Summer stillness

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I’ve been thinking a lot about stillness in this past week since the summer solstice. The word solstice comes from Latin: sol being sun and sistere being to stand still. This has echoed in my head all week – in the way that words, phrases or lessons have a habit of doing when I really should pay attention to them. I feel it so relevant to the call I feel at midsummer to take stock and celebrate, yet I find the message so easy to ignore.

It seems wise to make room for stillness in these long, hot, busy, busy days. Busy with garden tasks and other works, with going out on adventures to enjoy the weather, with social gatherings, with celebrations at home and away and always busy with family life and the normal day-to-day tasks. Busy in my head with numerous half-finished projects and ideas for more, with the headiness of the heat and the nagging sense of urgency to do it all before whatever (often self-imposed) deadline.

Sure, there are planting times and other deadlines that sometimes do need prioritising or the opportunity – or obligation – will be missed. But I’m not very good at prioritising being still. I know the benefits and reap them when I do make time to just be – indoors or out – or when I meditate. When I just let myself be present in that space. When I stand still.

It’s an important space to acknowledge and honour, the day between the year’s waxing and waning halves; the day the sun stands still. I know it’s important too to find and hold that same peaceful space in my everyday life. In the transition from morning to afternoon, from waking to sleeping, between activities, between thoughts, between breaths. This stillness is not only important for me (and those around me who benefit from a calmer Mo!) but important for me to model and teach to my son; to help him know and find stillness within and without. The more stillness and peace that we as individuals can create, the more that can ripple out into this busy, busy world. I just have to prioritise. ♥

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Health, happiness, abundance and celebration; Midsummer solstice themes

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For me, the summer solstice represents:

  • Strength (the strength of the sun being at its highest point)
  • Happiness and physical health (both being quite “solar” things for me. The sun and the land are strong, vibrant and bursting with energy right now. As we are part of nature, I see that this is a good time to attend to those aspects of ourselves.
  • Abundance – of daylight, of crops. of warmth, of colour, of projects, of creative energy, of power, of so, so much right now. Celebrate and enjoy!
  • Celebration – of all this abundance, of everything at its peak, of our own creativity and, well,our very being. I see this as a time for standing as and individual or community, looking at all the “crops” before you – be they agricultural or metaphorical – and celebrating. Celebrating your work, attention, energy and resources that you’ve put in to make and nurture what you see. To celebrate its strength, beauty and almost-ripeness before the harvest time arrives. This is party time!
  • Honey – in celebration of the bees and all the hard work they’re doing at the moment! I saw an interesting idea the other day to make a bee bath for them in hot weather – just marbles in a shallow dish filled with water. It could also be a lovely gift to the earth to plant bee-friendly plants.
  • Seasonal food – salads, early soft fruit and peas and beans, herbs, elderflower.
  • The round, pregnant belly of the goddess, not quite ready to give birth, not quite at that super-exhausted time that the third trimester brings. I see this celebration as her blessingway, where her friends gather to celebrate the life created and nurtured inside her that will soon be birthed.
  • Fullness – those growing food are busy, busy, busy at this time. I feel the general energy too to be full; the headiness from the heat, the long days, the parties and gatherings, the strength of the sun. I wrote more about this – and counterbalancing it – last midsummer, here and here.
  • Fatherhood – The prime of life, creativity, productiveness and the support that is needed for that to happen.
  • Masculine energy – although I don’t believe that the sun has to be masculine (and the moon feminine), that’s how I connect with them in my spiritual perspective and practice.
  • Preparation to let go – to let go of the sun and its warmth. light and the fertility of the land. Of those ideas, projects, creations and adventures nearly ripe and ready for the world The words “enjoy it while it’s here” come to mind, for the cycle continues and the time of turning inward and indoors will soon come round.

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Tonight, I’ll gather things together for our family altar space and bake a honey cake to share tomorrow with neighbours and friends. I’m having a day to myself to enjoy some child-free outdoors time walking or meditating in the morning, honouring my health through some yoga, and then honouring my creativity through some craft time (probably beeswax candlemaking) in the afternoon. I may get up for sunrise: I’d like to but if it just clashes with the needs of my family then I feel it’s lovely enough to give a special greeting to the sun whenever I do wake up. (And if I have to ply myself with lots of caffeine that kind of loses the magical headspace for me). There’ll be a simple ritual in there somewhere and, in the evening, I’ll share celebrations with my husband and son – with yummy food and maybe a fire.

Happy solstice ♥

At the top is the sunburst I made today, inspired by The Crafty Crow () – loved the quite meditative experience of the weaving.

