Living into the beauty of God's creation at the time of the solstice

Posted: Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Kim Laird

Living and Growing

From the beginning, our understanding, our very survival, embraced the importance of day and night, season upon season, cycles that give shape and form to our lives. The time of light and high summer are part of our story from the first chapter of the first book of scripture.

"Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth," says Genesis 1:14-15.

Living into the beauty of God's creation is part of our daily routine here in Juneau. Our connection with the land and sea is great. The rising and falling of the tides are part of the background of our lives. Our awareness of where we are in the seasonal calendar is acute. Our stewardship of the land depends on our awareness of what's around us. It's fitting then, that we would mark the time of the sun's farthest northern light.

But though reliant on the sun for agricultural and other reasons as far back as ancient times, we haven't always been a people that understands just how great are the "lights in the expanse of the sky," particularly our own sun. It's taken us several hundred years to come to an understanding of how the Earth and the other planets interrelate with the sun. The model that the early church knew, a dome over the sky with the Earth and the netherworld below, has given way to discovery - or perhaps uncovery - that we on "this fragile earth, our island home," as the Episcopal prayer book puts it, are resident in a sun-centered rather than Earth-centered system.

And with our hemisphere tipped toward the sun, during the intense, protracted brightness of the summer, light is in abundance. Even the overcast days are washed gray-white and luminous. The Earth is made new by the sun's energy and by the rains, and light comes into places touched only a few days a year; a certain bend in the trail, a certain window in the house. This seasonal light is for us a strong metaphor for the redemption and transforming gift brought to us by a loving, risen Lord.

It's clear to us that nature and life are at full force at this time of high summer. It's easy to be drawn into the busy-ness that so many hours of light and so many accompanying possibilities bring. We need to attend to the restful part of the cycle, too, even in high summer, even with evenings full of sunshine or extended light.

And we can be in different places in a cycle. It's winter for our brothers and sisters south of the equator; they are around the seasonal circle from us. When it's the seasonal or day/night cycle, it's clear when we're in different parts of the cycle.

There are also other kinds of cycles, such as those of the inner life, that can make it more challenging for us to discern. It's sometimes not easy to acknowledge the needs of others when the signs aren't so obvious. But it remains that those along our path experiencing grief with its many parts, loneliness, uncertainty of situation, fear and the many other conditions requiring struggle and endurance need our acknowledgment. So, too, do those whose lives are filled with joy, wonder, awe, hope, love, contentment and thankfulness.

We are at the high point of Juneau summer, fireweed coming up the stalk and the parade around the corner. The time of seasonal light is upon us. As people of faith, we are poised in prayerful presence of mind to be sharers of compassion and grace, in the name of the one who sends us, the light to enlighten the nations.

• Kim Laird is a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

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