The hot rays of the summer sun beat down upon us yesterday, as spring gathered her floral skirts about her and departed from our hills. The summer solstice began Monday as we experienced the longest day of the year-17 hours of daylight. It also ushered in the Strawberry Moon, which had not occurred since 1948.

From this description, we could expect a pink-toned full moon on this night, but it actually is named for the strawberry-picking season. It is known as the ‘rose moon” in Europe, and is celebrated in Michigan and other places as the “Feast of the Strawberry Moon.” In Grand Haven, Michigan, life is recreated as it was lived in the 1700s, with re-enactments of military exercises, historic vendors and 18th century-style magic shows, among many more things.

At the famous Stonehenge monument at Wiltshire, Britain, about 25,000 people gathered there to welcome the summer solstice and watch the sun rise over the monument. It is known as a place of magic and mystery, constructed about 5,000 years ago. It is more than a temple, but it is also an astronomical calculator. It is still a place of celebration and worship, particularly at the time of solstices and Sabbats (the witches’ Sabbath.)

In 1948, I started my freshman year at Clay County High School. I wasn’t thinking about a Strawberry Moon, or any other celestial occurrence when I entered the portals of the institute of higher learning. Coming from a two-room grade school, I was a frightened little rabbit, sure I’d get lost in trying to find the different classrooms or maybe getting on the wrong school bus to return home.

It seemed like a huge edifice to me, and the “town kids” seemed to be so confident and self-assured. I was sure that I couldn’t find my locker, or I would forget the combination to my lock. The old high school then consisted of three stories, with the home economics department on the top floor and classes down in the “new building.” The new building was situated down a sloping street and contained the band room and journalism department (if there was anything else, I can’t remember.) A popular refrain (especially among the freshmen) at that time was, “Oh, Mr. Wilfong, I forgot the combination to my lock, and I can’t get my locker open!” It seemed that Mr. Wilfong was there to help us with all our problems!

As well as I remember, we had three minutes to change classes, and after my home economics class on the top floor, I had three minutes to get to the new building for my journalism class. One fine day I was hurrying (running, actually) down the hill, and I tripped on a piece of cracked pavement and went sliding on my belly for a few yards. I lost every button on my shirt, and ripped my skirt from the waistband to the hem, plus scraped and bloodied my arms and knees. I don’t remember who helped me to the office, with dripping blood and shredded clothing. (No, we were not allowed to wear pants, which would have protected me somewhat!)

Mr. Fred Smith was our principal then, and I remember how tenderly he treated my knees and elbows. Mrs. Boggess at the Home Economic Dept. sewed my skirt, and probably sewed my buttons on, but I was tattered and torn and thoroughly humiliated. On top of that, I was smitten by the star of the basketball team, and I was sure he witnessed my ignominious accident. It’s funny now, how things like that were so thoroughly embarrassing, but since we’ve grown older, we laugh at ourselves. If I fall now, any spectators there rush to my side to assist the old woman, and find out which bone I have broken this time.

So many years have passed since then. When you are young, it seems that life will go on forever. I felt that my life was spread out before me and I was just waiting to jump in with both feet. My journey was just beginning, and who knew what delicious adventures lay ahead? The river of life flowed on and on relentlessly, and so soon I am almost at the end of my journey.

The Bible tells us about the brevity of our lives, and so it is. In Psalms 103-15, “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.” (Remember the days of our youth, when we were strong and vital, upright as a flower, and beautiful in our own way?) Verse 16, “For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” James 4:14 says, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeared for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

Yes, it seems like such a little time since I walked the halls at Clay County High School, and yet the years have rolled onward. Our first great-grandchild graduated from the same high school that I did, and will enter college this fall. There she stands where I stood 64 years ago. Morgan, as fair and beautiful as the loveliest flower-what will life bring you? What choices will you make?

Then if life is so short, what is the answer? Solomon tells us in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, verses 13 and 14, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.

By Francis Quarles
And what’s a life? A weary pilgrimage,
Whose glory in one day doth fill the stage
With childhood, manhood, and decrepit age.

And what’s a life? The flourishing array
Of the proud summer-meadow, which today
Wears her green plush, and is tomorrow hay.

Read on this dial, how the shades devour
My short-lived winter’s day! Hour eats up hour;
Alas! The total’s but from eight to four.
Behold these lilies, which Thy hands have made
Fair copies of my life, and open laid
To view, how soon they droop, how soon they fade!

Shade not that dial, night will blind too soon;
My non-aged day already points to noon;
How simple is my suit! How small my boon!

Nor do I beg this slender inch to wile
The time away, or falsely to beguile
My thoughts with joy: here’s nothing worth a smile.

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Alyce Faye Bragg

She writes the "News From the Hills" column. Born and raised in the country, and still lives on the same farm where she was raised. Has a sincere love for nature and the beauty of the hills. Began writing in 1981 & currently has three books published. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer