Welcome to July. Here is your Convivio Book of Days Calendar for July. It is, as usual, a printable PDF and a fine companion to this blog. Cover star this month: a mid- to late-19th century oil painting called “Summer Day in Sæby Skov with Three Young Ladies Strolling.” It’s a lovely painting with a long title by Danish artist Carl Frederik Aagaard. The trees remind me of woodland strolls in North Carolina and Maine, where the trees are so much different than they are here in Florida.
It is the month of national holidays in Canada and France and here in the US, and of many saints’ days –– Swithin, James, Ann, and Martha, to name a few –– and of the Japanese star festival known as Tanabata. In two days’ time, the Dog Days of Summer will begin, as Sirius begins rising with the sun… and there they will remain with us through the 11th of August. And even in the midst of those often hottest days of summer, the last night of July will bring the Eve of Lammas, the old but little known cross quarter day that reminds us of summer’s fleeting nature, for nothing ever stays the same in the constantly shifting wheel of the year. I’ll visit you as often as I can through this coming month, sharing stories for these days.
SUMMER HIGH FIVE SALE
At the online shop, you’ll find my mom Millie as the cover star for the current HIGH FIVE SALE: Use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 or more. That’s on everything in the shop: our own letterpress printed books and broadsides, genuine Shaker herbs and teas, all of our handmade artisan goods for all the seasons. Plus free domestic shipping when you reach $60. CLICK HERE to shop, and thank you for your support!
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
It’s not too late to enjoy Shakespeare’s midsummer play (Seth and I are going to sit down and watch the 1999 film version tonight). A week ago, for Midsummer Night, I read an adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a new video series from the Jaffe Center for Book Arts called Stay Awake Bedtime Stories. I had fun reading the story and you may find it fun to watch. I think it’s about 20 minutes long. Please enjoy it by clicking here.
Image: “Summer Day in Sæby Skov with Three Young Ladies Strolling” by Carl Frederik Aagaard. Oil on canvas, circa mid- to late-1800s [Public domain via Wikimedia Commons].
A midsummer gift for you, and an invitation to join us on Saturday at Lake Worth’s Island Fest.
And so the wheel of the year moves forward one more notch: 5:13 AM Eastern on the 21st of June brings the Summer Solstice to the Northern Hemisphere. It is the astronomical start of summer, and, by traditional reckoning of time, midsummer, for now, after six months of increasing daylight and of the sun climbing higher and higher in the northern sky, things will seem to stand still for a day or two (this is the origin of the word solstice) and then, practically imperceptibly at first, things will shift the other way, and daylight will begin to diminish. This is the constant back and forth, the constant give and take, the constant rearrange that is the result of our planet on its tilted axis orbiting the sun: the tilt gives us our seasons, and the rhythm of our lives in tune with the natural world.
To the solstices the Church assigned great entrances into the world: To the solstice of midwinter it assigned the birth of Christ, and to the solstice of midsummer, the birth of his cousin, John the Baptist. Hence, Christmas falls just after the December solstice, and on this side of the wheel of the year, St. John’s Day falls just after the June solstice, on the 24th. And just as Christmas Eve is considered a magical time (animals speaking at midnight, animals kneeling to pray, wells running with wine), so is St. John’s Eve considered a magical time, as well. And while some people will insist that William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is set on May Eve (April 30, Walpurgis Night), I don’t think that’s quite right. I subscribe to the camp that believes the play is set on St. John’s Eve, the 23rd of June.
This is precisely why I read an adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for a new video series from the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. It’s called Stay Awake Bedtime Stories. The episode was just released, in time for St. John’s Eve this Thursday night and St. John’s Day on Friday, but also in time for the solstice. Seth made the floral crown for me, and Haden the Convivio Shopcat is there at the start of the video (though she soon stretched and ventured off in search of a meal). The reading is my gift to you at this magical time of year. Please enjoy it by clicking here.
This is the second story I’ve read for the series, but I began Stay Awake with the idea of enlisting storytelling help from friends of mine around the globe. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is only Episode No. 4. Aside from me reading that, you can Stay Awake with me as I read “Pierre” by Maurice Sendak. But also Stay Awake with British artist Davy McGuire as he reads “That Pesky Rat” by Lauren Child, and Stay Awake with master storyteller Jonathan Kruk as he performs “The Misadventures of Ichabod Crane.” Find all four episodes here at the Stay Awake tab at jaffecollection.org. And if you follow the project on Instagram (@stayawakebedtimestories), you’ll be amongst the very first to know about new episodes, for our followers there typically learn about new broadcasts days before anyone else. (You’ll find Convivio Bookworks there, too: @conviviobookworks.)
COME SEE US! We’ll be at Lake Worth’s inaugural Island Festival this Saturday from 3 to 9.
