“Let us speak of the revels which are accustomed to be made on St. John’s Eve…”
– the monk of Winchcomb, 13th century
During the summer, the sky swerves and tilts on a new axis. It slides on its equinox like a child sliding down a stairway banister. Summer Solstice, bronzed as any sunbather, lingers high overhead, lingering in Cancer’s Tropic. The shadows of St. John’s Eve leach into the stones of Stonehenge and then are cast across the grasslands of Wiltshire. The stories and thoughts of the prehistoric builders are revealed – but no one has yet been able to read them.
At twilight, the whimsical sky is crowded with revelers. Constellations, long absent from the carnival stage, begin to arrive. A menagerie of holiday visitors – eagles (Aquila), swans (Cygnus), foxes (Vulpecula), horses with starry wingspans (Pegasus) dance an orbit to an astral harp (Lyra). The trace work of their steps pierces the indigo fabric in a metallic frost.
The astrological wheel turns along the summer ecliptics and celestial equators. When it stops, Sagittarius the centaur is rearing against the sky, pocked with nebulae and stars, shouldering his quiver of arrows. Scorpius, bright with novas and poison, waits. Libra, outlined with a distant harvest of blue, orange and red stars, prepares to carry its scales of justice and good behavior during the liveliest of seasons.
Sunsets are very gala. They are the color of sweet cocktails – honey and Benedictine, sangria with plums and nectarines, champagne and peach. They are warm and melting – coating the horizon with an invitation to an evening of celebrations.
During the carnival evenings, planets are eager to crowd into the sky. If the moon is curved into a crescent, they hang from her geometric grace like jewels. If the moon is full, wearing her summer colors – Strawberry, Rose or Red – she casts a cherry-colored cloak across her new neighbors. Mars and Saturn ride lowest on the horizon, drinking in the last of the sunset’s sugared alchemy. But Jupiter is bold and bright, sailing like a radiant ship towards the moon’s blushing presence.
When summer’s hot allure is exhausted, the sky revolves once more to reveal unfamiliar populations and landscapes that bend over a ripe solstice, a golden equinox heavy with crops. Constellations float in the thin, cold air: dolphins (Delphinus), fish (Pisces), whales (Cetus) swim in oceans kept full by the Aquarian water bearer. The full moon dons her working garb: Harvest, Hunter’s.
Breezes as chilly as lace curl like a fichu across the diamante bosom of the modest sky. They kick up gusts of meteors and shooting stars: the Orionids, the Taurids, The Leonids – even the final sweep of the Perseid meteor shower.
Stars that did not take these giddy rides are left behind, glittering and lonely in the cinnamon sky. They are scattered like the ribbons and furbelows of the departed revelers’ indulgences. They were the madcap reminders that tickled the crooked backs of the workers in the fields, the residues of warmth that whispered of the pleasures they had missed.