If it wasn’t for Midsummer, I wouldn’t be here today.
My family likes to tell the tale of Jennings who, in the early 1930’s, returned to his hometown after a voyage in the Merchant Marines. That particular year, his town of Hickson, North Dakota had decided to join together with Comstock, Minnesota, a small community just across the Red River of the North, for a combined Midsummer festival. And somewhere amidst the food and drink and general hijinx, there was a softball game, during which Jennings turned to his father and said – “See that blond who’s the catcher? That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” He had never met her and didn’t know her name, but Harriet Pederson and Jennings Johnson were indeed wed and subsequently, I was born.
Many years later I married another Johnson on another Midsummer. Call me twice blessed.
It’s understandable that the Scandinavians and other northern European cultures would be big on celebrating what is known as “the longest day and the shortest night.” I’m certain they figure that they more than earned a festival after the long, cold, dark of winter. And so they can be forgiven for hopping like frogs around a maypole (true, yes they do!), wearing wildflowers on their head, lighting bonfires to protect against evil spirits and eating a lot of pickled herring while getting tipsy on aquavit.
It’s just possible that Minnesotans will be seen doing the same this year, considering that the summer was exceedingly slow to show up. My favorite weatherman, Paul Douglas in the Star Tribune, in fact, recently wrote – “Waiting for summer? I’m still waiting for spring!” Paul then went on to allude to “uncharted waters” in the same breath with “climate change” and stated, “…this tortured weather pattern may be linked to record melting in the Arctic last fall, which seems to have thrown the jet stream out of alignment.”
In that light and in honor of Midsummer, I would like to recommend a favorite book, “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” by Thom Hartmann, who not only writes about the fate of our world but what we can do before it’s too late. He says “Everything you see alive around you is there because a plant somewhere was able to capture sunlight and store it. All animals live from these plants, whether directly (as with herbivores) or indirectly (as with carnivores, which eat the herbivores).”
In the introduction to this book, Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of “The Crack in the Cosmic Egg” and other works, relates a touching story about his eleven year old daughter who, upon hearing about the slaughter of elephants in Africa and, as he put it, “newly possessed of that straightforward irrationality of adults,” paced the floor weeping and crying out, “How can they do that? How?” – then turning, pointed to her father and admonished: “And you just sit there!”
I propose, then, that we celebrate Midsummer this year, not by hopping like frogs around a pole, or drinking too much aquavit, but by taking the season and the fate of our world to heart and not “just sitting there.”