It’s our first pop-up market since Eastertime and I’m really excited for the stilt walkers and the Junkanoo band and the Polynesian fire dancers. Island Fest is a free event for the whole family and it’s at Hatch 1121, just west of City Hall at 1121 Lucerne Avenue here in Lake Worth (the same place where we gather each year for our local Dia de Los Muertos celebration). Hopefully the weather stays dry! We’ll be there with all our textiles (including Millie’s Tea Towels) and some of our traditional artisan goods from Mexico, some things for Midsummer from Germany and Sweden, and our Shaker herbs and teas and soaps. Click here for full details and if you come by, please say hello!
Finally, I apologize for not writing more. Things have been way too busy at work. You know I would have written if I could have for all the celebrations I’ve missed: Juneteenth, Father’s Day, Bloomsday, Pentecost… but I’ll do my best to be with you for the celebrations to come. In the meantime: Give me your hands if we be friends. Happy Midsummer to you.
One of the best things about summer, if you ask me, is that it comes with an automatic soundtrack––it does in my head, at least. It has its beginnings with Kate Bush dancing through my head and singing “The Sensual World” on Bloomsday, June 14, and soon progresses to Felix Mendelssohn’s music for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on St. John’s Eve and St. John’s Day (June 23 & 24). On the Fourth of July the song by the same name by X pops into my head, along with John Philip Sousa and the bit of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture that includes the cannon. And then any number of old Shaker spirituals come to me on the Sixth of August as we celebrate the Arrival of the Shakers in America.
And now, on August 11, Sirius, the Dog Star, ends its annual period of rising and setting with the sun. This heliacal rising and setting has been going on since the Third of July. The Ancient Greeks, watchers of the sky and namers of the constellations, observed this and deduced that Sirius, shining as brightly as it does, was amplifying and contributing to the heat of the sun, making these days the hottest of the year. We know now that Sirius has nothing to do with that heat, but legends have long legs, don’t they?
What does this have to do with summer soundtracks, then? Well, in London in the summer of 1998, a woman named Florence Welch rode her bicycle each day past an enormous illuminated sculpture installed at London’s South Bank. The sculpture, an arc of giant illuminated perspex and aluminum letters, was by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. It’s message: Dog Days are Over.
Florence Welch would go on to form a band called Florence + the Machine, and eventually they would record a song called, you guessed it: Dog Days are Over. You probably know it. The song was inspired by the sculpture. Florence is quoted as saying, “It’s a reference to the dog star, Sirius. When it was closest to the Earth, all the animals would get languid and sleepy. When it moved away, they’d wake up.” She may not have the details quite right, but she’s got the gist of the matter… and I rather like the vision of sentient beings being languid and sleepy for 40 days or so each summer, then suddenly awakening.
All to say that this is how Dog Days are Over by Florence + the Machine fits into the soundtrack of summer that lives in my head. I share it with you each year around this time… and now you know why. I picture happiness hitting me like a train on a track and I picture those very blue women beside me as I sing the song each summer. One of those blue women reminds me of our cat Haden’s veterinarian… and then I picture Dr. Irma Morales as a back up singer for Florence Welch, clapping her hands: one-two/three.
What can I say? My mind drifts and wanders. It has always done this, since I was a boy. But this same mind fills my summers with music––even beyond the constant and deafening mid-August buzzing of Florida cicada song––and that’s not so bad, is it?
Please save an upcoming date with me!
August 24 brings a great celebration with an odd name: it’s the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, and I’ll be hosting the online, virtual Library Wayzgoose Festival for the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University Libraries. It’s a video event full of good stories and great music. The Bartlemas Wayzgoose is an old printers’ celebration that comes about every 24th of August with the waning summer. My featured guest is activist letterpress printer Ben Blount of Evanston, Illinois, with a special Wayzgoose Concert by the wonderful Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, the Grammy Award winning musicians famous for their song “Ashokan Farewell” from the Ken Buns documentary The Civil War. Perhaps we can add that to the soundtrack of summer, too. Lots of great Wayzgoose fun is in store for you. The video premiere will be at www.jaffecollection.org and at the Jaffe Center’s Vimeo Channel, too, and at the Facebook pages of Convivio Bookworks and the Jaffe Center for Book Arts (essentially, we’re making it really hard for you to miss). The premiere is on Bartlemas night, Tuesday August 24th, at 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time, with video available anytime after that, from wherever you are in the world. I think you’ll really love it. I’ll be posting more about it as Bartlemas approaches, so watch the blog and our social media pages at Instagram and Facebook (@conviviobookworks).
At our online shop, our Summer High Five Sale continues: All summer long, use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 on everything in the shop. Take it to $50 and earn free domestic shipping, too. Click here to shop! Our favorite new thing in the shop? Millie’s Tea Towels, embroidered by hand by my mom Millie, under our new Linens & Textiles category.
Image: Dog Days are Over by Ugo Rondinone. Perspex, neon, translucent film, and aluminum, 1998. For context as to what Florence Welch saw each day as she bicycled past, Rondinone’s illuminated sculpture is about 25 feet wide x 11 feet tall.