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Alicia Explores the Southtowns: Summer solstice marked new beginning

A photo I took during the summer of 2010 at Hamburg Town Beach, my first ever Southtowns moment.
Summertime and the living is surely easier. Saturday, June 21 marks summer solstice, this year.

On an ancient front, it is a day that has been celebrated as marking the longest day of the year, among many cultural and spiritual levels.

Astronomically, the summer solstice is when the sun reaches the highest point relative to the celestial equator. According to The Farmer’s Almanac©, solstice is derived from the Latin solstitum; “sol” meaning sun and “stitium” meaning “to stop.” The sun is higher in the sky and visible for longer (as opposed to during the winter months). The summer solstice, specifically, is the day with the most occurring sunlight hours during one year.

The History Channel compiled and published a list of “Summer Solstice Traditions,” which explore the historical magnitude of this day.

Ancient Greeks celebrated the agricultural god Cronus (father of Zeus) and also marked one month until the Olympic games. Romans celebrated Vesta – the virgin goddess of hearth, home and family – by offering a sacrifice.

In ancient China, citizens ceremoniously acknowledged and honored the earth, femininity and yin.

Bonfires were held by Celtic, Germanic and Slavic pagans. For what the Vikings called “midsummer,” the group would also build fires and visit wells that were thought to have special healing power.

Some Native American tribes would perform ceremonial sun dances.

According to NPR’s Star Date, Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, first appeared at dawn around the time of the summer solstice, just before the beginning of the Nile River’s flood season. Sirius, the centerpiece of the Egyptians solar calendar, became a vital prediction, and marked the beginning of the new year.

All in all, summer solstice is a celebration of life. The weather is warmer. Dogs can be seen once again stretching their legs in parks or walking down the street. Windows of cars are rolled down to let the fresh breeze flow. Friends are more eager to gather, as the barricade of winter has been busted open and we find ourselves succumbing to the heavenly scent of barbecue.

Last year was my first summer spent in the Southtowns. I got to know the streets, sounds and sights of the village of Hamburg. After a day exploring Angola on the Lake, I learned of little beautiful natural pockets of Western New York.

The city met the Southtowns, when many of my friends who DJ played an event that was held at Woodlawn Beach. The sun was bright, the beer was cold and as we ate tacos and danced in the sand, my friends could not believe that such a wonderful little place existed so close outside of the city limits.

After hiking Chestnut Ridge Park, I finally encountered the eternal flame. I kept exploring even further west until I hit Jamestown.

Almost every evening, I would lock up the doors of The Sun office – my first “real world job” out of college – and I would immediately see the colors of the setting sun to the west.

However, I did have a Southtown experience or two, prior to that. Most notable is the Hamburg Town Beach.

A past roommate of mine introduced me to that place, before I knew what the Southtowns really entailed. Before I even knew The Sun newspaper existed.

Never will I forget watching the sun set over Lake Erie. I remember, vividly, listening to “At The Bottom Of Everything” by Bright Eyes. The colors of the sky were powerful, vibrant shades of pink, orange and hazy golden hues.

I remember going back to that beach and sitting on the sand, watching the stars with a dear friend. We talked for hours about life and existence, with only the sound of rippling water among our voices.

With the healing and energizing power of the sun, summertime means exploration. Stepping out of your comfort zone and doing things a little bit differently. Trying new foods and seeing new sights. Relaxing and opening your senses to the breeze, the flowers, the sand beneath your feet or the taste of thirst-quenching fruit. Being joyful.

I leave you with a summer blessing I stumbled upon.

“As the sun spirals its longest dance. Cleanse us ... Let all things live with loving intent, and to fulfill their truest destiny.”

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