As my traveling companion and I pass the summer solstice in these light bright northern lands, I thought I would share some more photos from our travels…a pastiche of images and memories to celebrate this turning point of the year. Longest Day was my mother’s favorite day of the year and comes right on top of her birthday, so this is in her memory, as well.
Reminder: Clicking on any photo will enlarge it.
I begin with the candles we lit in St Govan’s Chapel, a tiny rock-hewn space clinging to the cliffs in Y Stagbwll (Stackpole) Wales. These were in memory of my beloved friend, Lori Rosenkvist.
We traveled through Bodnant Garden (in north Wales) a few weeks ago when the garden was ablaze with the azaleas and rhododendron in full bloom. The woodlands looked like they were on fire — our own personal burning bush(es). We also saw this tree for the first time and it looked like flaming lace from a distance.
When we are out exploring, our days often include stopping for tea. If we have the choice, it is a cream tea. This varies from country to country. In England, it includes scones with clotted cream and jam. In Ireland and Scotland, it is usually jam with whipped cream. When the weather allows us to be outdoors (as we were in Stackpole, Wales), we get to share the scones with whoever alights.
There are places of spiritual light we knew we wanted to visit (or re-visit) even before we left Denver. One was the Chalice Well in Glastonbury which we first saw over 20 years ago with our daughter. It was very different then. Now it is a beautiful fall of water through greenery and flowers into a peaceful pool.
Water has figured prominently in our travels — we are near the ocean everywhere on this particular sabbatical. We just returned from Orkney with Scapa Flow to its south and the North Sea all around. We walked along the cliffs almost every day, feeling the rain or wind (or both!) This is Marwick Head on the north east of the big island.
Just on the other side of this headland, we found what we had come to Marwick in hopes of seeing: puffins. I took these without a telephoto lens, so they are not the “perfect” wildlife shot, but the miracle of seeing puffins in their natural habitat after being told they weren’t yet nesting was…well, a miracle. We sat and watched them for 30 minutes or more.
We have also been refreshed by gardens and green places. I have never seen a blue poppy. This one was in a tiny front yard garden in Glasgow. And, after the cold and overcast of the spring in the British Isles, finding this antique (and heavenly scented) rose was a special treat.
This sabbatical has invited us back in time to the wisdom and the mystery of neolithic people, to their relationship with the light, and to the profoundly moving monuments they built of stone. We visited two spectacular stone circles in Cumbria (in the northwest corner of England): Castlerigg and Long Meg and her Daughters. We didn’t see them marking a seasonal threshold, but their story is rich every day.
And shortly after that, we traveled north to Orkney where we stood all alone in the Ring of Brodgar just before sunset, only ten days from solstice. The sky glowed late into the evening.
Then we explored the darkness, visiting Maeshowe and other, smaller, less accessible stone cairns, wondering about the love and passion that layered rocks and corbeled roofs, carefully, over long periods of time.
We watched how the light entered the deep passages, even on cloudy days, imagining what it would be like on one of the solstices or equinoxes.
Light is the theme of the solstice, so I will include this herald of the light — wandering in all his glory outside a potter’s shop in Harray, pausing to crow from time to time…just for the joy of it apparently.
And then a blazing blossom in the gardens at Ard Daraich in the highlands — a living metaphor for the sun…
…and, finally, the candles burning at St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, quiet and steady against the pillars at the end of a long summer day.
May your Solstice be a day of glory…and the second half of Beltane be blessed with wisdom.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2015 Immram Chara, LLC