The other half of the cycle; the waning moon, the impending post-summer-solstice-time, and my purple-sprouting broccoli

I read somewhere (memory fails me as to where!) recently that many people in the East find it strange that we in the West are so obsessed with doing and give very little time or value to not doing, stillness and just being. I see this as a feature and result of the capitalist and patriarchal society I feel that we live in. A society that constantly encourages competition, gain, production, expansion, power, measured success; “bigger, better, more”.

I see these characteristics as being represented in nature’s cycles by the waxing moon (new-full) and by the waxing half of the year, which climaxes this weekend (in the northern hemisphere) with the midsummer solstice. I’m not meaning to diss them here; such characteristics are all very essential for change and for the growth of ourselves. our ambitions, our knowledge, our plants, our societies etc. Yet there is the other half that completes the cycle; the waning moon who’s cycle we’re now in, and the time from the summer solstice to the winter one. Indeed it can be easy to overlook these phases – after all, the waning moon comes up in the sky after many of us are asleep. And do we expect to see it in the morning? My experience – and memory – is that we have the idea that the moon is out at night and that most illustrations of the moon show it as a waxing crescent or full moon.

And summer – everyone loves and looks forward to summer! Now I’m not suggesting that loving summer is some patriarchal evil, it’s more that I see myself as a bit of an advocate for winter, which I think gets a little demonised. I know cold is a genuine hardship (especially for those without adequate heating, or in super-cold places) but summer can bring its challenges and, in my experience, anticlimaxes from all the expectations we put on the weather! Perhaps its that many of us shy away from the introspection and inner work that winter invites us towards. Again, I see our view of the cycle as not being one of two equally-valued halves. I could extend this to the female cycle too – menstruation isn’t honoured by many in our society in the way that many other cultures do. And indeed to our own life cycles: I think we’re a pretty ageist society. Thankfully, I feel that many people are becoming more aware of that and that it isn’t fair.

I thought about all this over the weekend whilst I read an article in the current issue of lovely Taproot magazine about seed-saving, and whilst looking at our purple-sprouting broccoli. (Behold the broccoli):

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Sure we enjoyed watching it grow. We certainly enjoyed eating several of the florets! We’ve also enjoyed watching what happens if you leave a few florets, as we chose to do. I’m so glad that we’ve been able to watch this other half of the cycle – there’s so many vegetables that I still don’t know what they look like in flower (and beyond) because, as Ken Greene the seed librarian interviewed in the Taproot article says, “we’re used to interrupting plants at their most delicious or beautiful moments. But there’s a whole life cycle beyond that moment.”. The purple-sprouting flowers are adored by the bees, pretty to look at and yummy in a salad (or straight off the plant, like my toddler does!). We can see little pods on the plant and hope to harvest the seeds before cutting down and composting the rest of the plant. Then we’ll dream again, plant again, nurture again, celebrate again, harvest the crop again, watch it go full cycle again, harvest the seeds again, compost the plant again…and on and on and on. ♥

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June

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A day in the garden in the sunshine getting in the last of our seeds and finishing the cold frame just as seedlings start begging to be transplanted. And getting under each others’ feet as is to probably be expected with 2 adults and a toddler – all with their own ideas and strong wills – in a fairly small space. Not getting round to the tidying up that we could really do with doing. June can be busy. The solstice approaches, energy building up as if the ticking off of calendar days becomes the powerful rhythm of a circle of drummers. Sometimes I find that beat beautifully meditative, sometimes it gets too heady. I can feel myself starting to spin with tasks – seeds to get in before their “plant by” date, fruit bushes to net because yay the berries are forming!, household cleaning that’s been neglected amidst the extra time outside, dinner to cook because how did the afternoon vanish so quickly?, goals and projects still incomplete.

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As I think of midsummer day in just three weeks, I’d do well to remember its theme of celebration; of taking time to step back, honour and admire what is nearly ripe in my garden, across the land and in the rest of my life. To prepare to celebrate the pregnant land goddess. Celebrate her as friends of an expectant woman do when they gather together for a baby shower or blessingway a few weeks before she is “due”. I don’t need to give myself even more to do planning an elaborate solstice-day celebration complete with a themed feast, a mission out to the wild and a fancy ritual. No, in recent times I’ve come to appreciate and see the subtle power in simple celebrations.

In these three weeks, I can mindfully prepare by celebrating nature’s bounty as I see it; as I tend to it in my garden, as I pass it in the park, as I feel it in the air and in my soul. I can prioritise my utilisation of the sun’s strong energy whilst it’s here (I mean, just how many squash seedlings will our dinky urban garden have room for anyway?!) and I can recognise my own ego – and sometimes greed – in the task list I’ve created. I can still be busy, yes, but who wants to be too tired for the party? Although June may invite us to dance faster to that rising beat, I’m sure we can still keep our balance as we do so. ♥

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