We slip out in the half-light of solstice morning and head for the sea. It’s the beginning of the longest day and our purpose is to greet the sun as it rises. We head for our island, our soul-place, to watch the dawn. Already we can see that the sun is in hiding behind thick cloud and the signs are that it won’t be visible all day. The clouds are blue-grey and pink-blushed. A small slash in the clouds seeps orange light. It’s chillier than it has been all this hot, humid week. As the dawn progresses, we still don’t see the sun, but narrow shafts of light fall from sky to sea creating a luminous path across the water.
Sunrise and low tide are within fifteen minutes of one another today. This seems appropriate, for the solstice is the tipping point when the sun stands still for a moment in time, before the year begins to ebb and low tide is a point when the tide stands still just before it turns. We create an image of the sun, using shells and kelp so that we’ll leave nothing permanent behind us. It’s a transitory image that will be washed away by the next high tide. An honouring of the sun at the height of its power, but also an acknowledgement that this power is transient and will soon begin to fade into shorter, colder days. Alone on the beach, two women and a dog, we welcome the sun, thanking it for its light, which gives us life.
The luscious spring is giving way to summer. Spring has seemed limitless. So much abundance of life, prompted by the warm weather and rainy start to the year. The landscape is changing every week. Right now, it’s the season of meadows. There’s something blithe and joyful about meadows: slender, delicate flowers and feathery grasses blurring into a mass of colour and texture. I smile as I walk along paths bordered by meadows.
Summer is bright, expansive and open, but it is also the season of tiny things. Things that flit across our path so quickly we don’t know what they are. Things that hide in the undergrowth and buzz among the leaves. Creatures that have their own miniature beauty if we take the time to study them.
And it is the season of babies, emerging into the wondrous and perilous world. The gull nesting across from my office is now guarding two fluffy chicks. Baby starlings click and hiss in parks and on pavements. And at the ponds, the ducklings have appeared.
It’s the season of empowerment, when we use the height of the sun’s energy to replenish and charge our batteries for the autumn that will come soon enough. And a time when we turn outwards, to seek worldly success. For me, it’s a season of unwinding. Many of the writing goals I set myself are well on their way to being achieved. And once my book went out to query and stories out for submission, it was like a natural stop. This time for me is less about the ‘work’ of writing and more about fun and exploration. So I’ve been taking a rest from fiction to blog and paint, which feels like the right way to re-charge my creative energies for the harvest to come.
And like a glorious omen, our solstice morning ends with delight. My novel, The skin of a selkie, is set on this island with seals featuring strongly in the story. But although I know that they occasionally visit, in all the years I’ve come to this place I’ve never once seen a seal on the island. Until, that is, this morning. There, out on the rocks, half a dozen grey seals, at rest. We watch them from a distance so as not to disturb them To be here, on solstice morning and to see those seals with my book out there awaiting its fate, well, it feels like a gift just for us.