It’s the end of the year and I am tired. Thank goodness it's the season of rest (said no human ever in December, though the natural world in the northern hemisphere would disagree). It has been a year of personal accomplishments and spectacular failures. A year of deepened relationships and relationships lost. And a year of several personal health quagmires and recently a death in the family. My year could be your year. It is a year of being human.
And being human is not a moral failing. We react before we can think, we respond when we are more aware, we hide when we are frightened, we get sick, we mis-communicate, and we perpetually learn what works for us and what is no longer needed. Life is a laboratory where we are continually experimenting and course correcting. But instead of resting in this tinkering, many of us suffer trying to strive for a static arrival.
I don’t want any of us to suffer. But denying suffering isn’t not suffering. It’s denying. Sometimes denial is a much needed survival skill and other times denial is what keeps us from the freedom we seek. To cozy up to denial and willingly take a peak around the corner takes courage and requires deep vulnerability and humility. It takes embracing that we are human. And humans are collective, transitory creatures. Knowing this - how can we rest in this knowing of our ephemeralness, which we spend so much of our lives trying to deny?
One simple way is to remember we and all of our neighbors are part of nature. Not separate from it. The trees shed and we shed. The crops have a cycle and so do we. Each form we take builds upon another and another. The weather is dynamic, the seasons change, animals migrate & hibernate, and the physical ends while the luminescent remains. Surrounding all of this in every nook and cranny is the invitations for joy, engaging our senses, communing with others, celebrating, creating, laughing, weeping, mourning, and above all else being.
So in this pause of the solstice. A marking of time of one extreme before we make our way back to the other end of the continuum, I invite you to pause and give witness to your very human year. Everything you have experienced has been witnessed by the moon, the stars, the trees, and other living creatures. Who has supported you? Where has reciprocity been experienced? Where has there been a falling short? And finally what are you most proud of? And how can you savor the tiniest drop of that pride to help sustain you throughout this season?
For 2023, my wish for us all is a year of being seen and support by those who care for you, a year where you become more you and are welcomed for it, and a year where being human is filled with more ease and joy.
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.
The summer solstice is this weekend for us in the northern hemisphere. It arrives in all its noisy, life-affirming cicada swarming glory here in the southwest of Ohio. The themes of the solstice - abundance, fertility, physicality, and vitality - are clearly noticeable in the natural environment. The cicadas have been a force to experience. The noise reaching to 100 decibels in our backyard, their wings catching the sunlight as they search for connection, and the piles of skeletons at the base of trees are an in-your-face reminder of the cycle of life. It’s been a rapid reminder that nature is the ultimate embracer of change and multiplicity.
Since the spring equinox in March, we have seen lots of change in our collective experience. Mask mandates lifted, restaurants back to capacity, travel is on again, and gatherings of family and friends are coming back to our calendars. Last week I led an in-person masked meditation for a business retreat. It was lovely to see the group re-orient to being in person and it was also an honor to create space for the group to process what they had gone through in the last year and a half. Among the joy of re-opening is the grief of the lives lost and those still suffering from the impact of the pandemic - physically, emotionally, financially. We have been through a collective experience and it will take some time to process the meaning of its impact. Some of us may be ready to rush headfirst into this new phase and others may need more time to orient to this new normal. What can be certain is that each one of us will experience change. And that change may bring us together or find some drifting off into new directions. There is always a new normal to approach. Such is the rhythm of life.
With the arrival of the summer solstice, we are reminded that everything in life depends on motion and change. The natural wheel turns continuously with small, consistent shifts that we hardly notice until WOW it's still daylight at 9pm. Solstice is the longest day of the year. Daylight dominates and then with the dawn of the new day we will begin the shift to less daylight and longer nights. Subtle, nuanced, small - sometimes indiscernible - action is nature’s way. What nature is not is binary - the wheel isn’t a straight line where we jump from solstice to solstice. Instead, nature is in continuous change. And when we tune into those changes, subtlety and nuance return to our world. The natural world models for us how to embrace the wholeness of who we are - abundant, life-affirming, vital, and multidimensional beings.
We aren't binary or one-dimensional - so why do we accept society's reductionist views of ourselves?! We are embodied souls with an abundance of complexity inside us. When we diminish ourselves to this or that we create a world that diminishes not only ourselves but others as well. How much we are in touch with our own emotions, depth and humanity is how much we can connect to another. If there are places we are afraid to go within ourselves, we will not be able to companion another when they find themselves in a similar albeit unique space. What would it mean for our natural world and our communities if we embraced our complexity and wholeness? How much more dynamic and engaging our world would be?! How would it be to know that all of you is welcome and not have to cut off parts of yourself to belong? Nature doesn’t ask us to do that, why do we do it to ourselves and others?
This summer solstice I invite you to use nature as your inspiration for life. Small steps, giant-every-17-years-steps, silent slithers, 100 decibel sirens, fertile underground life, colorful above ground blooming, soaring to cloud heights, burrowing underground, skeletons buried at the base of trees - what is it your soul desires in this embodied life? What does it whisper to you as you wake or lie down to sleep? What lies dormant in you that asks to be spoken, created, or shared? What needs to be given to the fire, the water, the land, or the clouds? Now is the time to tend to your inner world - in its full majestic splendor while our outer world is filled with the energy of change. Let nature guide you as you embrace the inner and outer dimensions of yourself so that you and your communities, lineages, and trusted and honored ancestors can flourish and be free.
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.
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.
The official start to winter in the northern hemisphere is today. Winter Solstice is an invitation to touch into the natural world, to reset ourselves to our own natural rhythm, and align with the larger natural cycles. With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, and the demands of the external world, the solstice in its cover of darkness is a brief moment to move inward. This time of year often highlights for me the fragility of life. The year has moved too quickly even with all of its challenges and setbacks and I find myself grasping for a bit more time.
When the light first begins to fade in the fall we hunger for its return. That seeking light can hinder us from fully embracing the opportunity to sink into the rich depths of our being-ness. So much this year I have thought of the tenderness of life - the temporary-ness of those I love and care for and my own impermanence. Grief, in all its forms, is a part of living - and I want to honor this part - give it room at the table - with all the other states of life. The fragility of life feels so heightened with the trees naked and the earth bare. The natural world feels less chaotic and noisy than when everything is in full bloom – a stark contrast to our busy season of celebration. The natural world is more vulnerable and open and the question arises, “when do we strip down the way the earth does?” Truly exposed, tender, not for sex or cleansing, or the voyeuristic gaze but for the witness who sees us clearly and truly and looks in awe? Do we look at nature in her winter with awe? If not her - certainly we don’t look at each other in our winters. And if we do - then quickly we try to turn each other into spring or summer, rushing the cycle along. I realize this is an unconventional holiday message – and I really want to be the girl that only writes about rainbows and unicorns, but then I would be the naked tree with fake leaves instead of lights for decorations. I hope you will join me this holiday season to celebrate what makes you YOU. What are your true decorations? What is the Truth that resides in your heart at this moment of wintering? Honor it. So that we may witness its beauty.
My solstice blessing for you is a bit of time to reconnect with your natural self, a remembering that darkness is fertile and healing when it is pure and calm, and companionship that can hold your spring and winters.
Many Solstice Blessings!