Canadians love their 4 seasons, right?

Summer solstice

Rippling heat waves rise and wiggle a belly dance over the searing white sand at Sunoka Beach.

Even though my eyes are closed I can feel and see the excruciatingly bright orange sun’s rays burning through my eyelids – squealing gulls whirl and dance in the air currents overhead. The sand forms a warm, comforting cup around my laid out torso like an Ikea futon.

I’m seriously considering getting up and heading to the beach’s snack stand on the riser above me. A light breeze has delivered a salty-scented roiling mix of hot canola oil and French fries with a pungent tinge of vinegar that grabs and tugs insistently at me, like a dog wanting its evening walk outdoors.

A pretty young woman sitting on a towel just next to me smiles and spreads coconut-scented oil in white streaks across the lipstick-red shoulders of her little girl — the fidgety one with sand-coated pig tails and blue polka dots on her white tankini.

Summer has just pressed its way through the revolving seasonal door and is abundantly full of promise — long unending days overflowing with an exploding mixture of blossom scents, insect songs, and Beach Boys harmonies floating past in cherry-red convertibles.

Little girl at beach

Canadians LOVE their 4 seasons.

Correction: Canadians THINK they love their 4 seasons.

I’ve come to realize it’s really just a mass deception, like FOX TV’s reports of WMD’s in my backyard. It’s because we don’t know any different. Or at least that used to be the case before huge airplanes vacuumed us all up and layered us out like cookies on an oven tray on spicy southern beaches each winter.

Changing from hot to cold and all of the temperature gradients in between is all we know and so we accept this in our young’ish years. Then little-bit-by-little-bit we grow older and we tire of ice and snow and shoveling and driving through slushy streets under city street lights.

Black ice gels beneath the heavy snow and we slide uncontrollably into the rear of the car in front. We swear and slam our palm against the steering wheel in frustration. I hate winter, we say.

winter fender bender

But winter isn’t where we began as humans … we started our existence as nomads on hot African plains. Later we adapted by making clothes and shoes to protect and survive harsher climates that were forced on us by changing circumstances. We were bred and evolved in the hot rays of solar heat.

And then we rambled.

And rambled some more, until one day a lost pod of us found ourselves chasing beavers and buffaloes on a whole different continent; a northern continent that blended short periods of Africa-like sunbursts with longer stints of ice-block cold, dark days.

The upshot of all this preamble is that I loath June 21st – we call it Summer Solstice, the longest daylight day of the year for us Northern hemispherites.

I call it Summer Sadness. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but it’s the end of daylight optimism for the year.

I spend my life anxiously anticipating the sweet chocolate cream-cheese icing on my birthday cake, or a tax cheque, or a vacation, or a million things that make me look forward with hope and excitement.

There’s a famous maxim stated by Robert Louis Stevenson that “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive” that sums up the approach of summer’s leading edge. June 21 is one of those things that, day-by-day I anxiously await and look forward to with trepidation. I want the luxuriously long days to come but then all too soon they peak and I don’t want to let go.

It’s a terrible conundrum. There’s an oxymoron of emotional sensation. Sun, warmth, perfume-smells, cool-warm refreshing lake water… The chirp of the cricket that sends us to sleep, the early morning melodious trill of the red-winged blackbird, the annoying squawk of the stellar jay perched on the nectarine tree at full-sun noon.

Stellar Jay squawking

These are happy moments that the melancholy thoughts of advancing shorter days betray, like the bittersweet notion of a beaming new bride on her wedding day who knows that one day she’ll likely be a widow.

Oftimes we want the seasons to speed along their way and transport us forward to an eagerly anticipated event or time. Conversely, at other moments in our lives, it is our greatest wish to suspend the march of time so we can savour special occasions or sensations.

My most memorable June 21st – Summer Solstice, 1979 – I sat on a concrete curb outside a beautiful park in Interlaken, Switzerland while backpacking as a young man of 21. I was lonely and homesick, wanting nothing more than to be back home with my new girlfriend. I wanted the seconds and minutes to sprint ahead like Usain Bolt – who cared if the days became shorter, all that mattered was the companionship of the one I most wanted to be with.

Many journeys around the sun and many solstices have passed since that day. I still struggle with the push and pull of the passages of season and time.

Now that we’ve seen the backside of summer solstice for 2013, I’ll begin to mark the days and months off my calendar until … yes … the happiest time of the year … Winter Solstice … December 21, the renaissance of the days that grow longer.

Oh, I’m still going to enjoy the warm, relatively long days of summer. I’ll lay on the hot sand at Sunoka Beach – I’ll swim out to the buoys 100 meters offshore while savouring the intermingled chilly and warm currents of Okanagan Lake.

But, somewhere in the back recesses of my mind, a little bastard devil will be persistently reminding me that today’s hours of sunshine are fully a hair’s breadth shorter than yesterday’s.

Okanagan Summer morning

Summer morning on Okanagan Lake…

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