Most of you may or may not know, but this Wednesday is the day of the summer solstice, officially marking the first day of summer. June 20th is one of four days during the 365-day year when the earth reaches a strategic point in its orbit around the sun, and this position of the Earth, combined with its axial tilt towards the Sun, influences the amount of daylight we receive in a day. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, meaning we get the most sunlight in a day than we will experience all year. Many of you may be immediately thinking of the stellar tan you can get this Wednesday, but the Green Divas are here to remind you of a few other ways you can celebrate the sun on the official first day of summer.
I’d like to affectionately think of June 20th as summer’s annual “coming-out-party,” where the sun stays out extra long to remind us of the sunny weeks and gorgeous late sunsets to come.
I remember from hiking in Morris County with my mother and my Girl Scout Troop as a little girl that the Lenape Indians, native to northern New Jersey, used to feel to the same way, too. Journeying with my troop I learned that the Lenape tribe used to travel from their winter settlement and climb near Tripod Rock, which is part of the Morris County Parks Commission, around the time of the summer solstice. Legend has it that the Native Americans used to sit atop an apex boulder on this ridge that faced the horizon to the west, and on June 20th, as the sun was setting, they would stare into the horizon; if the sun shone and struck them directly between their eyes, they knew the solstice had come, and summer was here. From this day in the year they would follow the Minisink Trail, which led from the mountains to the seashore, to reach the southern beaches to spend the summer months before returning to the north for winter – kind of like how we all seem to transport to the Jersey Shore in the summer to soak up the sun and spend some time at the beach.
Since this area of northern New Jersey still remains wooded and a great place to hike, why not ditch the car or the house this Wednesday and spend the day outdoors trekking to Tripod Rock in the Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area? There’s no better way to pay homage to our planet than to spend the day in nature, and there’s no better way to spend the solstice than the place of our predecessors. The hike is moderately difficult but offers beautiful outlooks along the way as well as the intriguing monument that is Tripod Rock itself: a huge boulder balanced on three small rocks, a ‘glacial erratic’ within the park. And, if you’re stressed about the trek, don’t fret – you got all day!
The Sun is Generous – Take Advantage of the Power it Offers Us!
With the increased amount of sunlight available this Wednesday, why not take this opportunity to invest in an eco-friendly solar-powered gadget? Solar power is a clean, renewable form of energy that, during the summer months, can be totally reliable and totally useful for everyday energy needs. On PCWorld’s website, they rate 15 Hot Solar Powered Gadgets that range from toys to a tablet to a table – most of which serve to charge other precious objects, like a cell phone, on the go with the solar charge. My pick would be the Soulra Solar Boom Box, which has a flip-out solar panel and not only plays your music outside for eight hours but also charges your iPod or iPhone at the same time. To me, that means plenty of hours of outdoor tunes while relaxing by the pool, on a picnic, or at a party. The summer solstice would be the perfect time to take advantage of the sun’s power and lighten up on our regular energy use.
Ahhhhh – Nothing Like Fresh Laundry from the Line Outside
Another way we can abate our energy use and harvest that of the sun is to avoid the drier when doing our laundry. After living in Italy for four months without a drier in my apartment, I can’t help but think how optimal the summer months are for air-drying clothes and skipping the energy expenditure of using a drier for clothes that can easily dry on their own. Fabrics that aren’t cotton and wick moisture effectively, like athletic shorts and light pajamas, will dry quickly, and we often own multiples of those items of clothing, so they usually won’t set our wardrobes back if we take the extra time (and sunlight!) to dry them outside. If you have some laundry to do, add some softener to the mix and lay your clothes on your deck, on a rack, or even on your lawn in the sun. I even hear that letting your whites dry in the sunlight keeps them whiter and brightens them! So save some energy and do the old-fashioned thing this Wednesday in the name of summer.
There are countless ways to take advantage of the extra sun this solstice, like spending time at the shore or soaking up some of the rays ourselves. As any environmentalist might tell you, the sun makes the world go round – so this Wednesday might not be a bad day to take the time to get outside, appreciate the sun, and take full use of it while it will be out in full-force. Happy Summer!