Happy Summer Solstice!
Summer Solstice falls on the 21st of June, 2022 at 2:13 am Pacific Time.
By honoring the solstice, we are participating in earth time, marking the changing of the seasons not by imposed, human-made calendar time, but by following the rhythms and natural changes of the earth as she changes from the new growth and freshness of spring into the full on blooming and vibrant growth of summer.
It’s a time to really lean into and enjoy being embodied, being the animal body that we are, experiencing everything that our bodies enable us to sense, to feel in this amazing and beautiful living earth.
You’ve probably noticed that over the last few years since we moved to the Pacific Northwest, my deep interest is about learning to live with earth, learning to be a responsible, ecological citizen of earth. But this doesn’t quite catch it… there’s also a very deep spiritual yearning to come back to what is my birthright, what is all of our birthright, communion with the living earth.
This blog explorers my journey toward this re-union, and is the current version of the first part of a sermon that I will be giving July 24th, 2022 online for my Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend, Washington.
Mom calls me over to see and listen to the yellow grosbeaks that have returned. I notice them, but I’m not really touched. I have other things on my mind.
My sister follows the call at an early age to spend as much time as she can outdoors, to explore and eventually take up outdoor sports and camping, even training to guide others. It all seems like so much work to me, and expensive, and dirty. I have other things on my mind.
It took me many years to begin to understand the importance of reconnecting to earth and to find my own ways of coming home. It’s not that I didn’t have moments of deep connection, but I didn’t prioritize them, and I’ve lived my life in my head a lot.
- In my teen years, I spent a lot of time believing and being a good born-again Christian.
- As an adult I studied a lot and traveled abroad, learning German and Swedish.
- I was always singing, and trying to be a better singer.
- I’ve read a lot of books about how to heal and grow and develop myself, and coached and taught others about this.
But living my life in my head, even though I studied and taught helpful, spiritual things, hasn’t been enough.
Though I have often found solace and beauty in nature, it was almost as if I have expected nature to be there for me when I needed her. I didn’t realize that there could be some kind of reciprocal relationship.
As Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us—the land is not broken. It is our relationship to it that is broken.
It’s hard to have a relationship with the land when we as a culture move around so much. The average American moves every 5 years—that certainly makes it hard to have a sense of belonging to the land… Instead of a sense of belonging to the earth, we move to a new place and bring our belongings with us.
We experience nature as a thing, something outside of us, an object that we can use—a resource to use to grow our food, for water to drink, for building materials to make homes and shelters, for fuel to drive our cars and fly to see our friends and family and visit new places, etc.
In his book Biology of Wonder, Andreas Weber invites us to swap out the word “nature” with the phrase “the living earth.” You probably noticed that I introduced the blog with this language. This reminds us that we can enter into a living relationship with earth rather than a one-sided for-human-enjoyment-only experience.
Take a moment with me:
Close your eyes and take a few breaths. And then just open your awareness to your body, noticing any sensation, any aches, any pains, any tingly, bubbly, electrical, flowy, or other sensations. Any warmth, any ease, any relaxation… Just notice this aliveness in your body.
And if you’re having trouble feeling anything, try shaking one hand for a minute and then stop and sense that hand compared to the other one, noticing the extra aliveness.
Andreas Weber suggests that this inner aliveness you feel, this is the same aliveness, the livingness that is in the living earth. This aliveness is the center of our being and is our direct connection with the living earth. Feeling it reconnects us with our bodies, made of earth’s body.
Andreas Weber again: “Nature is about beauty because beauty is our way to experience aliveness as inwardness. Beauty is aliveness felt…”
No wonder beauty calls to us! The beauty we celebrate in the living earth, that we snap photos of, send postcards of, look at picture books of, travel for and long to take in… this outward expression of aliveness reminds us of our own inner aliveness, of our own connection with the living earth.
And we need these reminders desperately since our culture has created a lot of deadness.
At least since settled agricultural life, we have steadily and cruelly enforced a worldview of pillage and domination over the land and any beings—peoples, creatures, other-than-human beings—who stood in our way.
Whether we and our direct ancestors were involved in this or not, our bodies and our relationship with the earth bear the burden of this colonization. In fact, Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands, speaks eloquently of how white folk carry the trauma of being perpetrators in our bodies. In addition, most white folk are descendants of people who were treated cruelly in the countries we originally immigrated from. We also carry this trauma of being victims in our bodies.
Because we no longer can sense and feel our inner aliveness and that of the living earth, we overdo to try to get back in touch with it. Too much screen time, too much coffee or caffeine in any form, too much sugar, too much alcohol, too many drugs, too much work, too much play… And not enough contact with the living earth.
So what do we do about this?
How do we become an earth being?
Stay tuned for Part II of this blog at Lughnasadh/Lammas or Fall Equinox in which I share more of my exploration or watch the service on July 24th or after.
Spoiler Alert: I don’t have the answers, just some experience and hopefully, some inspiration! 🙂
In the meantime, though, I’d LOVE to hear about your experience!