This week heralded the first day of summer, the summer solstice. The summer solstice is the day when the sun appears to travel its longest path through the sky and reaches its highest point. The tilt of the Earth on its axis on this day means the North Pole is shifted almost directly toward the sun resulting in the most hours of sunlight and the beginning of summer, the hottest season of the year and here in the northern hemisphere, the hottest days are ahead of us. It’s always struck me as odd, however, that the first day of summer announces the time of year that the days begin to get shorter and the amount of sunlight decreases each day.
The more one is mindful of one’s surroundings, the more you’ll start to recognize paradoxes all around you. Paradoxes have teased humankind as far back as the Greek philosopher, Eubulides, who lived in the fourth century BC and wrote about the Classical Logical Paradoxes. These antinomies are found everywhere; in math, physics and the human condition and the world around us.
I personally love discovering paradoxes in Nature. I find that feeling of mystery and apparent contradiction to be one of the most exciting aspects of the natural world.
Deep in the quiet, shade of a patch of oak woods on the Currant Farm, there is an ancient rock dropped on that very spot by a melting glacier from the last ice age. It has borne witness to the world around it for 20,000 years. Through millennia, it has shared this land with mastodons, woolly mammoths, caribou, ground sloths, mountain lions, bears and countless indigenous inhabitants and in spite of this glorious history, remains innocent and naïve, as rocks do.
This cairn is always cool and sultry and is where I go and keep company with its silent wisdom to clear the commotion of the world from my brain. I sit and first fix the direction of the breeze, no matter how slight, and focus on the scents it carries. It’s then I can lucidly turn my thoughts turn to a paradox as time melts away. As a naturalist, I hungrily devour knowledge of the natural world and contemplating these paradoxes causes me to question what I’ve thought was true and challenge and deepen my understanding of how our world works.