On June 21st – which marks the beginning of summer here in the northern hemisphere – we experience what will be a string of the “longest days” of the year. In fact, looking in my almanac, I see that June 19 – 21 are each of the same length of day, making them the longest days of the year (15hrs 17min from sunrise to sunset).
Lady String and I always make it a point to be outdoors on Summer Solstice evening and celebrate the longest day together. We try to have dinner at an outdoor restaurant, weather permitting (not all that many choices in the southern Boston region, actually, since it is a very short season), and then just take in the evening until the glow in the horizon gives way finally to the night. We were able to enjoy just such a night last week, with splendid, clear skies and short-sleeve warm temperatures.
The sun sets at its latest, here in the Boston area, between June 24 – 29, setting at 8:25pm. Civil twilight is probably around 9:20pm or so, and it is dark well before 10pm.
And that, to me, is such a bummer, because on June 30th, the sun will start setting earlier, beginning at 8:24pm and working it’s way methodically back to it’s earliest setting point, 4:12pm, from December 4 through 13. How can it be that the summer is just beginning and the days are already getting shorter? Shouldn’t we peak in the middle of summer, around August 1st? What was God thinking? That’s just not right.
And it just seems like even at its longest, the sun just sets way too early around these parts. Now, in Hammerfest Norway -- the land of the midnight sun -- the sun simply does not set at this time of year, or when it does, it only dips below the horizon for a few minutes before rising again. I’m not sure how fun that would be to live in (it must throw your sleep patterns off like crazy) but it would be a lot of fun to experience, and I hope to do so someday.
But here in eastern US, 8:25pm just does not seem like a late night. My brother lived in Grand Rapids, MI, which is on the western edge of this time zone, and he said that the sun didn’t set there until around 9:30pm at this time of year, and with the twilight, you could still be finishing up your golf game at 10pm. Now that seems to me to be a little more like it.
And two years ago I was on a beach in Den Haag, The Netherlands on June 21st, watching the sun set at just after 10pm. At 11:00pm we were still playing volleyball on the beach and having no problems with seeing clearly. By 11:20pm we finally stopped playing and decided to go have some beers. The only problem was that this Eastern-Time-Zone-dependent body somehow got fooled into thinking that the night was young as we headed to the pub for what turned out to be three rounds of Heinekens. My 6am wake-up call was not gentle the next morning. But after experiencing a lengthy, sunlit evening like that, I am even more aware of just how shortchanged we are getting in the Boston area as far as length of sunlit summer evenings go.
Lady String and I have vowed that if we move in the future, we will go someplace where the climate is kinder than it can be in New England, and will be on the western edge of a time zone, so that the summer nights can be brighter. We will also want to be near the ocean, so getting all three to line up will take a bit.
In the meantime, we will enjoy what we have here in New England, and will savor what we can of the summer days ahead … even though we have tasted longer evenings and know how sweet they really can be. But we are on the hunt.