The school year is over, the sun is shining, people are out and about (inflation and gas prices be damned) and, in spite of bad news about almost everything every single day, there is a celebratory spirit in the air. I can’t seem to get the lyrics from Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s 1945 musical Carousel out of my head. Now even I wasn’t around to see the original Broadway production, but I have seen, many times, the 1956 film version of the show. As the chorus sings in a delightful music and dance routine, “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over… You can see it in the trees, You can smell it in the breeze… Look Around! Look Around! Look Around!” (Clips available on You Tube).
Here in South Texas, you can certainly see June in the trees, along with the mountain cedar that makes you sneeze, and feel it in the air, as steam rises from the asphalt during these long weeks of triple-digit temperatures we’ve been having. (And it isn’t even July or August yet!) But, never mind those inconveniences. This year, especially, we need June — for the wedding pictures in the parks, the fishing trips to the Bay, the food trucks in the parking lots, the Juneteenth celebrations and the Pride parades.
In many parts of the Country, June is known as “the strawberry month.” June’s full moon, typically the last full moon of spring or the first of summer, is nicknamed “the strawberry moon” by The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Rooted in the moon-naming traditions of Native Americans, Colonial Americans, and old European folktales, the strawberry moon moniker acknowledges this time of year as the ripening of June-bearing strawberries. If the luscious, red, ripe strawberries in my local supermarket right now is any indication, that designation certainly rings true. Moreover, this year’s strawberry moon on June 14 (tonight) will be a supermoon shining big and bright in the dark sky, the second supermoon in 2022, which is unusual.
June is also the month for stone fruits, among them peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, dates, nectarines, and even olives. Pop-up farmers’ markets and roadside stands all along the highways in South Texas offer these delicious mainstays of homemade pies and summer desserts well into August. Even this year, when a winter freeze occurred in March and a drought has persisted ever since, fresh peaches are plentiful. They are a bit smaller than usual, which growers claim is actually better for baking because of their higher sugar content. (I can vouch that this is true.)
And then, as everyone knows, June means the official beginning of summer. The Summer Solstice, falling on June 21 (at 5:14 a.m. EDT), is the longest day of the year, which means the longest period of daylight. The sun reaches its highest point in the sky in the northern hemisphere, thus marking the beginning of summer. (The June solstice in the southern hemisphere happens when the sun is at the lowest level, thus marking the beginning of their winter—good to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to South America anytime soon.)
Midsummer Day falls on June 24, which is considered the midpoint of the summer growing season between planting and harvest. Since ancient times, it has been known as one of the four “quarter days,” with many cultures celebrating by dancing, feasting, singing, and joyfully anticipating the warm and happy summer activities ahead. I’ve always thought that there was something of a metaphor for courtship and marriage inherent in the history this little holiday, and that perhaps the metaphor of growing a love accounts for the popularity of weddings in June. Even Shakespeare’s famous comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595) is all about love and marriage and rehearsing a play to be performed at a wedding.
All in all, whether you’re planning a wedding, taking a trip to the beach, or making strawberry shortcake, this is a good month for it. After a hard couple years behind us and a constant barrage of news that goes from bad to worse, we can all use a little “bustin’ out” this year. The reason is the season, as the chorus from the song proclaims: “Just because it’s June, June, June!”