My mother’s birthday is June 19 – she would have been 85 this year – but her favorite day of the year was the Summer Solstice. On that day, she would traditionally drive to somewhere she could see the sun set into the ocean, and she would drink a champagne toast to the light. One year, we were traveling through Norway over the Solstice and I remember long, magical days without any night at all. The sky would dim, but not to full dark, and we were all blessed with seemingly infinite energy.
I have a (pre-digital) photo from June 21 the year my mother died. We were not at the ocean that year, so we climbed Eaglebrook Hill in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where we could see the line of the horizon. Our daughter – just two months old – is there in a snuggli on her father’s chest, nearby are my father and sister. And as the sun slipped out of sight, we drank a toast to Mom and to the light.
There is something visceral about light for human beings. It is easy to understand why early peoples celebrated this day with such joy…and why the winter solstice elicited a different, but equally intense, response. Each year I want to cling to the light; I don’t want to know that the days will start shortening in that liminal instant when the earth starts to tilt away from the sun. This year, that moment was actually 10:51.
I know that I cannot cling to the light…in fact, nothing good would come of us living only in light. We need the darkness, too: the dormant time for our sleep and for the earth’s sleep. We need the cold, the bare time, the dreaming time.
But this day deserves some special consideration, some attention that marks it as more than just another day. It has a right to lay a claim on my spirit and to ask me to meet its light with my own light. So this Solstice, I commit myself to tending my own flame a little more passionately.
I commit to
* bringing the light of my appreciation to more occasions, from the grocery store where the check-out supervisor at the self-check lines always smiles and asks about my day, to a meal prepared by friends, to the acolyte who kept me from making a mistake in an unfamiliar congregation. Because appreciation brightens the day of both the giver and the receiver.
* cultivating a lighter heart: laughing more, taking fewer things seriously, being silly, playing more, dancing more, and letting games be games rather than judgments on my worth as a human being. Because looking around at three-toed sloths and leaping dolphins and shooting stars, it is clear that fun is woven into the universe
* lightening my life a little by passing along cherished possessions that someone else has always admired, admitting that I do not actually need 5 pairs of black pumps and sending one or two of them to the wonderful organization that helps unemployed women find work, giving my professional books to a young colleague (I already know everything I need to know from them). Because light needs open space in which to spread its radiance.
* choosing the light yoke (as Christians would say) and laying down the heavy burden of my own expectations: from the belief that I should be working non-stop toward the Nobel Prize (or, at least, the Pulitzer), or should someday do a TED lecture, or should summit every one of the 14ers in Colorado (since I live here, after all), or … or… Because letting go of the pressure of unrealistic expectations allows that energy to spin bright visions, instead.
May you dance or skate or roll or run or swing
with light in your eyes,
with light in your heart,
with light in your mind.
May the light pour over you
and rise through you.
May your dreams unfold into fulfillment.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2012, Immram Chara, LLC
Okay, I didn’t make summer solstice because my web assistant is preparing to fly to China. I am now shooting for July 1 to have the mailing list operational. Thank you for your patience.