Tag Archives: summer solstice

Summer Parties on the Land

When Mike and I lived in Portland, we threw hum-dinger Winter Solstice parties. We played ‘60s Christmas record albums scrounged from estate sales, projected the original Grinch cartoon on a wall in the kitchen, and walked around with trays of freezer-cold shots of Rumple Minze in our grandmothers’ crystal cordial glasses.

As the first winter in our new home in the country approached, we did the math: copious liquor + driving 70 miles + sunset at 4:30 = DUIs and possibly blood on our hands.

We decided to switch to a Summer Solstice party.

Success! The parties started in the afternoon for the children’s-bedtime-slaves and continued late into the night for the rest of us. We grilled like mothereffers: Sausages! Salmon! Veggies! Veggie sausages! Whatever people brought, Mike or my dad slapped on the grill.

In the evening there was a fire. The first year, we had an enormous bonfire fed by downed trees and unsalvageable lumber (documented by Pete in an earlier blog post). Subsequent years, with drier weather, brought smaller fires in a metal fire ring in the middle of the driveway.

The year of our final Solstice party, in 2009, Klickitat County’s burn-ban started extra-early. There could be no open flame of any kind, not even in the middle of the driveway. Undaunted, Mike set out an oversized 1970s table lamp, connected to a string of electrical cords, and surrounded it with chairs. Humans, primal creatures that we are, surrounded the “lamp-fire” all night.

Cowboy Dan croons in front of the lamp fire (photo: R Frestedt)

We moved our car and pick-up out of the garage to make room for strawbale seating, potluck dish tables, and games. We tried to set up croquet but our ground, even on the “lawn,” was too bumpy; it was too windy for badminton. Ping pong and foosball, on the other hand, lasted well into the night.

The beauty of throwing a party at your house isn’t limited to living in the country: You can get as junked as you want—because you’re already home! The beauty of throwing a party on your own land is that your friends can be there, too. When the sun finally set over our cedars and firs, the tents went up around the fields. A few people popped the tops on their campers. A few slept on the living room floor. All were welcome; it was much better than trying to drive home.

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Every summer on the farm we threw a Summer Solstice party. There were plenty of locals in attendance, but it was more of an event for our friends who drove out from Portland. A Day in the Country! Complete with bonfires and barbeque grills (one meat, one veggie), croquet (because it is far too windy in the Gorge to play badminton), sing-alongs, and both dogs and kids running around in packs. The smart people brought a tent or camper and stayed overnight. Mike would cook up a mess of eggs, bacon and toast for the bleary-eyed survivors.

One year, Sean and Jen brought their kids, Ike and Tallulah—quite possibly the coolest-named kids in Oregon. The morning after the party, as I was on the deck squinting into the sun and sipping coffee, Tallulah ran up to me, wide-eyed and thrilled, beatific the way only a three-year-old can be. She delivered her news with an enthusiasm that would rival any Latin American soccer commentator’s:

“I went peepee, on the EARTH!” she enthused. “Mama said I could!”

Back in the day people relieved themselves of waste products, especially #1, anywhere they felt like it. While ducking into an alley and “watering a tree” still occur, it’s not particularly encouraged in the civilized world. But it’s fun! Easier for the penis-bearers, to be sure, but possible for anyone with a little practice (watch your feet!). And the nitrogen in urine is good for plants.

Everything about modernity removes humans from the natural world—shoes keep your toes from feeling the ground. Headphones block birdsong and the wind rustling the grasses. Toilets certainly have their place, but on a clear, starry night with owls hooting in the distance, or on a fresh summer morning with damselflies and hummingbirds flitting around, it’s nice to just be out there and let ‘er rip.

During her visit, Tallulah had petted a chicken, swung from a rope in the barn and raided the raspberry bushes. But if going peepee on the Earth was the highlight of her Day in the Country, so be it!

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