From the physics of a wood fire to the chemistry of a star, we know so much today – or at least, we could learn so much. And yet, too often, we find ourselves not even at home enough to notice something as elemental as the changing of the seasons.
The summer solstice just passed; the sun “reached its highest point in the (Northern hemisphere’s) sky” – in parentheses because it’s not really the sun doing anything, but our Earth. So, summer begins, the days are getting shorter again.
More obviously dependent on the seasons and on doing the proper agricultural work at the proper times as earlier societies were, it is a day marked in many a tradition.
Here in Austria, in the Alps especially, people are traditional enough for some solstice (and other – it was conveniently combined with further events and given further meanings) remembrance to have survived or re-surfaced, marked by these most elemental phenomena of human culture, fires – the “Sonnwendfeuer” (solstice fires) on the mountains.
Time for me, in my quest to make myself – and give you ideas for how to make yourself – at home in this world to head out for another little adventuring. This time, a (shortest of the year’s) night of it.
Short it was indeed. Out in the afternoon, up the Feuerkogel early evening, I went. (with a backpack, feeling weighed down by it and tired, and then getting to the top faster than the last time, when that was supposed to be a run – go figure).
Sunset came after a little stroll around the plateau on top, around 9 pm, with the sun coming out below the clouds for some fascinating views into the far distance.
The solstice fire started early, during that time.
Ducking into one of the restaurants up there for a warming soup, temperatures having gone down quite a bit, meant entering into a raucous atmosphere (there was music) and a continuing discussion about different cameras and photography with a fellow picture-taker met before.
Out again for another look around and more photography, in the dark now, I was wondering about heading down and home, staying on top and waiting for the sunrise, or something in between, as there were stars coming out, but also some clouds moving around.
Finally, I made the decision to return as early as possible, and therefore head down slowly. About halfway down, I discovered a perfect place to sleep, without undergrowth that may hide ticks, but with the most impressive canopy of trees and stars above.
All the way back down, after only two hours of sleep, I went on the familiar path, in less-familiar but welcome moonlight, as the glow of the next day was coming up.
And finally, there I was on the way back home, to a most-amazing of sunrises, checking out the photos and resting on the train.
Simple really, inexpensive, and yet another memory to cherish. Good for the ‘civilizational/civilized compromising‘, too: My wife hadn’t wanted me to go, up there I remembered that I had been in the exact same spot at the same time of the year a few years ago – and though I had recently been feeling as if nothing had changed, certainly not for the better, there I realized that it had.
Sure, I wouldn’t have had to go out to realize that. Except I did, and the balance of challenge and convenience makes for all the greater an appreciation.
All in a short night’s adventuring.