Good Day Sunshine

Grab the sunblock, a pair of shades and head outside today at noon, glance upward and notice the sun blazing directly above you.  Look down and you will see your shadow has nearly vanished.  The sun has reached its highest point; the dead of winter has become the earth restored—life in full.

Welcome to the Summer Solstice, the first day of astronomical summer, the Northern Hemisphere’s longest day and shortest night.  After appearing to stand still for a moment, the sun will lavish light and heat everywhere.  The ground will warm deeply, every cranny will shine, and plants will start to fruit.

Agrarian Neolithic cultures used the Solstice as a seasonal milestone for planting and harvesting crops.  It marked the beginning of a new year, a day when scattered tribes and families gathered at shrines to please and appease nature deities—the sun foremost among them—in hopes of a fecund growing season, abundant harvests, and continued survival.

Aside from gardeners, few of us take an interest in the Solstice.  Too bad.  To paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, the sun is still big; it’s the pictures that have gotten small.  How big?  Well, large enough to fit 1,300,000 planet Earths.  Humbling.

To reach your garden, light travels 92.96 million miles, cruising at 671 million miles an hour.  Plants are ready, having evolved strategies to capture the maximum amount of sunlight through their leaves.

Thanks to light-sensing nanostructures, plants utilize as much as 95 percent of the sunlight their leaves absorb, photosynthesis converting the solar energy into chemical energy, in 1 million billionths of a second.  Awesome.

These original “powerplants” store the chemical energy for growth, flowering and fruiting before passing it on to the non-photosynthetic organisms, like animals, fungi, and the planet’s seven or eight billion people.

Like our plant cousins—we share an original ancestor—we too are solar-powered.  Photoreceptors located in the retina of the eye relay light waves to the brain, with crucial effects on the functioning of bodies, including our biological clock.  The longest day beats the cosmic bass drum of our circadian rhythm section.

Here in Bucks County, we will enjoy fifteen hours and forty minutes of daylight.  My garden is delighted, and so am I.  Good day, sunshine.

A version of this article appeared in the Omaha World Herald, the Telegram & Gazette, and the Pensacola News Journal.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2018 at 11:29 am and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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