Lammas is a festival marking the grain harvest and is the midway point between the summer solstice and the fall equinox. The standard invitation is to reflect on what was planted in the spring to see what you are harvesting now. And if this is your headspace this year I invite you to check out last year’s post.
My headspace is swirling with thoughts and questions of rest and paring down. “What do you need to let rest?” “What needs to be released?” are a couple questions that come to mind. While these questions on the surface don’t seem to align with the harvest season we are in, the questions are central to land-tending and soul-tending in modern times. The questions at heart are about discernment - making decisions to create environments where the land and humans can thrive.
Contrary to what society wants us to believe (indoctrinated us to believe), we cannot keep producing without rest. A continuous churning of productivity will eventually lead to nutrients lost and burnout both of land and people. We want so much to thrive and often the messaging is to hustle to achieve thriving. But rest is a vital part of the production process and we must tend these boundaries for ourselves in a culture that encroaches on our body-landscapes continuously.
In the Jewish tradition we have what is called Shmita. Every seven years we were commanded to let the fields rest, and in turn, we were released from some of the demands of our daily lives. This seventh year, a Sabbath year, is called Shmita - Hebrew for “release”. In the modern era the Shmita year has become a guiding principle not just for physical land, but also for our inner landscapes. Shmita can take the form of letting our home gardens rest, taking sabbaticals from busy schedules, or simply using discerning questions to help us prune our lives from what no longer feeds us.
How does one let the land rest and still survive? It certainly takes some planning, embracing interconnectedness, and a redistribution of focus. AND when Shmita is followed the land doesn’t rest as much as it’s given the chance to do its own thing. Land still produces without human intervention - it simply and naturally finds it own rhythm and possibilities for growth. It is a year of releasing the land from expectations and bending to human desires. What would your year be like if you gave yourself the same release?
During the traditional time of harvesting what happens in a year when there is nothing to immediately gather? How does taking time to rest and renew feed our relationship to time?
Many lives have returned to the busy-ness of pre-pandemic (though the pandemic isn’t over) and to consider taking a rest so soon after many experienced the pandemic as a forced time out seems a hard NO. As humans we love all or nothing…but there is so much in between. We can rest our bodies, minds, and our land in micro and macro ways. We can rest to discern what has meaning and what needs to be released without putting ourselves in a time out that goes against our nature. You do you.
AND…how do you know you? The you that isn’t cultivated and curated? The you that isn’t trimmed and organized? The you who is like the land left to be feral and free? I would argue one of the ways to answer these soul-touching questions is to give yourself some spaciousness and time…to be like the land in the Shmita year, and see how you grow when returned to your natural way.
It has taken me many years to acknowledge I am not a fan of summer. Heat, intense sunlight, bugs, excessive daylight, the expectation of go-go-go is not my thing. My love of summer revolved around one main thing as a child - no school and that love followed me well into adult given I spent years in education. It feels risky to acknowledge this dislike - so much of our cultural narrative is around the easy-going, freedom, expressive season of summer. Disliking summer is not a popular opinion. But the more I learn about myself the more I realize this season just isn’t my jam. Of course summer isn’t all bad - it’s beautiful with everything in bloom and during the ongoing pandemic it gives a much safer option for gathering in person. So I try to embrace what pleases me with the challenges the season personally brings.
Lately, two new aspects of the solstice have been whispering to me, fresh perspectives from years past. The beauty of tracking the yearly natural cycle for years is witnessing that I never meet a season in the same way from year to year. There is a nuanced, complex relationship that has grown with time. A richness I wish for all of us.
Shelter is the first theme that whispered to me. Informed by the four of wands in the tarot, the card’s image is four posts decorated in beautiful garland - sometimes with a fire in the middle of the posts. The blazing sun of the solstice and the heat invite us to seek shelter from the intensity of the day. The card is one of celebration, reflection, and this year it spoke of shelter and the other theme on my mind - pause.
