little bit frail, and likely couldn’t withstand the cruel batterings of a ruthless psychiatrist, who would belittle treasured belief away with contrary thought into a mere hallucination.
But death is not a hallucination. It happens, not only to people I love, but to my own body in slow stages and degrees. I may be tough for an old coot, and still have stomach muscles where by pals have flab, but there is no getting around the growing weakness in my efforts. Where I used to carry grain bags two at a time, I now carry them one by one, and huff and puff like I never did before. Even on the longest day of the year there is a lengthening shadow.
Perhaps that is a gift given to the old: The ability to see the things of this world are shadows. For example, even if my writing brought me fame and fortune at this late date in my life, I doubt it would flatter me into making a complete fool of myself, in the manner Hollywood stars and starlets get fooled. It is simply too late. Some things lose their appeal as the drafts of death waft the curtains. One does not brush their teeth on the steps to the noose.
The unnerving thing about shadows becoming more obviously shadows is that the Light becomes more obviously Light. All my life I’ve preferred singing in the shower, and been shy about stepping out into the Light, but as the end approaches there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.