Real needfire – from which Midsmmer fires should be lit – can only be made by rubbing two pices of wood together… We were always fascinated that such a tiny flame could make the twilight seem deeper and so much more blue – we thought of that as the beginning of the magic; and it was tremendously important that the taper shouldn’t blow out as we came down the tower steps and crossed the mound… Once the fire is blazing the countryside fades into the dusk, so I took one last look round the quiet fields, sorry to let them go. Then I lit the twigs. They caught quickly – I love those early minutes of a fire, the crackles and snappings, the delicate flickers, the first sharp whiff of smoke. The logs were slow to catch so I lay with my head near the ground and blew. Suddenly the flames raced up the wigwam of branches and I saw the snowy moon trapped in a fiery cage. Then smoke swept over her as the logs caught at last. I scrambled up, and sat back watching them blaze high. All my thoughts seemed drawn into the fire – to be burning with it in the brightly lit circle of stones. The whole world seemed filled with hissing and crackling and roaring.

And then, far off in the forgotten dusk, someone called my name.

~Dodie Smith, I Capture The Castle (1949)

° ° °

The solstice doesn’t have quite the same history or importance in this part of the world (Lat 37°47’S Long 144°58’E). Here, the length of days do not noticeably wax or wane with the seasons and we’re more worried about a drought, rather than a harsh, interminable winter. Still, it’s nice to pause and mark the Winter Solstice and realise that the warmer weather will soon be here.

High Summer, 2003


2 Comments to “Solstice”

  1. That’s a lovely passage – I know nothing of it. Back home (and as an earnest teenager with slightly hippyish leanings) the solstices had a real significance for me, or at least I wanted them to; either way, they seemed more real back then, as did the seasons in general.
    These days in London, it’s easy to forget or ignore the cycles of nature, eating supermarket-bought strawberries in december and whatnot…It’s nice to be reminded of the wider context…

  2. I too know little about midsummer… but i’ve always loved the romance of it. Probably gleaned from the myriad of historical/romance/fantasy novels read during my impressionable teenage years. not to mention ‘I Capture The Castle’ which I’m sure I read years ago but rediscovered recently. Yes, we get the ridiculous strawberries-during-winter malarkey over here as well. and they taste awful! When will the supermarkets learn?…

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