Pausing at the pinnacle of the natural year is rooted directly in the etymology of the word solstice. “Point at which the sun seems to stand still” is the root of the word. This time of year is a turning point. A milestone I am so grateful to reach simply because it’s the moment the sun begins to reverse course into the fertile darkness of winter. Focusing on the two themes of shelter and pause have given arise to questions that we can use to contemplate the season. I share the reflections as an offering to your solstice celebration.
REFLECTIONS: What does shelter mean to me? What shelter do I require? What shelter do I desire? What other beings do I offer shelter to? How can I comfortably extend shelter to others in need?
REFLECTIONS: When do I pause? When do I ignore the need to pause? What are the factors that contribute to me ignoring the pause (society/people/internal dialogue)? What/who invites me to pause? What is the smallest way I could invite the energy of pause into my life right now?
To me - shelter is my bed with my weighted blanket and a stuffed animal. My cat laying next to me while I work. It is my shower, my back deck, and within the hug of people I love. Shelter offers me a place to be completely myself, to foster a sense of safety inside, and away from many eyes upon me. It is a place free from judgement and built on acceptance. It’s a rarity. And pausing seems to inherently come when I seek shelter - that is the beauty of their connection to each other.
These reflections and energies are not season specific - finding shelter and taking pause are experiences we need throughout our life. Maybe they aren’t themes that are whispering to you right now…I invite you to tuck them away for when the calling for pause and shelter do visit you.
I’m not convinced that we need to be perfectly in sync with the natural world. Rarely has the external season matched with my internal season. Instead of the perfect match - what if we embraced harmony and relationship? What if we gave ourselves accommodations to make it through the season with as much grace as we can muster? The natural world doesn’t force us into just one way. Instead it invites diversity and multiplicity. Show me a plant that thrives without water and we can just as easily find a counterpoint that will wilt without hydration. There is no one perfect way to do the solstice or life. Instead it’s a journey of correspondence and attunement - with ourselves, our communities, and the natural world around us. May we all have the shelter we need and moments to pause in safety and sustenance that the shelter provides.
Equinoxes, the midpoint between the two extremes, the solstices. Here above the equator, we are heading into fall. The leaves are beginning to turn and drop, the air is a bit crisper, and our energies are starting to turn inward. At the same time, below the equator the grey begins to clear, foliage is returning, and awareness grows outward. Both points, two sides of the same coin.
This year I have been pondering the symbiotic nature of the equinoxes of the world. While fall and spring appear so different, presenting as opposites, in reality, letting go and emerging work together to form the rhythm of life. Each one feeds the other. I envision the leaves dropping, seeping their nutrients into the ground and re-emerging into the flowers in the Southern Hemisphere and the reverse happening when it's Spring Equinox here. This interconnected nature of what was planted in the spring is coming to harvest, and what was harvested and given space to rest is ready to emerge anew. And the equinox is the still point between the two halves, a sliver of balance among the waves of change that never end in the natural world.
And during these seasonal changes, I am reminded of the many times in my life where my insides didn't match what was happening externally. I was in winter when it was outwardly summer, or in spring when it was fall. During these times I took comfort in the possibility of a new season and the honoring of my own rhythm, even if it didn't look as it was supposed to.
Rhythm is our anchor. We sync up with it, we attune to it. And this attunement doesn't even need to be conscious. Andrew Huberman, has a wonderful podcast that explores the inner state of our being, from the chemical to the emotional, and the research has caught up with what humans have known, we are linked. Our heart rates mimic each other and our breathing syncs up with those we are with. We can register the internal state of others, all unconsciously, and what we register our bodies begin to turn towards. We are linked the way the trees have root systems that reach out and support each other. Not only can we be connected to each other in this elegant way, we can attune to ourselves and our own inner rhythm by a tool we have with us all the time, our heart. Sensing our hearts for our own rhythm can be a freeing anchor when the world around us swirls. And with our heart sits our lungs, the air element that resides in us. And we can bring our awareness to our breathing and notice it. And the noticing will change our breath...no effort required other than attention.
