Grim stones whose gray lips keep your secret well,
Our hands that touch you touch an ancient terror,
An ancient woe, colossal citadel
Of some fierce faith, some heaven-affronting error.
Rude-built, as if young Titans on this wold
Once played with ponderous blocks a striding giant
Had brought from oversea, till child more bold
Tumbled their temple down with foot defiant.
Upon your fatal altar Redbreast combs
A fluttering plume, and flocks of eager swallows
Dip fearlessly to choose their April homes
Amid your crevices and storm-beat hollows.
Even so in elemental mysteries,
Portentous, vast, august, uncomprehended,
Do we dispose our little lives for ease,
By their unconscious courtesies befriended.
--Katharine Lee Bates, 19th century poet, educator and author of they lyrics to "America the Beautiful".
Summer Solstice officially arrives this year on June 20th, and will be marked by the unusual dual occurrence of a full moon. I love the change of seasons and this one promises to be especially special with the lunar event. I try to always note, and often celebrate, the celestial change of seasons, however I won't be donning a druid's robe and traveling to Stonehenge. I should think that summer solstice would be the worst time to visit the ancient monument--far too many people looking for spiritual fireworks. The above watercolor, by one of my favorite painters, British painter J.M.W. Turner, and the poem by American poet Katharine Lee Bates, both reference the supernatural allure and lore of this arrangement of monoliths. Archaeologically speaking, the site is spectacular, but the evidence indicates that the site was used over the centuries for a multitude of purposes. It served as a site of worship, burial and even as a spa offering specially healing waters. And it continues to serve as a tourist destination and "bucket list" stop for many.
I find summer solstice to be the perfect time to truly sink into summer. It's when the reality of another academic year having come to a close fully starts to set in and my body goes into a more relaxed state. I will admit, it takes me a while to get there. If you are having trouble transitioning, you may need to employ some special techniques to get you into an appreciative mood of the new season. Many years ago, I had a real problem with this transition. I had just finished my doctoral studies and had been awarded my degree and had finished my second year of full-time teaching. I had literally used every day off to finish my dissertation and I was emotionally and physically spent. After school let out, I found myself in a deep funk. For weeks--I'm talking five weeks--I sat in a chair on my screened-in porch staring at the woods. I had zero energy to tackle anything. Occasionally, I would think I should at least watch some television, but would then realize that getting up, turning it on, finding something of interest--it was too much. This post-dissertation depression is fairly common. The extraordinary effort required to finish and pass is often followed by a period of letdown and lethargy. But this sort of funk could happen to anyone following a major event, or even as a result of expecting a summer filled with fun and excitement. Maybe you just don't have that in you!
Here's how I pulled out of it. I started reading a book series: Jan Karon's Mitford series. Karon tells the story of a pastor living in a small town in the Blue Mountains who, at age sixty, finds his whole life changes. Just as he's gearing down for retirement, his circumstances shift dramatically. The book pulled me in, and then I was out searching book outlet stores for the various volumes in the series. The story, the quest, it all pulled me into someone else's world and gave me some purpose. Most importantly, it afforded me a respite from my own circumstances. Sometimes we need that. So, if you are needing a way to shift over to summer, give reading a series a try. My husband and I will be traveling to Iceland in July, and so for the past several weeks, we've been reading Arnaldur Indridason's murder mysteries featuring the detective Erlendur. They have provided us with a description of the country and a distraction from the end of a very crammed, and unfortunately traumatic, academic school year.
Some other ways to soften into summer:
- Pick a poet and follow them daily. I'm really into Amy Lowell (another 19th century female Massachusetts poet like Bates) right now.
- Take up a practice--I've gotten back into yoga and am feeling my body and attitude soften from the hard shell I built up over a tough year.
- Walk after dinner. In Italy, passeggiata (an after dinner stroll) is a tradition. No speed walking here. This is a leisurely walk meant to help the digestion and to socialize with family and friends.
- Eat cooling and easy foods. No elaborate prep. Salads, fruit and cheese plates, yogurt, cold chicken. Keep it simple.
- Sit outdoors and just be. Sipping a cup of green tea, watching the birds, the squirrels, the chipmunks--it's entertainment enough for me.
- Play--frisbee, badminton, catch. Nothing formal, just fun.
Artfully yours, Lisabeth