Darn It! I Missed the Longest Day of the Year. Again.

Sunset over mountains and cloouds

I love koans, paradoxes, teaching stories...and short passages from novels that seem to have a meaning just outside my understanding. I love collecting these.

One of my favorites is from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. When  Nick meets Daisy for the first time, she tells him, “Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it.”

Ever since I first read The Great Gatsby in high school, I’ve been haunted by that line. And I always watch for the longest day of the year — and I usually miss it!

But this year, I was determined to remember and notice this day. Somehow, I got it in my head that June 21 is the longest day of the year in my part of the world. Well, today is June 21, but when I just went to go double-check, the New York Times informed me that sometimes, in these parts, June 20 is the longest day of the year.  And in 2016, it was June 20.

So I watched for the longest day of the year, and then missed it! Yet again.

Also, following the American folk superstition, I try to remember to say “Rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of every month, for luck. This would be easy, except that to get the luck, you have to say “Rabbit, rabbit” before you say any other words. And that’s tough.

I like practice likes this, because they help me notice time as it passes. I’m so absent-minded; I tend to walk around in a fog unless I do things that connect me to the seasons, the passage of time, the weather, what’s actually happening around me. Like noticing the longest day of the year!

I will say that having a dog has helped me tune in to the natural world. I take Barnaby out for his first walk at about 6:00 a.m., and I very much notice the longer days of summer. In the winter, it was full-on dark when we went for our walk, and it has grown lighter and lighter, and this morning it was bright day. Because it’s the second-longest day of the year…yup.

Other quotations that haunt me:

From Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas: “I like a view but I like to sit with my back turned to it.”

When I was writing The Happiness Project, I was obsessed with a Spanish proverb quoted by Samuel Johnson in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson: “He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.” 

And also this line from G. K. Chesterton:  “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”

Now, maybe I’ll watch for shortest day of the year.  Which, I just learned, is December 21.

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