These touchpoints of the seasons, the equinoxes and solstices, are moments that call our attention outside of ourselves. To look up from our lives and orient to what is here, now. And what is here, is the natural world's moment of balance. Two days out of 365 are moments of complete balance, and after this, either daylight or nighttime will begin to expand. Might we take a cue from the natural world and relinquish the perfectionist drive for balance? The scales of Libra are never fully still, and this moment of natural balance will fade with the sunset. I invite you to reorient to rhythm and see how that anchors you in a way that is different from balance. Rhythm makes room for what is present right now, and will continue to make room for the present, again and again. Balance is fleeting while rhythm is change and constant in one beautiful energy. May we all connect to the rhythm of OUR season and let the winds of change be our heart’s desire.
In following the natural cycle of the year, there are eight major turning points. Two solstices, two equinoxes, and the four midpoints between the solstices & equinoxes (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain). On this wheel of the year, we find ourselves at the celebration of the first harvest - Lammas.
It’s natural to look back and ask, “what did I plant in the spring that I am harvesting now?” Certainly that is one way to look at this time. Another possibility is to take a longer view of what it means to plant and harvest in a human life. One lesson I learned on my spiritual journey is that everything takes time and more time than we think it should. I am not a patient person (I don’t know many people who are), but in the natural world and the spirit world most things that lead to a valuable harvest take time, way more time than we think/want it to. In our physical gardens, I don’t know anyone that pulls the plant up by the roots to see how it’s growing. That would lead to certain death for the plant. But this is a common energy in our spirit-led lives. “Are we there yet” and its many iterations is the most human question we can ask. The energy of the question is the same as pulling a plant up by its roots. An act that damages our spiritual harvest before it can even sprout tender leaves. Leading a spirit-led life requires us to acknowledge there is no “there” to arrive to and the timing is often mysterious and unknown. Each arrival gives a new horizon to move towards and more depth to sink into.
In seeing where we planted seeds and what we are harvesting now, what would it be like to look back 3 years, 9 years, 18 years, and 27 years for the vision of what is coming to harvest now? For me, 18 years ago I was three years into a 20+ year journey with my energy healing teacher Rosalyn. Twenty seven years ago, in 1994, I met my first formal spiritual teacher Julia and stepped onto a dedicated path of devoting my life to the Spiritual. Three years ago, I was in one of the most challenging spaces of my life - relearning basic skills that I needed to live a daily life in the modern world. Each one of these seeds bears fruit today. This doesn’t mean that life is all rainbows and unicorns, but through the toil of the present, a harvest emerges.
What would it feel like to hold life as a revolving garden - one where planting, harvesting, and wintering occur simultaneously within the movement of our lives? In this moment, each one of us experiences planting, harvesting, and resting (most likely not in equal measure) and because we are beings that are multidimensional and beautifully complex, we can embody all of this, even if it’s just a molecule of one and an abundance of another. Planting, harvesting, and wintering are the natural energies of our world, and we are not separate but interconnected to the land and people around us.
Anchoring into the natural world opens us up to honor what IS while understanding that time moves forward. If you find yourself disoriented and looking for clarity, the natural rhythms are always your friend. Your honoring and connection doesn't need to be a grand gesture. It can be simple, quiet, subtle, and nuanced and will be just as sacred and meaningful. A small gesture is powerful to the sacred world. I invite you to think of some small act to honor your rhythm of planting, harvesting, and wintering that is happening in this moment of the sacred wheel of the natural world.
During this season of harvest, I am grateful for you. For all the ways we connected and for the opportunity to share my gifts & resources with you. I'm humbled that this is the work that chose me and found each of you.
