It was the longest day of the year, one that never seems to end, for me, anyway…
21 June 2021, 4.43 a.m., and I was sitting on the wall, as I did every year, watching and waiting for the sun to rise above the horizon from its long slumber. The lone seagull gave a piercing squawk as it glided across the water towards the glistening slithers of light.
Dylan wouldn’t be here today, as he’d been on this day for the past 10 years, apart from last year of course, as we’d been in lockdown. Wherever Dylan might have been in his world as a professional photographer/astronomer, he would always come home to spend summer solstice with me. Although we celebrated the dawning of the longest day, it was never long enough for me.
As the sun’s rays peaked through from their resting place, I lifted my phone towards the light as the sun rose from its restful slumber and snapped greedily as the colours came then quickly faded into perhaps another tomorrow. I gave it my best shot and that’s all I had to do.
Dylan and I had been friends for longer than we had been lovers. We would laugh at the clumsiness of our relationship when we were both spotty and 16. We knew we loved each other with all our hearts even then. We were soul mates in the true sense of the word, but it just took us longer than most to realise it.
We had started school together, been through college together, shared the same sets of friends who had come and gone over the years. We held each other up when others put us down. Dylan had always been there for me. He had been my rock through thick and thin.
Each year we would talk about our hopes and our dreams, whether we had fulfilled them or not; laugh and reminisce about times gone by and whether we’d kept the promises we’d pledged to each other the year before.
We both had pasts, me with a broken marriage and a divorce, while Dylan trekked deep into the Amazon rainforests, to the depths of the Antarctica and into the wilds of Africa, but we always managed to find our way back to each other. Nothing or no one would ever come between us, especially on our day, the 21st of June, a special anniversary of two souls that would once again reunite on the longest day of the year.
Our legs would dangle over the old stone wall as we sat elbow to elbow on an old, crocheted granny blanket that swirled in earthy hues. It was snagged from the jagged stone beneath that pulled and clawed at its frail yarn, and we’d laugh at how the coffee stains dotted all over it added to its character. We’d share a flask of coffee with cold buttered toast, spread with dollops of orange marmalade as we stared out onto a faultless horizon with bated breath, waiting for that first spark to magically ignite the sky.
Dylan was always ready with his camera to capture that first burst of light, and while he waited, he would capture the silhouettes of people walking by, a dog running into the surf to retrieve a piece of driftwood, a lone man with a crooked stick, twisted and gnarled as he struggled to catch his breath.
We would sit until the sun rose to its peak and had found its allotted space, then we’d walk arm in arm along the beach, chatting and laughing as though there was no tomorrow.
I loved Dylan’s stories of his adventures and expeditions. He was bursting to tell me of magical places that he’d seen that were filled with light and colour. He would speak of places that were hard to imagine, places of darkness, of celestial beings, swirling galaxies – the unknown. He told stories of mythical gods, Celtic and Nordic legends, far off places that he easily wove into enchanting tales and dreams.
We would head back to ‘our’ wall later in the day and snuggle together with fish and chips and a bottle of champagne to toast a new season to come, life, us, and those who had already been.
We would sit excitedly watching the sun as it set in patches of orange, duck egg blues, tones of pink, mauves and purple, until the sky became awash with an indigo hue filling its incredulous void with masses of stars and galaxies, as the earth nestled back into the shadows.
A lone tear, uncontrolled, dropped onto the back of my hand as I was reminded of two years previously when Dylan had asked me to marry him. He said he was done with travelling the globe and that I was the most important thing in his life. I remember the touch of his hand on my cheek as he whispered to me, “We all need to move on and find our north star, and I know I’ve found mine.” I looked down at the make-do ring he had given me, a curved shell with a missing middle that he’d picked up on the beach, and I cradled it close to my heart that was blessed with his memory.
My darling Dylan had been taken from us a year earlier by the ravages of Covid. The double page obituary in the daily paper told of a man who had been dedicated to his profession, a keen photographer/astronomer, someone who wasn’t afraid to take his ‘best shot’ in all that he did. The article said that he was also best known for his amazing photographs taken at summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, and how he had captured amazing shots of galaxies, stars and planets that were light years away. There was a photo of Dylan shaking the hand of someone from NASA, congratulating him for the amazing photos taken of the Milky Way, as well as photos of the northern lights, the southern lights, and the rings of Saturn. There was also a full article about him in the National Geographic, making me realise that although I thought I knew this man with my heart and soul, I didn’t realise his achievements in this lifetime and what made him the man he was. To me, he was just my Dylan, but he had left a special legacy that would live on forever.
I can hear Dylan’s words now as I sit watching the sun with its fiery hues of orange and gold dipping itself into the gentle ebb of the cool ocean… “Remember that light always follows dark. Bathe amongst the galaxies and swim amongst the stars. Always, keep looking up. Just pause and wait until the celestial clock tilts on its axis again towards the sunlight. Be patient and let it rise to its point, as that’s where you’ll find your magic. It will always wait for you, no matter what.”
I know the sun always paused for us each time we were together, and I knew that I had to keep Dylan’s words alive and to keep my promise to him that I would follow the path of the sun and find my own true star.
It was the longest day for me, the longest I’d ever known, but as I looked up into a velvety sky, I could hear Dylan’s words echoing through the heavens…
“I’ll see you here next year, June 21st, on the wall… Don’t be late. I love you to the moon and back, and remember, keep looking up so that you don’t lose sight.”