There is in the Adirondacks a rare and special holiday that we celebrate, but that is known by only a very few. The native peoples know of it, and European Druids, for whom it is sacred, and Japanese Animists also celebrate it.
This is the rare, June Holiday of the Estival Solstice, the day when the full moon rises at the same time as the sun sets. It occurs only once every seventy-years. The last time was on June 21, 2016. Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac for the next date in June 2086 so that you don’t miss it.
In the days leading up to the holiday, we decorate our ancient bonsai tree, which is over three hundred years old and has been passed down to us from generation to generation, having been brought here by my wife’s ancestors when they followed Samuel de Champlain south from New France and settled in Fort St. Frederic on the lake that bears his name.
Several days before the holiday we hike the High Peaks in search of an ideal tamarack tree for our celebration. The tamarack, also known as the American larch, is a deciduous conifer. It has green, pine-like needles that turn gold and drop off in autumn. It is a metaphor of the Adirondack Park. When we find the special tamarack, we will set up our camp for Estival Solstice Eve.
Camped by a tamarack on Estival Solstice Eve is the only time and place that you will hear and see the drumming Jogah, the invisible little people of the Wild Forest whose presence is only revealed by their floating, disembodied lights, or discovered in the earthen rings left on the forest floor where they gather to watch the moonrise.
You must listen closely for the drumming of the Jogah, or you may mistake them for fireflies. Adirondack fireflies are very special on Estival Solstice Eve when they fly so high above the mountains that they appear to be among the heavens where they twinkle like the little star of song. Adirondack fireflies make little children gleam.
When morning comes, we have a special camp breakfast of colored sugar cookies and cocoa. Then we separate, taking solitary paths away into the woods and up towards the mountain top. We only carry a small day pack with water, a Hersey Bar, and a tiny bell to jingle at the auspicious moment.
Our celebration involves solitary, day-long, meditative, forest bathing, or what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku. Forest bathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system to promote self-healing through the soft and gentle voices, the whispers, of the trees as they speak to you. Whispering pines are especially rejuvenating.
When we have finished our meditation, we come together and gather at the top of the mountain. As the sun sets, and the full moon rises, we jingle our bells, bow to the full moon, and utter the wolf prayer. Then, we turn and raise our arms before the setting sun and intone the hawk hymn. Then we eat our Hersey Bar. A pink sky spread along the horizon by the setting sun is a delightful coda to our holiday observance.
Our celebration ended, we decamp and trek down the mountain side in the light of the full moon, grateful that we will begin the next seventy years with promises of a good life in the Adirondacks.