Most of the headlines I saw said that Joe “fell off” his bike.
In the clips that I saw, it appeared that he had stopped riding, put a foot on the ground, and then keeled over.
“The President gracefully illustrated an important lesson for all Americans,” the subtitle pleaded—“when we fall, we must get back up.”
That’s not the lesson I took away from Biden’s mishap, but perhaps we can say that the accident was semantically overdetermined.
But since I write just a day or two away from an important event—summer solstice—I want to leave the dark comedy of the Biden administration to one side.
Ditto the hysterical, anti-Trump skirling of the kangaroo court presided over by soon-to-be-former Rep. Liz Cheney (D-Wyo.).
As is my habit at this time of year, I want to bracket (as the phenomenologists like to say) all that unpleasant partisan static and say something about the seasonal climacteric we encountered this week in the Northern hemisphere.
Over the succeeding days, it will appear to pause briefly. Then it will begin the (at first) slow movement to the south, bringing with it shorter days and (eventually) colder temperatures.
On summer solstice (“solstitium,” Latin for “sun-stopping”) in these parts, we’ll have approximately 15 hours and five minutes of daylight.
By the time the winter solstice rolls around near Christmas, we’ll be down to nine hours and eight or nine minutes.
Brrr! And turn on the light!
There is an outdoor performance of Shakespeare every summer near us, and I always appreciate it when the play is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
This year the play is “King John,” one of the least performed of the Bard’s efforts.
It’s also about one of the least popular of all English kings, however, so perhaps it does have a contemporary hook.
Last year, some residual COVID protocols required some makeshift “social distancing.”
I assume we’ll have put that behind us for this year’s performance.
Probably we'll have to sit through an announcement from management acknowledging that we were plopped down in the middle of some sacred Injun burial ground or something.
I live in a deep blue, politically correct place.
Such gestures are as common as Black Lives Matter signs.
Still, it didn’t matter.
No one paid the mea culpas any mind.
It was midsummer eve; it was Shakespeare; everyone was determined to be delighted and was.
I remember as a child overhearing my mother remark to other grownups early in July that summer was “basically over” once the Fourth of July had come.
“What, are you nuts?” I thought at the time.
The Fourth of July might not be the very start of summer, but think about how many glorious days and weeks lay ahead.
So many that you could hardly count them.
Now that I am at least as old—in truth, a good deal older—than my mother had been when sharing that observation, I have a visceral appreciation of her point.
We hardly stow the bunting from the July 4 festivities before people are talking about Labor Day and back-to-school sales.
What happened to the intervening dispensation?
In a charming essay about growing up at the rural fastness of Great Elm in Sharon, Connecticut, my late friend Bill Buckley recalled his discovery of the awful secret.
“It was about that time,” he wrote, “that I came upon nature’s dirty little secret. It was that beginning on the twenty-first day of June, the days grew shorter!”
“All through the spring we had had the sensual pleasure of the elongating day, coinciding with the approach of the end of the school year and the beginning of summer paradise.”
The awful truth wiggled its way into consciousness.
“My knowledge of nature and nature’s lore,” Buckley admitted, “has never been very formal, and so ... I came to the conclusion from the evidence of my senses that in late July it was actually getting dark when it was only 8:30! I wondered momentarily whether we were witnessing some sign of divine displeasure.”
I often have that feeling.
We are in the midst of reading Plutarch in my office reading group, and I ticked this passage in the life of Camillus, the “Second Founder of Rome” (c. 446–365 B.C.): “There were intimations of divine anger, requiring propitiations and offerings.”
Camillus neglected to give Apollo his due after an important victory.
What sacrifice have we neglected?
In any event, I write on the eve of the solstice.
The weather report (to which, for some reason, I pay much more attention these days than I ever did in the past) is hinting at gloomy weather later this week, but just now the sun is blazing away in dazzling blue skies dotted discreetly here and there with handsome processions of puffy white clouds.
Joe and his bike and Liz Cheney and her obsessions seem very far away.