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Eric Douglas: Summer is here -- go do it!

There are three “summers.”

There is the unofficial beginning of summer that happens on Memorial Day. There is meteorological summer that begins on June 1 and then there is today: June 21 – astronomical summer. Today is the summer solstice and the day the earth and the sun say it is summer -- at least for the Northern Hemisphere.

By the time you are reading this, the actual solstice will have already passed. It happened at 12:24 a.m. this morning. (If you lived in the Central Time Zone, it would have happened last night at 11:24 p.m. It happens at the same instant all around the world, so the actual time changes depending on where you are.)

At the actual solstice, the sun has reached its northernmost position in the sky relative to the planet. (Of course, we couldn’t see it, because it happened at night.) The earth doesn’t orbit the sun directly upright. It leans at 23.5 degrees. This is what makes summer days longer and hotter while winter is cooler and shorter.

Ancient civilizations, from the druids, to the Aztecs to the Mayans and whoever built Stonehenge, have revered the sun’s progress through the sky. They built temples to the summer solstice.

Today has the most daylight hours of any day of the year. (I once said it was the longest day of the year and a friend asked if it had more than 24 hours. I have since learned to be more precise.) The winter solstice has the least amount of daylight in the year. From a glass half empty perspective, the summer solstice makes me a little sad, because I know every day for the next six months will get a bit shorter – just a minute or two at a time, but it is still decreasing.

In spite of that slightly negative outlook, summer is here and it is time to get out and enjoy it. Hit the pool or, better, yet a local lake.

Can’t stand the heat? Take a hike in the forest or go explore a mountain stream somewhere.

In West Virginia, we are lucky to have beauty and nature everywhere around us. Don’t ignore it or focus on getting to the beach and then nothing else. Make a plan to get out and do summer right.

Eric Douglas, of Pinch, is the author of “Return to Cayman,” “Heart of the Maya,” “Cayman Cowboys,” “River Town” and other novels. He is also a columnist for Scuba Diving Magazine and a former Charleston Newspapers Metro staff writer. For more information, visit www.booksbyeric.com or contact him at Eric@booksbyeric.com


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