I have always loved the month of June. As a child it was a time of celebrations as both my brothers had June birthdays and even though later my parents dreaded the month, as it marked both the birth and the death of their middle child, for me it has always held a particular charm. It is the month when the garden really comes to life with flowers blooming everywhere. Even when the garden seems to be taken over by long grass and weeds the whole picture is one of vibrancy, an inexorable display of God’s glorious creation. My Grandmother had a tapestry in her house which included the following extract from a poem by Dorothy Frances Gurney:
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth.
This seems to ring so true in June when the garden is alive with colour and activity.
As a child, June meant making ice cream, days on the beach, playing badminton in the garden every evening, cycling with my friends. Later it would be dominated by exams but my best friend and I always made the most of the sunshine. We would plaster ourselves with sun oil and sunbathe in one another’s gardens while testing each other on our exam subjects. After a couple of hours of work, it would be time to reward ourselves with ice lollies or coke floats and then back to our studies. We worked hard but it never felt like it as the longer the studied the more likely it was that we would have noticeable sun tans.
Traditionally, the date of the June solstice influenced when people planted and harvested crops. Many believe that Stonehenge and similar megalith structures were built to help establish the occurrence of the summer solstice. Since ancient times people have gathered to celebrate the triumph of light over dark. Years ago people used to light bonfires on Midsummer’s Day to encourage the sun to shine. People would gather and roll blazing wheels down hill to imitate the journey of the sun across the sky. It was traditionally a time for love and marriage, a time for magic, a time when fairies would feast and dance from midnight until dawn.
Nowadays the majority of us simply focus on it being the start of Summer and we enjoy a lightening of spirits as a result. It is the time of Wimbledon, strawberries and cream, jugs of Pimms and Sunday barbecues with friends and family. There is the flurry of exam preparation followed by a gentle winding down of school work, rehearsals for end of year performances, sports days, long drawn out cricket matches on village greens. We polish off our bicycles and go off on cycle rides with our children seeking out pretty villages in which to enjoy a welcome drink or ice cream. The strict bedtime routines become relaxed as we take advantage of balmy summer evenings and stay outside for as long as we can, desperately trying to take full advantage of the kinder weather. We pack up picnics and set off on day trips to stately homes, the seaside, country shows and store up happy memories to see us through the darker months.
Now, as my children have started to study away from home June marks the beginning of the long holidays, the return of the older ones to the fold of their family. It offers completeness, a chance to renew the tight bonds between siblings, to experience again the joy of a large, loving family, an opportunity to fill the house and garden with the sound of joyful laughter, fun and games.
It’s beautiful the Summer month of June
When all of God’s own wildflowers are in bloom
And sun shines brightly most part of the day
And butterflies o’er lush green meadows play.
Light hearted skylark songster of the wing
High o’er the quiet and lonely moorland sing
Above her nest cloaked by the tangled heath
Her charming song so exquisitely sweet.
So mellow the gentle breath of june day breeze
The birds rejoicing on the leafy trees
And dappled trout in pool bed of the stream
Bask in the sun their spotted skins agleam.
God gave us June and all her lovely flowers
Bright sunny days and pleasant evening hours
Shady green glens and serene sunlit dells
And leafy bowers adorned with blue bluebells.
But god June’s maker has the final say
And what he give he also take away
And God’s own larks will trumpet in the sky
To celebrate the birthday of July.