Midsummer is the high point of the sun, but not of the summer. At least not here, where June can consist entirely of mud and rain, and where hot days last long after Lammas. It's been long, slow, lazy days here, and I keep marveling at how late the light goes. I know that in December I'll be shuffling home in the dark as soon as I leave class, and now the sun is high in the sky even after we've finished dinner.
Midsummer is swimming in light. Unlike the crazy burst of energy I get at Midwinter, Midsummer makes me doze. I want to curl up under trees and listen to sounds in the park. I want to lie down and feel the earth turning. Life--work, school, plans, people--doesn't stop for this, but in Midsummer I can almost make it slow down.
What are the gifts of Midsummer? Beltaine was a great shuddering Yes! and the gift of life. In the days since, we're surrounded with life and light, "drowning in Summer's cauldron," as XTC put it. So what more could Midsummer give us?
The key is the thing I least like to think about at Midsummer: that this is the point where the light begins to lessen. At Midwinter, I'm all to eager to hold onto that reversal, and at Midsummer I can't stand to think of darkness resurging. I want more light, more long evenings and strawberries.
But if the light continued to grow, or even if it stayed at this point, we would soon die. We might love the first month of it, but then we'd start hungering for shade, for night, and even for cold again. We'd suffocate or burn, and what's worse, we might even come to hate the light.
A friend explained to me recently that a heatwave had caused the strawberries in her garden to rot on the vine. For things to ripen well, for crops to grow and animals to thrive, the descent from Midsummer has to start.
Midsummer's gift to us is restraint and limit, the upper boundary of sunlight and warmth. We don't know it yet--for weeks after Midsummer, we'll still be surrounded in green. So our gift in return isn't really a response to that restraint, the way that at Samhain we struggle against the limits of death. Instead, we give love for the gifts of summer. We aren't asked to mourn now. It might even be a little insulting to start crying for the loss of all of this while being so well off.
What we give in return is enjoyment of summer, beyond the acceptance Yes that we gave at Beltaine. Acceptance of the good things that summer brings, made even more important by knowing that they won't last forever. Knowing that each thing has its season isn't the same as being sad that they can't last forever: what's important is to really love them in the finitude of that season.