Reassurances on the longest day

PHOTO: Alexander Kozlov, Flickr CC-BY
Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Mesabi Tribune.

Today has long day written all over it.

This is my favorite contextual joke of all time, one I proudly deliver each year on the summer solstice. My Facebook memories record each year’s entry, always the same. 

You might think I tell this joke because I am a dad. But I’ve been doing this long before fatherhood, since childhood, for reasons that I can’t even remember.

It’s not funny. Not anymore. And that’s hardly the point. This is my ritual incantation now, something I say to bring order and comfort to the world around me. In six months I’ll say “Boy, this day just flew by,” and I’ll have completed an oral contract with the universe to keep trying, somehow, no matter what I face.

That’s what made the solstice a celebrated holiday in varying human cultures for untold millennia. You can argue about religion and politics, but the giant ball of hot gas pumping us full of radiation cannot be negated or negotiated away. The sun rises and sets, for reasons that we understand better with each passing year.

For instance, we now understand that Earth rotates on an axis, and that this axis is tilted, like a wobbly top. So the northern and southern hemispheres take turns being closest to the sun. “Summer,” from the Old English “sumor,” meaning the hottest time of the year, or the beginning of the year itself in the older Sanskrit “samā.”

On this very day, unless it’s cloudy, we get the most of two important commodities: warmth and light, primal sensations that have long driven the existence of life itself. Something about that reminds us that we are alive, a fact that drudgery and repetition might cause us to forget. For me, the word is “reassurance.”

We have a funny little dog named Daisy. She’s half-chihuahua and half some kind of terrier(s). She’s the most expressive animal I’ve ever met, and among the most emotionally needy. Naturally she fits right in with our household where these are not recessive traits.

Whenever we leave Daisy home alone she handles herself just fine, napping peacefully on the couch. But when we get home I must perform a very specific ritual. I call it “reassurances.” 

I have to sit in my chair so that the panicked dog may jump up on my lap. She sits back on her hind legs, a bit like a penguin (fitting for her black-and-white coloring) while I rub her paws. I have to say certain phrases.

“You’re OK, Daisy. It’s alright. You’re a good girl. We’re home now and everything is fine.” After about thirty seconds she goes right back to her spot on the couch to complete her nap. The worry drains from her face. She is fine. 

I think these days we all need reassurances. We need to know that things are OK and that we’re trying our best and that everything ends up where it belongs in the end. We want to feel that everything is fine. 

It’s not fine, of course. People and animals die. Injustice and hardship prevail far too often. Petty grievances and rivalries block love and friendship. But we do not need to wallow in these things. We can be reassured, and that starts by reassuring others. 

And each year the sun reassures us that, once again, it is near to us, warming us, and that even when it is farthest from us it will come back again. 

It is a thin band of air that supports life on this hurtling world of water and stone. Just being here is a baffling miracle. Things can’t possibly be fine, but then again maybe they are. 

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and co-hosts the podcast “Power in the Wilderness” on Northern Community Radio. This piece first appeared in the Sunday, June 20, 2021 edition of the Mesabi Tribune.



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