Solstice Cake

Happy Summer Solstice to the Northern Hemisphere. Today on Twitter, someone wrote that they were depressed about the state of the world, the way things are going, and not even chocolate cake could help.

Blossoming weeds grow up through last year’s leaves. Photo: PKR

It’s the longest day of the year (and shortest night), a good time to reflect on how life flows in a rhythm that has constant change and also a wealth of constants. Summer solstice is my favorite solstice when it comes to weather and general merriment, but my second favorite in terms of symbolism.

For as of today, no matter how green and blossoming and warm it might be (and today in my corner of eastern France, it is all those things, with birdsong and light breezes and a tree heavy with ripening cherries thrown in), from now on the days will shorten inexorably until late December and the next solstice. Summer is just beginning, and those lush trees and meadows are already holding the dried leaves of winter to come.

Some call them weeds, but they are verge survivors. Photo: PKR

And then, when the Winter Solstice (my favorite one) comes along and we are facing the prospect of dark mornings, early sunsets, and long chilly nights, there is the nascent seed of summer already there with the first day that is longer than the previous one. The promise of warmth at the other end of cold.

To my Twitter friend, I said we were in need of another kind of cake, another kind of comfort. So there’s this: The swing of the pendulum and the circling of the planet. The promise of constants and constant change.

The best part of this is, we can be that change, even as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. We can be getting ready for the next solstice when that process reverses.

The Jura Mountains during my morning run. Photo: PKR

Harvest of Hail

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

I went running yesterday morning, and my favorite meadow – a field that is left to grow wildflowers and wild grasses – had been harvested. Lucky are the cows that get the harvest from this small meadow. I don’t have a recent photo of the meadow pre-harvest, but there must be dozens of wild flower species growing there during any given spring.

I went to a late lunch up in Nyon, Switzerland, and sat at an outdoor cafe on the shores of Lake Geneva. It was hot, muggy, still. As we left, the wind whipped up and we saw a wall of black on the southwest end of the lake. Within minutes, golf-ball sized hailstones were raining down. Fortunately, I was in my car, and parked – and the windshield didn’t break.

The storm passed within a few minutes, followed by torrential rain. I decided to try and drive home in spite of all the felled branches and trees, as well as flooded streets.

This was what the A1 freeway looked like just after the storm had passed.

Like driving on a frozen lawn in a wind tunnel. Photo: PK Read

Like driving on a frozen lawn in a wind tunnel.
Photo: PK Read

Cars askew along the side of the road, several vineyards and orchards covered in heavy white – but I didn’t want to slow down and take any proper pictures, I just wanted to get home. I haven’t been in a really big storm for a long time, it’s easy to forget how frightening they are.

Photo: PK Read

Photo: PK Read

The flowers here had all just started blooming after a very late spring – a friend in Geneva said the gutters are red with the petals of all the roses.

There have been violent storms all across France. And we are wondering, beyond the massive material and agricultural damage, what the bees are going to be using for pollen while the flowers recover.

On a side note, happy Summer Solstice!