Today is the summer solstice. The precise time is 10.13am which is the time that the sun is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer - the most northerly point it can reach. It's hard to believe but from today the days start getting shorter again. Every year at this time I wonder how we can be here already. However it's a day of celebration, for example at Stonehenge - and other stone circles, where druids and pagans gather to watch the sunrise. In Sweden today is midsummer, originating as a pagan festival and continued today as a time for gathering with friends and family. In Finland it is celebrated in honour of Ukko, the god of the sky, weather, harvest and thunder in Finnish mythology. Bonfires are lit on midsummer eve, to keep the evil spirits away and to ensure a good harvest. In Shetland it's often known as "da simmer dim" although this doesn't really just refer to midsummer, actually translating as "the twilight of a Shetland summer evening" because at this time of year in Shetland, with over 19 hours of daylight, it barely gets dark. And of course, let's not forget half the world where they are very much not celebrating midsummer: in the southern hemisphere it's the turning at the other end and their days start lengthening, the darkest parts of winter over.
I can get a bit melancholy thinking that the shorter days means that summer is over already, but of course there are plenty of the lighter days still to come. This is a reminder to make the most of them. It's the perfect time to connect with nature, warm enough to sit outdoors, light enough to walk later in the evenings, beautiful colours in every garden and hedgerow, and the promise of autumn bounty to come. So why the picture of the oak tree? This is the Oak King's time of year, the summer god, at the height of his strength today, and powerful until the Autumn Equinox when the Holly King regains the crown.
We're lucky in Lanarkshire to have some of the oldest oaks in Scotland, the Cadzow Oaks in Chatelherault Country Park. If you have the opportunity, why not visit them in celebration of the Oak King. If you're not able to get to Chatelherault then check out this video all about them, and instead befriend an oak tree that is closer to home. This autumn you could even forage for an acorn and plant your own.