Spring Equinox - a time when the day and the night are in balance for one moment, and then the wheel turns again. How many of us strive for the perfect balance when Nature shows us that it doesn't exist but for a moment? Life is precarious, one moment all is well, and the next the biggest hurdle we have come across is in the middle of our path. We jump, we walk or run around it, we bulldoze over it, we examine it closely or pretend like it isn’t there. Maybe some of us hug that hurdle and say a prayer of gratitude or disgruntled words when we meet it and others of us circle back to explore that hurdle for meaning, insight, and guidance. But that hurdle in our wake shifted the currents and forward in a new way is what calls us.
Spring holds the energy of May I Be Open for us to witness, emulate, and ponder these words for ourselves on our journey. May I Be Open asks us to be open to what arises within us with compassion and curiosity. May I Be Open invites us to explore what is opening inside us, even if it challenges us and make us a bit more uncomfortable. May I Be Open is a call for discernment, to be in a new way with boundary and stability. May I Be Open invites us to renegotiate our new life. May I Be Open isn’t a call to be a scapegoat, a dumping ground, or to share when it isn’t safe and welcome to do so. May I Be Open isn't anyone's business but your own. May I Be Open is a tender inner call to soften to a new way of life, a new experience, a new paradigm that aligns with your soul’s journey. It is a quiet, tender call like the new shoots of a dear plant that you want to protect from the elements.
May I Be Open is a whisper to the universe that we are resilient, we are hopeful even in the face of despair, that we will put one foot in front of the other - even if we have to scoot it forward because we are too afraid to pick it up or drop to our knees because the ground needs to be closer. This isn’t a lion’s roar, but a call inward to all your aspects that may be trembling from the last year or lifetimes, that even if the outside world’s constitution isn’t welcoming, that our inner constitution is.
May I Be Open is the spellcrafting that the new buds and leaves bring to the world during this moment of renewal. Let it work its subtle, nuanced, shapeshifting magic inside you so in turn it may restore our world.
Many Blessings, Valerie
Winter Solstice is here for us in the northern hemisphere. The longest night is upon us and then just like that the wheel will turn to bring us a molecule more daylight with each new dawn. Already weary from the pandemic and it's high cost of life, distance, and uncertainty many of us are looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. But what if just for this moment you steadied yourself where you are and surveyed the way you have just journeyed? This season is one big threshold - first the solstice then the new year - and threshold's give us the opportunity to look forward and backward while also remaining in the present moment.
Many of us are tired - we were fatigued before this year began and now the constant stress has challenged us. Winter is the time for rest, and this year, it seems we have been given the opportunity to really tap into the winter season's essence. Learning to rest is no easy lesson, and one that our culture doesn't often support. Rest can take many forms beyond nightly sleep (and naps :-). Rest can look like lounging, creating, meditating, bathing, healing, dreaming, etc. Rest is giving our bodies, minds, and spirits time and space to luxuriate in what feels good and nourishing.
So on this sacred day - the longest night - my invitation is to rest and dream. The future will be here soon enough without any effort from us. May you be safe, may you know shelter, and may you find refuge in this time of transition & renewal.
National Day of Mourning
"Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in Plymouth to commemorate National Day of Mourning on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival of the Pilgrims and other European settlers. To them, Thanksgiving Day is a reminder of the genocide of millions of their people, the theft of their lands, and the relentless assault on their cultures. Participants in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression which Native Americans continue to experience."
~ Plaque Erected by the Town of Plymouth on behalf of the United American Indians of New England
Thanksgiving this year feels especially complex and multilayered, which isn’t unlike life. As in past years, the theme of gratitude and the plethora of sale emails have been permeating the last several days. But this year isn’t like other years. The CDC asks us to limit gatherings and not to travel, a pandemic has taken precious loved ones from us, many are struggling to put food on the table, and society is at a cultural turning point. This feels like the perfect time to practice embracing life as the paradox it is.
