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Celebrating the Sun

This wonderful life-affirming hot weather has lasted for nearly two weeks now, and opening doors and windows wide to catch any breeze, then watering the fruit and vegetable beds, have become part of my early-morning routine, as if these sweltering summer days had long been the norm.

And yet, Spring and Summer seem to have arrived later this year than I ever remember; in fact, at the end of March, as we were scraping the windscreen each morning and sliding to work through occasional blizzards and constant ice, we realised that exactly a year previously, we had been enjoying barbecues on the patio in short sleeves and bare feet! During the school Easter holidays, still reviving the wood fire every morning and turning over the scarves and gloves drying on the kitchen radiator, I found myself yearning for some natural warmth, for a day when you could turn your face up and feel the sun on your skin, when popping out for a loaf of bread no longer meant spending longer getting suitably clad than walking to the local shop. When the winter lasts for so long, everything takes more time, and so much of our energy is dedicated simply to coping with the cold. Movement takes more effort, for our joints and muscles are stiff, and we lose our spontaneity – we can’t just take a break and a walk in the woods, or go on an outing with the children at a moment’s notice, as everything has to be planned, to make sure that all of us are wearing enough warm clothes, that we can get home again if we have to abandon the car, and so on.
If we experience such yearning for the sun’s warmth, in spite of having homes and meals that can be heated at the touch of a switch, in spite of insulation and double-glazing that keep out icy draughts, in spite of a lifestyle where many of us work indoors, or at least have access to a warm room and a hot cup of tea whenever we need to recover from the chill wind – how much more must our ancestors have longed for the return of summer?
Perhaps these extra-long or extra-severe winters give us just a tiny glimpse of how it must have been for our ancestors. Only a tiny glimpse, because although we yearn for the sun, for them the return of warmer weather and longer days was truly a need, rather than just a preference or a matter or convenience. In our centrally-heated, cocooned, protected lives, with shops within easy travelling distance selling foodstuffs from around the world, it is difficult to appreciate how vital the return of spring and summer must have been: how people must have longed for it, and done whatever they thought was necessary to encourage the sun’s warmth to grow strong again. And these last two weeks, when summer has finally arrived in Sussex, I can appreciate those who celebrated and gave thanks for the return of hot weather: I’ve been feeling pretty appreciative and celebratory myself!