Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Solstice

Here's a pleasant thought: Islam is getting soft. 

I'm serious. It's happening, and it's happening today especially, the longest day of the year.

Just so happens that this year the month of Ramadan, Islam's high-holy days, just happens to coincide with the summer solstice, which is no big deal if you live anywhere near the equator, but more than a little troublesome if, as so many Muslims do today, you live farther north, say in Norway or Denmark.

Why troublesome? Because Ramadan requires fasting between sunrise and sunset, which means--you can see where this is going--that Muslims who live anywhere near, say, Ft. Yukon, Alaska, go into near starvation because, for them, the sun barely sets. You go hungry 23 hours, then pig out and start the whole horror over again the next day 

"Not fair," some believer from up north must have said. So the head Imam--or a committee thereof--determined that a good Muslim, no matter where he or she lives beneath the arc of the sun, can celebrate Ramadan by watching the hours of the day in Mecca, no matter when darkness falls, and fast only during those hours.

I know old men in my religion who'd call that argument what it is--a slippery slope. See what I mean?--today the mosque is run by liberals!

Today is the longest day of the year. I'm not Muslim, but I'm conscious of summer solstice, as are millions of others because today we are at a point distinguished by a dark reality--there's nowhere to go but down. Our lives edges slowly go south right now. Days go short, nights go long. Summer fades. What's green out back goes brown. Soon we use the fireplace. It's all very sad.

'T'would be really dismal if it weren't an annual thing, a heavenly ritual we celebrate only because the earth is slightly out of round in orbit, it's pilgrimage a bit oblong. Tomorrow the days get shorter--that's not news. Even your bones will tell you as much.

Once upon a time, not so very far from here, some band of Yanktons lived and moved and had their being, just a half mile north and east on a big bend of the river. That's something I like to think. Wherever they were in the neighborhood, I'm sure they paid closer attention to heavenly lights than we do, and with good reason--the only light they had was from up above. 

Here and there they put out rocks to see the sun's progress along the horizon, to determine when it was time to think about moving. This morning, were there ever Yanktons at the bend, some early riser could well have looked down the path of the rocks and said to himself, sadly, that it would soon be time to get out the woolen socks. 

In England, there's a happy crowd at Stonehenge right now because if the sky is not overcast the sun rises right through a central portal at solstice. Right now within those big fat stones a thousand cell phones are shooting the dawn, I'm sure. 

Gorgeous dawns are almost a rule-of-thumb this time of year. This morning's wasn't spectacular, but it was beautiful--a dawn of loose ends, slabs of flatline clouds in pancake layers against a bronze sky in the east. 

But the big story is the bitter sweet solstice, the longest day. Tomorrow won't be. 

The heavens declare the glory of God, the psalmist says. He was right, in so many ways.

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