Solstice

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It’s well established that I love the solstice.  In some fundamental way, my spirit feels the ebb and flow of light and dark, and the way that they dance with each other from one end of the year to the other mean something to me that I can’t quite entirely express.  Last Friday was the summer solstice.  I’d been feeling it coming for weeks.  A gradually-building awareness thrummed inside me that we were reaching the pinnacle of the year’s light.

To mark the day, Grace, Whit, and I went for a notice things walk after dinner.  It was a spectacular evening.  When we set out, the sun still quite high in the sky, and the light turned golden as we walked.  For some reason, it had been a long week; Grace and Whit were bickering and I felt tired.  Still, we walked.  We noticed things.  A spray of small pink flowers in a yard, the fact that the years-long construction at a house near ours seemed to be over, the almost-imperceptible hum of a dragon fly that accompanied us for a block.

In between the noticing, there was arguing.  Everything Grace did aggravated Whit.  He kept snapping at her, exasperated.  Everything Whit did annoyed Grace.  She kept scoffing, rolling her eyes, and walking ahead of him.  I finally stopped them and looked them in the eye, one at a time.  Stop it, I barked.  Enough.  This day is important to me.  Pull it together, I said in a raised voice.

Chastised, they kept walking.  I trailed them, taking this picture.  I felt a surge of that agitation, that restlessness that feels like an itch inside my head, that I now understand to be my brain and heart trying desperately not to be present.  Giving in to it, I looked down at my phone, scrolling through recent emails.  I glanced up to see that Grace had turned and was watching me.  She glared at me, and I looked back, raising my eyebrows questioningly.  “What?”

“Put down your phone,” she said and turned away from me.  To punctuate her dissatisfaction, she reached over and took Whit’s hand.  He let her, and they walked off, away from me.  My cheeks burned as I slipped my phone into my pocket and hurried to catch up to them.  All I could think was: don’t waste this, Lindsey.  We waited to cross a street and I leaned down and whispered in Grace’s ear, “I’m sorry.”  She smiled at me and we walked together, the three of us, into the large grass quad near our house.

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I sat and watched them run.  They did cartwheels and raced, and Whit climbed a tree.  Then we walked on.  A calm settled gently over us.  Nobody argued.  My restlessness eased.  It was as though we’d slid quietly into a slipstream, suddenly stopping our splashing against the current and instead letting ourselves be carried.  Relief washed over me as I grabbed hold of the shimmering ribbon that is being open to and aware of my experience.  I remembered, yet again, that it is a practice, this noticing, this being here now, this breathing, this watching with glittering eyes the immense holiness of life itself.

I trip, I fall, I yell, I snap, I fail.  And I start again.  I train my eyes right here, on what is in front of my feet.

We noticed the print of a leaf in the sidewalk, talked about how it must have happened, how a leaf must have fallen into the wet concrete.  We fell into step in silence.  We noticed a slew of heart-shaped leaves.  Under our feet, the earth tilted, shifting infinitesimally towards the darkness, commencing its gradual movement down from this apex of light.  And we walked on.

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14 Comments

  1. Kristin H. Macomber
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    In meditation, the rule is simple: when you find your mind wandering, just come back. No judgement, no penalty. It’s to be expected, it’s what our minds do. Yes, with practice, you can become more present, more often, in that holy place of just being. But if a mind can wander from the project at hand, when the project is to simply sit with your eyes closed and breathe in and out, well, imagine where your mind can go when your eyes are open. And yes, the phone is a double-edged sword–you get to take these photos, to hold the moment, but the bings, the bells, the distractions that seem designed to keep us from being alone with our thoughts, aware of the world around us…it’s a challenge.

    A wonderful consequence of the imprint you’ve had on your kids is that you now have two bio-feedback providers. They notice when you’re not noticing. They expect of you what you’re trying to instill in them. Perhaps what you need to come up with now is a shorthand signal for “come back.” At our house, when one of us glazes over or shifts attention to some technology, our reset button is a quick “Um, hello?”

    Long comment that meant to just say this: don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, work to be better at this, but as the German scholar tells Jo March in Little Women, “We are all hopelessly flawed.”

