Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Tomorrow, Friday, will be the longest day of the year for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere.

It's called the summer solstice, and I think I learned all about it in fifth grade science. It seems that somehow the earth has tilted on its axis — that's this pole that runs through the planet from the North Pole to the South Pole, which is why they're called poles but really they're one long pole and … and now you see why I don't talk science very often.

I have to admit, though, that I am almost as fascinated now as then about how the time the sun shines changes depending on what time of year it is, and where you are on the earth.

While the rest of my classmates were trying to figure out how long it took Bugs Bunny to dig a tunnel to China, I was busy dreaming about summer in December in Australia. I did the shine the lamp on the globe and move it around experiment tons of times trying to figure it all out.

I was particularly fascinated by the concept of days when the sun never set in the Arctic, and conversely the days when the sun never rose. I still haven't made it to Alaska, let alone the Arctic Circle, but I continue to think about it. "White Fang" by Jack London was a favorite book in my childhood, and "Northern Exposure" is one of my three all-time favorite television shows. ("Mork And Mindy" and "Hill Street Blues" if you really want to know.)

The same thing happens in reverse in the Antarctic — which is why it's called Antarctic. That goes down a whole other rabbit hole of word origins, prefix meanings and the like. I'll stick with sunshine talk this time around.

Then there is the other extreme, down around the equator. By and large, every day there is the same — 12 hours of sunshine, 12 hours of dark. It sounds a bit boring. But again, all I can do is speculate — never been there.

So back to the summer solstice. On Friday, the sun will rise here at 5:42:35 a.m. It will set at 8:08:19 p.m., for a total of 14 hours, 25 minutes and 44 seconds, give or take a few hundredths of a second.

Figuring 4 1/2 hours for a round of golf, and with the understanding that you can only play when the sun is up, that means you could play an easy three rounds on Friday. And believe it or not, I've actually done that once — a long time ago and goaded on by my son, Alex.

That also means that there is only 9 hours and 35 minutes of nighttime between Friday and Saturday. Given the increasingly small time I manage to sleep as I age, that's not really a problem for me. But you try to get a 2-year-old to go to bed while it's still light outside. That's no blessing, believe me.

I have always enjoyed summer time — who doesn't? I've grown increasingly fond of long summer evenings, particularly those sitting outside listening to live music. We are blessed here in Long Beach with plenty of opportunities to do that, and most of them start after the summer solstice.

So it's begun. See you out there. 

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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