Notes from the solstice (2024)

When I woke up this morning, I texted my friends “happy solstice” the same way I might say “merry Christmas” or “happy birthday.” Because if I can’t note the beginning of the longest day of the year what’s the point of noticing anything? Usually every week of my life feels much the same: a mix of writing and friends and shifts at the restaurant that are essentially variations on a theme. I wanted today to feel different from all that.

I spent my morning working on a short story. It’s the first one I’ve tried to write in fifteen years. I had breakfast. I realized there was no coffee, bought some, and drank a cup. I played with my dogs. Then I spent four hours volunteering at the wildlife care center in town, cleaning and feeding baby animals and adults that have had a bad day or week and need help before they can return to being wild. This is another way that time passes.

Nestlings and fledglings come into care starting with a trickle of Anna’s hummingbirds and other small, early nesters. Baby bird season feels like it’s really started when the crows arrive, crying out whenever they believe it should be meal time. They keep the sound going even when they’re being fed. If you listen this time of year, you can hear the gargle of them trying to cry out even as food is being pushed into their throats.

Right now it’s skunk season. There are other animals in care—plenty of them—but my last shifts have both had four to eight skunks brought in by members of the public during the four hours I was there. The building smells lightly of skunk. Some of the kits are so small they could fit in the palm of one hand. They’re still milk fed.

They don’t smell as bad when they’re young—thankfully. Though they have spray glands, they haven’t learned how to use or project them like adults do. So the smell dribbles out of their rear ends instead. Still I wonder about all these good Samaritans driving skunks over in their cars to bring them in and how long it takes their cars to go back to smelling like normal. It doesn’t stop people from bringing the skunks in anyway. Maybe because the animals are young and they need help. Maybe there’s another reason we can’t just let an animal in front of us suffer. No matter the reason, it doesn’t hurt that skunks are some of the cutest baby animals out there with their bright black eyes and stripes and curious paws. I would forgive them anything, even their smell.

Notes from the solstice (1)

It’s nearly six by the time I get home but it is, after all, light for many hours yet. So I start reading. I dive into Sigrid Nunez’ most recent book, The Vulnerables. The only other of her books I’ve read, The Friend, is about a woman who inherits a dog. In this new book, a woman trapped in New York City during lockdown takes care of a friend’s macaw parrot. I didn’t know people being thrust into animal care was a theme in her work and maybe it’s not (she has written seven other books that I haven’t read) but I happen to be two for two.

I wish I had a friend to celebrate this long day with. I’m imagining drinks on the patio, dressing up, saying a toast when the sun finally sets, but there are many ways to mark an occasion. The most important thing to do is notice that there’s an occasion to mark at all.

I consider what I do have. I have the dogs and this book and I did get to hold a northern flicker in my hands and several skunks and look a great horned owl in her big yellow eyes from a few feet away. I wrote today. That’s no small feat: to have a day in which you’ve created something that didn’t exist before. Today I don’t count the words I’ve written against what I wish I’d gotten done.

Tomorrow there will be a full moon. This time last year, life was very different from what it is now. This time six months ago—the shortest day of the year—life was different again. I make a promise to myself to keep finding moments to pause and reflect and enjoy. I think of the next occasions coming up on the calendar. Another full moon, of course, but the most important event is that in few months, the swifts will arrive.

Every spring Vaux swifts, travel from their breeding grounds in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest to overwinter in Mexico. Described as “cigars with wings” for their shape and size, they fly 150 miles a day during their migration. By the time they come to Portland in large numbers there are so many of them that it’s become a local tradition to watch them swirl into chimneys at dusk. There are other roosting sites along the West Coast—some with even more birds than the thousands that fill the sky here—but not many of these sites have developed a tradition where hundreds of people come out with picnic blankets to watch these tiny birds from a nearby hillside. People actually applaud and cheer when the last birds tuck themselves in just before the sun goes down.

The swift numbers peak around my birthday which makes it a present of sorts from nature. That’s how I choose to think of it anyway. What are any of these moments but gifts?

Notes from the solstice (2)

Thank you for reading A Little Detour with Tove Danovich. This post is public so feel free to share it.



This has been a great week for reading. In addition to Sigrid Nunez book, I read and adored The Crying Book by Heather Christle. It’s about tears and crying but also grief. I think anyone who has ever cried could get something from this book but if you’re a writer, I think the form of this book is utterly brilliant. Anyone who is interested in experimenting with form and time should definitely add it to their TBR (“to be read”) stack.

I also had a lot of fun reading Kelly Link’s Stranger Things May Happen which I’ve owned for a few years but only just got around to. I love Kelly Link and her blend of fairy tale and modern day. I remember reading one of her stories in a high school writing class and being amazed that you could *do* something like that.

I have a few essays and articles in the works. It’s been busy over here! I’ve also passed 45,000 words on the draft of this novel. Depending on how you design your book and font size, that’s 150-180 pages! Progress feels slow until I remind myself that I only started this draft in earnest in August or September last year.

Until next week, I hope you find something to look forward to.

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Because all writers have a never-ending hope of finding ways to make writing financially sustainable, I’ve opened a affiliate page. If you buy any of the books I mention here, I will get a small commission.

Notes from the solstice (2024)


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