  2. Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Honest, true, and so moving to me. Love the comment above from Little Women: we are hopelessly flawed and yet we do keep hoping to do better, to BE better. You’re a light on the path. xoxo

  3. Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I’ve felt the solstice more intensely this year, too. Part of it is because I’ve spent the last month in Seattle, and being this far north this time of year is filled with so much light. And the situation with my mother-in-law being so sick has made me more aware than ever of how things turn, and the inevitability of change.

  4. Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    Gosh I know the feelings – all of them you mention above. The irritation with the arguing, the escape via technology, the awareness of being present and how hard it is sometimes, but always well worth it. This weekend was hard for me and I notice that in times when I am dealing with my own issues, helping my children move from grumpy to happy is so much harder. Relating to them as I should due to their ages becomes so much harder. Being a parent is so much harder when life is harder – obvious but true.

    When I am not present, I feel immensely guilty – all my feelings of what a bad parent I feel I am cloud over me leaving me blue. Alas, if only I could accept that I am not perfect, that my children are not perfect, that we just need to get out of hour heads and simply be as we are…

  5. Posted June 24, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    That mindfulness of which you speak… it’s everything that is important, isn’t it? Our phones, or computers, our TVs… all mindLESS distraction. Necessary, in some cases, but in other cases, not as much as we act like they are. Beautiful and introspective post, Lindsey.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Yes, the older I get the more I realize it just comes down to that. Being there. In the real sense of the word. xo

  6. Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I was thinking I needed a dose of your blog and I was right. It seems like everything that happened on that walk was a concrete manifestation of the struggle each of us goes through to be present–almost as if the struggle is necessary to bring us to the moment. Thanks for writing about it.

    admin Reply:

    I’m so glad to hear from you. And yes, I do think that that walk was just a microcosm or distillation of life itself? All experience is, right? xoxox

  7. Posted June 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    We moved on the solstice which just seemed like such a good thing to do on my favorite day…. Not sure I noticed too much on what was a crazy day but it was a day of new beginnings.

    admin Reply:

    Well, I’m sure it wasn’t a coincidence on some level … new beginnings, turning towards a new season! Congratulations on the move. xo

  8. Posted June 25, 2013 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    Beautiful. It’s so easy to numb out on technology when our kid are acting up … whatever did parents do before then? Oh, yes … it wasn’t pretty. : )

    I trip. I fall, too. We’re all learning, struggling, loving together. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    I am sure they had other ways to numb and distract themselves …though I do think technology has probably exacerbated what is a preexisting tendency to do that. xox

  9. Posted June 25, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    I am a solstice-lover, too. And someone who often longs, simultaneously, to both connect and disconnect. Was having a bit of that struggle myself yesterday, so it is comforting to read these words this morning and know I’m not alone in it. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Definitely not alone. I feel the solstice in some kind of deep, essential way. It’s taken me a long time to really tune into what that sensation was, as the world turned towards June and December 21. xo

  10. Posted June 25, 2013 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I may have to borrow the “notice things” walk. LOVE THAT!!

    admin Reply:

    Please do! I love it … think the world could benefit from more people noticing things 🙂 xox

  11. Amy
    Posted June 26, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I was hoping you would post on the solstice, as it was very much on my mind a few days ago! Your thoughtful piece is a good reminder of always turning to the light.

  12. Posted June 27, 2013 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    So much in this post resonates for me. Thank you.

  13. Posted July 1, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    We all trip and fall and stumble. It’s the beginning again and remembering that is the beautiful part. It was a hurricane here on the solstice and when I backed out of my driveway in the rain I hit my neighbors grey pick up. So some of us crash too:)

  14. Posted July 2, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I trip and fail and start over all the time. Maybe every day. My phone/email/texting/instagram/facebook/twitter are huge obstacles in my quest to be more present, but so are the dirty dishes and the laundry piling up and the floors that need vacuuming. Sometimes, especially when Mia was in school, I put the boys down for a nap and realize that I’ve spent half the day letting them amuse themselves while I checked off chores on the aforementioned list in lieu of reading books or building blocks or just playing, and I feel just as guilty for this. Also, your noticing things walk is genius. You’re creating a wonderful tradition for your kids, one that will forever remind them of summertime. I might have to copy. xx

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much for saying that. I hope I am – but of course it’s just one small thing in a universe of tripping and falling and raising my voice 🙂 xox