June 17, 2015

Thanksgiving in June: How I Celebrate the Summer Solstice.


Sun is shining, the weather is sweet
Make you wanna move your dancing feet…
~ Bob Marley

What is it about summer that lifts up our spirits?

When the sun is out and we are dressed comfortably in our thinnest layers, life just seems a little brighter and birdsong sounds a little sweeter. Birds love this time of year as much as we do—and for good reason.

Everything outdoors is swelling with abundance. Trees seem to get taller overnight; leaves and flowers are lush and clamoring for real estate; and what seemed like dull, empty space just a few months ago is now green and bursting at the seams with glorious intensity.

Of course the arrival of summer is not a magic cure-all for the struggles of life. But if we appreciate the beautiful generosity of nature’s warmer months in even the slightest way, then suddenly our problems seem smaller. Obstacles and burdens seem less intimidating; complaints become trivial. Life itself starts to feel less like swimming up stream and more like coasting down a water slide.

This is something we recognize instinctively from a young age. The warmest months of the year represent a carefree happiness and a greater degree of simplicity and freedom. As children, we celebrate by playing outdoors and eating sweet corn and watermelon and staying in the water until the tips of our fingers pale and wrinkle. We are soaking up the bounty of summer. Even later, long after we enter adulthood, there is still something sweet and sultry and gloriously seductive about summer. Despite the obligations of life, most of us still look for reasons to get outside and do the things we love to do.

Whether we realize it or not, we are celebrating the sun and all that is possible because of the light it shares with us. The culmination of this light happens with the summer solstice, that precise hour on a late day in June (for those of us in the Northern hemisphere) when the sun ascends to its highest point in the calendar year.

There is something about the solstice that gives me pause each summer and winter, like some cornerstone of life I feel drawn to acknowledge. The summer solstice, a celebration of light, and light is what brings everything roaring to life, from the smallest blade of grass to the largest living, breathing creature on this rock we call home. On that precise hour when the sun reaches its highest point in our sky, we are the furthest we will ever be from hibernation and darkness until this time next summer.

For some reason my need to acknowledge this period of transition between light and darkness grows a little stronger each year.

I keep thinking of the sunflower, steadfast in its devotion to the sun. Instead of taking our bright giver of life for granted, this tall, confident flower turns its face to witness each sunrise and bask in each sunset. It seems like the ultimate display of gratitude. To me, the summer solstice is a reminder from the sun to be joyfully aware of my own blessings and abundance. To offer up my gratitude just as generously as the sunflower thanks the bright light for which it was named.

I’m beginning to think of the solstice as a summer version of Thanksgiving. The longest days of the year invite celebration of the peak of life and all the blessings the sun provides. I am so thankful to be here to witness all the bounty that is possible in part because of the glorious summer sunshine, which feels sweeter because of the darkest days I have known. I am grateful for both the brightest light and the deepest darkness. Each invokes appreciation for the other. So what better time than now—when the sun is shining and the weather is sweet—to soak up the glory of summer with a grateful heart? Just as squirrels gather food for winter, we can store this energy away as a reserve of light and warmth that will linger deep within as the days grow shorter, like the last glowing embers of a fire.

Cicero said that gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all others. If we celebrate this culmination of light with a deep sense of gratitude for all of life’s blessings, our perception of abundance can only deepen—and the abundance we feel now is what will carry us through the darkest days to come.

So this summer solstice I will celebrate by giving thanks. I will light a candle. Or a bonfire. I will buy sunflowers to brighten the table for my weekend feast. I will turn off my smartphone, put on my flip-flops and get outside to my very favorite place. I will soak up the sunshine and birdsong. I will move my dancing feet.



Author: Bethanie Pitsky

Editor: Caroline Beaton

Image: Flickr

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