On the longest day of the year, small waves lapped against a raft. A lone a swimmer oared leisurely along, his arm a sail raised repeatedly against the sky. A sudden breeze arose and the water’s surface, cracking into a million shards of blue, coral and lemon, became an Impressionist painting: Monet’s water lilies without the lilies.
It was the longest day of the year, with many such long days to come yet and the wooden dock on which I lay felt smooth. Its wooden planks, gone silver with age, drank in the sun’s warmth.
An hour before sunrise, I had risen to look for a window I could lie down next to. I do this to catch the Early Show put on by birds who swoop so close to our house they seem like aircraft, cleared one by one for flight. So fast do they pass I can detect neither species nor even color, only glimpsing in a flash the fuselage of an underbelly, the landing-gear of two tucked-up feet.
At 8:00 I stepped outside and onto the now-hot griddle of sidewalk, across which an ant lumbered as ants always lumber, bearing their burden of crumbs or fallen comrades.
Just nine weeks before this day it had snowed in this cove, the day before Easter or not. Six weeks after that, tornadoes skipped and whirled and set devastatingly down across the region.
One early evening this past winter, four deer came over the deep, deep snow to nibble roots at the edge of the thick-frozen lake. The deer were starving, the papers all said, and they certainly seemed to be in sore need the way they came so close to our house, their antlers held aloft like complicated branching torches.
Was it just four months ago? It seems from here an eternity. But Time plays tricks on us in this small season. As I lay on that longest-day dock, the breeze stretched a new canvas over the frame of lake and did another killer impression of Impressionist painting: a Van Gogh this time, I thought.
On how many a summer solstice have we stretched out on docks and decks and sun-warmed stoops, thinking each time that June would last forever?
In her novel 2007 The Maytrees, the wonderful Annie Dillard says, “Old people were not incredulous at having once been young but at being young for so many decades running” she then thinks and as I read this passage on that dock I smiled at its wisdom.
It’s true: People are young and for so many decades running. All of the living are young, as any bird or ant can tell you.
Such were my thoughts on the year’s longest day with so many such long days to come yet.