Summer Solstice can be a hard time of year for sensitive people . . .
The fullness, the ripeness, the abundance of all things and the injunction to live big, throw off the oppression of darkness, party all day because the night will never come—yes. But to be so busy, so full, so loud, so constantly stimulated can be overwhelming. And the heat! Blogging in winter is easy for me. Easy to find time. Easy to reflect. Easy to write about the forgotten value of limits, silence, the infinite within. At this summer peak of outer activity and pleasure, I start thinking about greed. Consumerism. Endless making and taking, and why are we never content with what we have but must keep destroying the world to have more?
Why aren’t we humans, after all, ever content with what we have? Are we really just greedy? Or are we only afraid to be grateful? Taught to feel guilty, when we relish our abundance. Taught to keep glancing over our shoulder, lest the gods should take back what they gave us, if we enjoy it too much. Maybe the endless wanting comes from forgetting how to feel what we take in. Because we lost the self-confidence with which to contain it. Or lost touch with our soul—I mean isn’t the soul, after all, a kind of spiritual belly that receives and digests the beauty of life into meaning? So that we can just feel it—not do something to it, or take it or change it, or post a picture of it so someone else can imagine us enjoying it—but just feel, and that’s all.
Maybe Summer Solstice is about savoring. I think the Earth, like everything that gives, wants that. The birds are singing all the time, all the time a celebration, all the time busy with joy and unafraid to be proud. Their songs make everything look healthy and okay, the light looks heavenly, the leaves are translucent, they glitter like the ideals of a child. The sun is so high today, it has all day long. There are no limits to this day, and the light itself is singing. My cat curls by my elbow on the picnic table and watches the endless show. A vulture soars over the space between treetops, searching—so casually—for death. There’s been no rain for way too long, but the life around me doesn’t feel like suffering, only like a subtle stillness in the heart of the heat, determination without despair. And every leaf flutters and flies, a perfect jagged cutout of the thinnest cloth, and every leaf is a different letter to the wind. (Remember before texts there were emails, and before emails there were letters? Remember before letters there were just cairns and marks beside the road? Remember before cairns and marks, there were just a thousand leaves, each one with a message to and from the universe itself?) The low arc of a hammock, the white-lit body of a tree, the leaf-veiled peak of our roof, the homey, striping slats of the woodshed—all passing in and out of the gift of sun, the gift of shade, like a bright kind of dream. My cat is on the ground now, her nose wrinkling, her ears moving every way. She is watching a butterfly, while the butterfly dances. She is peaceful and yet wanting. Her instinct is to want, and her wanting is to kill. I have to live with that killing, or I have to keep her inside and listen to her cry. It’s things like this that keep life from ever feeling comfortable. No way to live life fully that doesn’t hurt.
To savor everything—this is the only simple truth I can find. If we don’t savor what feels good, we will always feel empty, and always want more. If we don’t savor what feels hard and painful, we will always be passing it on to someone else—in gossip, in social media, in a verbal unburdening whose only goal is to get others to feel the pain we don’t wish to feel.
We can feel this ourselves. All of it, all that we witness. We are made for this. For Summer Solstice, let us savor what we consume. Let us love what we enjoy. Let us learn to feel satisfied, not as an act of humility, but as an act of deserving. Yes, I deserve to taste what I consume. I deserve to draw nourishment from what I swallow into my belly. And even the pain, let it be an experience. I cannot release it without experiencing it, for experience IS the release. It is the passing of life’s essence through the momentary beauty of this body. Feel everything, because when we avoid a feeling, we avoid also the part of us that feels it. To feel everything is to access the power of our full selves. The earth is everywhere. Let it carry you like the sea; you weigh nothing. Everything is a gift. There is a belief—I think I got it from Thoreau—that the point of life is not to be happy, but to live as deeply as possible. I think this is what the soul wants. This is what allows us to finally feel full.
I dreamed recently that I was surrounded by lightning. I was in a room whose walls were literally lightning, a world defined by endless strikes of lightning. It was terrifying. Yet this is life. I found, in the dream, that there was no secret door, no hidden space, no escape. There is no rest. Yet somehow, in surrendering to the feeling, there is a kind of rest—the way there is peace in surrendering to a river or a wave, only not the kind of peace you can sleep through.
I wanted to write this post before Solstice so that I could post it on that day, on time. But Summer Solstice isn’t about dreaming or reflecting, it’s about living right now. So the writing itself is the experience, and it’s happening today, and this has been my Solstice meditation, this writing. This is the offering. Happy Solstice.