The tableau of Thanksgiving is rooted in historical misrepresentation and societal expectations. Throw in a pandemic and this year's Thanksgiving is likely something most of us haven't experienced. Maybe you are enjoying the holiday without the pressure to gather or go from house to house, or possibly you are mourning the loss of your traditions and are looking forward to a time when life "returns to normal." There is room for everyone in the emotional continuum of the day, which I hope also includes some learning and unlearning around the historical roots of the holiday. I write this newsletter on the land of the Myaamia, Shawnee, and Osage Peoples along with the Indigenous people of the Hopewell and Adeena whose earthworks are visited throughout my area. We live on land that is steeped in community, honoring, and conflict. For many, this is not an easy part of the holiday to reconcile. But that doesn't mean we have to turn away. As Glennon Doyle says "we can do hard things." In my continued learning around the holiday, I came across the National Day of Mourning. The words on the commemorative plaque is above. I share these words because of the clarity of the heartfelt, reality-cutting message. We can do hard things and not turn away from the historical realities of day. We have the ability to embrace and honor the complexities of this day. Maybe in addition to gratitude we can also make Thanksgiving a day of learning and reverence.
I want to acknowledge that this year may be especially hard due to the loss of traditions and the loss of loved ones that we will never kiss and hug again. The personal grief compounded by the urgency of society to examine our history of enslavement, genocide, and racism is a lot to hold. Now is the time to be kind and gentle with ourselves. Learning and unlearning doesn’t have to happen all at one time. It can be done sip by sip. Contradictory emotions can be experienced at the same moment. Honoring your own complexity gives space to honor the world’s complexity. Simple and complex – life is both. So on this day of giving thanks, I would like to extend my deep gratitude for this community's willingness to show up, do hard things, learn, grow, and provide space for this woman’s most unusual new age musings. And as always, if you need support, I am here. Please reach out.
In following the natural cycle of the year, there are eight major turning points. Two solstices, two equinoxes, and the four midpoints between the solstices & equinoxes (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, and Samhain). On this wheel of the year, we find ourselves at the celebration of the first harvest - Lammas. Here is a moment to reflect on what you planted at the beginning of Spring and observe what you are harvesting now. As any gardener knows, one does not have full control over the outcome of the crops. Gardens are at the mercy of the quality of seed, the quantity of water, the mercurialness of temperature, the hunger of animals, and the skill of the gardener. With the best of intentions, some years the garden just doesn't grow as planned. Many of us are harvesting radically different crops than what we envisioned for ourselves at the end of winter and the beginning of spring.
COVID arrived in most of our lives right at the beginning of our planting season. Winter's planning and dreaming mostly likely isn't what we planted or are harvesting now. It feels important to acknowledge this and reflect on what is here in this moment. For some, there has been new growth in places once not thought possible, for others - heartache and grief at the loss of loved ones, opportunities, and a culture that feels in chaos. I invite you to be with all of it - not because it's easy and comfortable - but because it is necessary for healing and carry all of this forward. This will not be the only invitation for harvest and reflection from the natural world this year - we still have two more Fall harvest holidays. In addition, this could be a time to plant some new seeds for fall crops. Now is the time to plan & plant with careful consideration of the current climate and then follow with right action.
Anchoring into the natural world opens us up to honor what is while understanding that time moves forward. Tentative step by tentative step we carry within us the deep knowing of what has been lost (as well as gained) and also the tender faith of a new day. If you find yourself disoriented and looking for clarity the natural rhythms are always your friend. Your honoring and connection doesn't need to be a grand gesture. It can be simple, quiet, and modest and will be just as sacred and meaningful.
In this moment of harvest, I am grateful for you. For all the ways we connected and for the opportunity to share my gifts & resources with you. I'm humbled that this is the work that chose me and found each of you.
