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Summer in the Northern Hemisphere officially began on June 20, the day of the year with the most hours of sunlight, when Earth’s axis is at its maximum tilt — 23.5 degrees — toward our local star.
And yet already it feels as if it’s slipping away. “Dad,” a teenage son said, staring down the list of get-the-heck-out-of-the-house plans we’d plotted for him, “I feel like the summer’s going to fly by.” A friend notes on Twitter: “July?? Someone should find out how this happened.”
Well, I’ll tell you — and I have some improvements to suggest.
First, be aware that summer, as currently defined, is a scam; the brevity and disappointment are baked in. Tradition holds that the June solstice marks the first day of summer — but then what? It’s all denouement from there; every day that follows is darker than the last, until the solstice in late December. That’s not uplifting. That’s not cheery and invigorating. That’s not the “start” of anything except a slow descent into frigid darkness and death. That’s the start of fall, not summer.
Really, for dramatic narrative purposes, the summer solstice should mark the end of summer, or at least the middle of it. Which, in fact, it basically does.
Silly me, I had always assumed that “midsummer” was, you know, halfway between “the start of summer” and “the start of autumn” — July 25, plus or minus. But clearly I haven’t been spending enough time on Wikipedia, where just yesterday I learned that, for large segments of the world, “midsummer” is synonymous with the birthday of Saint John the Baptist, exactly six months before Christmas. Pretty much today.
Yes, you heard that right: Midsummer occurs just a few days after the official start of summer. If it feels as if summer is already half over, that’s because it is.
Clearly, then, the simplest way to make summer longer, if maybe not eternal, is to change the start date. How about early May, formerly known (to nobody) as mid-spring? Or push it all the way back to the vernal equinox, when the minutes of daylight begin — you know, start — to outnumber the minutes of night? Naturally, that would mean starting spring on the December solstice, which to be honest would address several problems I have with winter.
Another option, less simple: Live elsewhere. Deadhorse, Alaska, maybe. Svalbard, in Norway. Or anywhere north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun rises in mid-May and doesn’t set again until late July; the “longest day of the year” lasts for weeks.
Or there’s HD 131399Ab, an extrasolar planet 320 light-years away. The planet orbits a star (once every 550 Earth years) that is also orbited by two other stars, and for a period of about 140 Earth years one sun or another is always overhead, providing constant daylight. Summer would last a lifetime and more. (Avoid the lifelong winter, though.)
A third, more challenging but ultimately more satisfying way to make summer last longer: Adjust your outlook. Bear with me here for the logic.
To state the obvious, summer flies because we enjoy it. To be precise, in any situation, time “flies” precisely because you aren’t thinking about it. You’re busy with work, lost in a book, deep in conversation, planning the killer Scrabble move — you’re immersed, engaged. You look up: Whoa, where’d the time go? You lost track of it.
Note the vital corollaries. One, dwelling on the time — tracking it — makes it move slowly. (Think: endless dinner party.) Two, you can lose track of time, but by definition you don’t notice until afterward. Time doesn’t fly in the present tense; it only ever has flown.
And three: All things told, the experience that “time flew by” is a positive one. It’s an indication of time well spent, or at least fully occupied, of mental health and, hopefully, satisfaction. What’s the joy in life if not in forgetting what time it is? Did we not all just spend the past year going nowhere, seeing no one, crawling through the hours and days while wondering when the sentence might finally end? How pleasant was that?
So embrace it. Summer has started? It’s already half over? Let it fly, secure in knowing that you can reflect fondly on the flight afterward. That’s the point of winter, as far as I can tell.
SYRACUSE — The “evil eye” of ancient superstition has been found by scientific experiment to have a definite basis in fact, it was reported here today during the closing sessions of the American Association for the Advancement of Science by Dr. Otto Rahn, Professor of Bacteriology at Cornell University. He told of investigations conducted by him recently on “the influence of human radiation on micro-organisms.”
The human eye, Dr. Rahn declared he found only a few days ago, emanates a form of radiation similar in its action to that of ultraviolet rays and strong enough to kill yeast cells if held sufficiently close.