Happy summer! (and a happy winter to my friends and readers in the global south) All together now, we residents of Earth have a small pause before our giant planetary pendulum begins the big swing back toward the other extreme. Where I am in the northeastern U.S., things are green and bursting with life.
Here, summer solstice is a time of frantic growth. The tomato plants are getting taller by the day, and you can practically watch the grass grow. The trees are lush and thick. All of nature is completely engaged in the task of growing, and the high sun fuels the extravagance. For now.
For now, my little patch of Earth is in the thick of the big project of growing and expanding life. The blossoms and tentative new beginnings of April are long forgotten, and the ripening of August and September is still seems far away. Right now, the task is to grow. To expand. To get busy. No time to rest. And this is as it should be.
We all experience times like this in our own lives too. My oldest son is halfway through college. He is in the thick of that experience. He is no longer a freshman, but still a long way from graduation. He is busy. Learning, growing, expanding his horizons. He is in the “summer solstice” time of his college life. Summer solstice time is that time in a project, course of study, or enterprise when you are in the thick of things: up to your neck in the task at hand and loving every minute. It’s an incredibly productive time. Our society values this type of productivity and energy. Our society also highly values those in the summer solstice of their lives, those young adults on the cutting edge of the latest thing. Our society values the busy-ness and drive, the hard work and especially those who thriving in the thick of it all.
In nature, solstice time is brief. Slowly at first, but inevitably, the darkness will increase, and the frantic growth of June will give way to the fruiting of August, the release of autumn and the quiet fallow rest of winter. And this is as it should be.
The culture, on the other hand, seems to prefer an endless solstice. We are expected to perform at peak efficiency all the time. The pace is fast and the demands are relentless. Of course, in our lives as in nature, solstice is fleeting, no matter how we try to believe otherwise. No one can maintain a frantic pace forever. Time passes. Energy ebbs and flows. The only question is whether or not we recognize this reality and flow with it, or try to maintain a time of endless solstice in our own lives.
If you are in a solstice time, happily in the thick of a major project, business expansion, course of study or whatever, and are buzzing with energy, that’s wonderful! Enjoy it. Go with it. Ride that wave and get busy! But realize that you cannot sustain the pace forever.
If you are feeling wiped out, exhausted and fallow, honor that and take a step back from the unrealistic cultural expectation of an endless solstice. You are in a different place.
Life is humming (literally!) in the garden right now. The moment of peak energy is here, and brightness is all around. I’ll enjoy it, savor it and breathe in the sweetness that is present for today. Part of that sweetness comes from knowing that the peak is temporary, and that things are always changing. Onward we go, ebb and flow. The seeds of the growing darkness of autumn are planted in the bright light of solstice. Nothing lasts forever. Enjoy this moment.
Blessings of the bright summer to you.
Rebecca Hecking is the author of The Sustainable Soul: Eco-Spiritual Reflections and Practices, and plans to spend a large chunk of today basking in the sunshine.