The Summer Solstice occurs today, the moment during the year when the sun is at its highest point in the sky, marking the beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and the day with the most daylight. In New York City, we can expect more than 15 hours of daylight.
Take a moment if you can to think about the change in seasons brought about by astronomical happenings, by the Earth's tilt and the changing relative positions of the Earth and Sun. Think about the power of the Sun--its light and the heat that warms the Earth and brings forth life and Earth's bounty. And in this moment of honoring the Sun, we also know that from this point the days will become shorter and we begin our transition towards darkness.
by Mary Oliver
Have you ever seen
in your life
than the way the sun,
relaxed and easy,
floats toward the horizon
and into the clouds or the hills,
or the rumpled sea,
and is gone–
and how it slides again
out of the blackness,
on the other side of the world,
like a red flower
streaming upward on its heavenly oils,
say, on a morning in early summer,
at its perfect imperial distance–
and have you ever felt for anything
such wild love–
do you think there is anywhere, in any language,
a word billowing enough
for the pleasure
that fills you,
as the sun
as it warms you
as you stand there,
or have you too
turned from this world–
or have you too
New York City is surrounded by wilderness--REAL wilderness, not the "urban jungle" or cut-throat work culture of high finance on Wall Street. The waters that surround New York and connect it to far away places offer a vast, undeveloped environment beyond the control of humankind. And what better way to experience this expanse than by sail boat?
Docked until June 25 at the North Cove Marina in Battery Park City, and at other times this week at Liberty Landing Marina across the Hudson in Jersey City, are a dozen 70-foot racing yachts preparing to embark on the eighth and final leg--the 2,000 miles from New York to Derry-Londonderry--of a year-long race around the world. The Clipper Race is a 40,000 nautical mile race created by Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world. Knox-Johnson recognized that more people have climbed Mount Everest than sailed around the world and was motivated to change this. With the aim of opening adventure sailing to a wider audience, the race invites everyday people to participate and is now in its eleventh season.
A friend, Catherine North, is crew member for Sanya Serenity one of the twelve boats in the race. While some crew members participate in only one of the eight legs, Catherine is on board for the full ride. I was fortunate to be able to spend some time with her during her stopover in New York and to learn more about her breathtaking adventure, an adventure she describes as teaching her even more about herself than it has taught her about sailing.
The race started last July in Liverpool, with with stopovers in Uruguay, South Africa, Australia, China, Seattle, and--now--New York. And along the way, the fleet made two Equator crossings, traveled along the Tradewinds, through the Doldrums, across the Atlantic and the South Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, amid 80-foot swells and 70 mile-per-hour winds, through the South and East China Seas, across the International Date Line, across the Pacific, through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean, and on to New York, before heading along the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current on the final leg across the Atlantic.
If you have a chance, check out the Clipper Race fleet in our nearby harbor (open tours are available until the 23rd). And even if you aren't able to see the fleet, invite your imagination to carry you across the city's nearby water, out through the harbor and on towards distant lands.
As I hope came across in my previous blog, I had a magical time looking up at the sky from the roof of my building a few days ago. A few evenings later, after a day of work followed by dinner with my daughter, I ventured up there again, a perfect way to enjoy time outside while still being close to home.
It was twilight when I arrived, and the breeze made the world feel open and alive, a contrast to the cozy yet restricted feeling within the walls of my apartment. Glancing around, I notice a faint light in the sky to the west. Venus? Or was it a satellite? No, it wasn't moving like a satellite. And it was too early and too bright to be a star. It was Venus, second planet from the Sun, named after the Roman god of beauty and love. Content to be in the open air, I lingered for over an hour. When I looked toward Venus some time later, it was lower in the horizon. Venus was setting.
Meanwhile, in the southeast sky the full moon peeked out behind a nearby building. And with the darkening sky, faint stars started to appear overhead, mirrored far below by human-made star clusters of apartment lights. I thought about the vastness of our galaxy, the recent discovery of countless other galaxies, and how throughout the history of humankind we have charted the heavens, navigated by them, formed mythologies around them. Venus was the first planet whose motions were plotted across the sky, in the second millennium B.C. And yet here, in a city where the strength of human-made lumens blocks out so much of the visible night sky, and where our own sense of importance--the towers we build ever higher--too often overshadows our awareness of the natural world, we often forget the continual celestial activity happening around us.
Enraptured by cosmic happenings, I was jarred back into the world of New York, New York 2018 by an argument erupting between a couple on a balcony of a nearby building:
She: "Why does it always have to be about you!"
He: "I just need some down time after work. I'm tired. It's been a long day!"
She: "I'm tired too. I need down time too! "
There on the very plain roof of my very ordinary building, in counterpoint and like a grand joke, was the full scope of Venus in action: Our need to feel supported by the people dear to us and the disconnect we often feel with them. Our hunger for understanding and love. The urgency of our feelings. And meanwhile, the earth spins round and round, the moon orbits the earth ever changing in its phases, and Venus and the sun rise and set as they have for eons, long before we ever walked this earth, long before there was a "you", long before there was an "I".
To the Evening Star
by William Blake 1789
Thou fair-hair'd angel of the evening,
Now, while the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves; and, while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares thro' the dun forest:
The fleeces our flocks are cover'd with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thine influence.
About this Blog
Hi! I'm Nancy Kopans, founder of Urban Edge Forest Therapy. Join me on an adventure to discover creative ways to connect with nature in your daily life, ways that are inspired by urban surroundings that can reveal unexpected beauty, with the potential to ignite a sense of wonder.