This is a holy week for so many - Jews celebrating Passover and Christians observing Easter. Both holidays have roots in the ancient traditions and both have the themes of rebirth, renewal, faith, and resilience. It's hard not to witness these themes in our daily lives as the society that we know has changed dramatically in the last few weeks. We have been called on to dig deep into our personal reserves to muster resilience for even the most mundane of experiences - grocery shopping, walking around the neighborhood, navigating government structures, etc. To cope with this crisis, many of us are looking to the future, when life will be better, when we can return to "normal." But as the quote by Murakami so eloquently states, our normal will be new in its form. Our rebirth and renewal will be from a place that absorbs all the wisdom from this time, and leaves behind what is outdated, no longer useful, and personally destructive.The phoenix rising up from the cosmic fire, leaving its former self behind.
So many of us throughout our lives have experienced our own crucible that left us far from our beloved normal. When we are forced to move from what we hold dear, there is grief, sadness, and anger. But what I have also experienced (often with a HUGE dose of resistance) is an emergence of new opportunities and ways of being. We experience this as a reincarnation within our current life, pieces remain the same but are colored by newness that we never considered before. Frankly, I wouldn't be discussing these themes at this point in our collective crisis if this wasn't a holy week. But the timing is an invitation for us to take note of what is inspiring us, what is challenging us, and what whispers of new ways of being arising inside us. These small moments are breadcrumbs to the new normal we face once we emerge from this challenge. And we will emerge, just as creation from the egg and the phoenix from the flame have done over and over again.
My invitation to you is to take notes, literal notes, of what is arising for you during this time. What are you enjoying? What is challenging you? What are the habits you turn to when you are limited in choices? How are you feeling? What are your concerns and worries? What are your observations of yourself, your community and culture? Once you make your notes leave them be if you want. Maybe now isn't the time to make meaning of all that is occurring, maybe it's time to add your notes to the fire and see what arises weeks, months, and years from now. It's hard to make meaning in the middle of an experience - and Goddess we are in the thick of it. But a storm eventually moves along, and in its wake there will be time to take stock of the person that emerges. But for now, as the storm rains heavy, I pray we each have shelter that is safe and healthy. I pray that the new normal lands with softness and grace. And I pray that this is a true season of Passover - where the Divine spares each of us hardship as we shelter.
With devotion, Valerie
Summer solstice always feels so bittersweet to me. Since December, I have basked in the returning light of the natural world. Longer days and shorter nights lift our spirits, awaken our more social sides, and return our sense of freedom, liberating us from layers of clothes and our dwellings. And then with the arrival of Summer Solstice, the wheel begins to turn the other way - to shorter days and longer nights. There is no pause, no basking in this highpoint, but a quick turnaround to a new rhythm. It is a bit disorienting, even though it is quite subtle and uneventful. The wheel turns one way and then it turns the other no pause, no fanfare, just the dance of light and dark, continual, ever present, and eternal. And while we have reached the pinnacle of daylight, don’t despair - there is still time to plant seeds and see them to fruition. Or maybe your seeds are biennial plants, and what you plant now will come to bloom at a later date. For now, I invite you to plant and give thanks with no expectation, no seeking the final answer of what form the seedling will take. Just plant and give thanks. Return to the simple and mysterious nature of life - just for a moment, the present moment. I know it may seem like a luxury when the world around us is chaotic and heart wrenching. But turning to the present moment and being with what is gives us footing to take action, to be present, and to stand tall in the face of opposition. The Summer Solstice is a celebration of light - however fleeting and transient the energy feels to be. Light and darkness are both fertile and productive. It is shadow that we must seek out and look with clear vision and uninhibited courage. Plant your seeds now dear ones. Plant and tend with action, conviction, and courage. For what we plant now, just may come to harvest in the fertile darkness of Winter.
For a sweet solstice ritual, take some time to write what your dreams are for the next six months. I invite you to light a candle, say some prayers, and ask your heart to show you the dreams you have for yourself for the next six months. What are your dreams for your health, your career, your community? What are your dreams - no matter how big, wild, small, or subtle! Speak and write them now in the fullness of the solstice light. Ask the Universe to help you realize your dreams - and to align you to the energies of action and transformation.