In June, I started the longest day of the year by getting up nearly at dawn for morning vigil prayer at a Benedictine monastery. It seems an appropriate way to honor the Solstice, the first day of the summer and the longest day of the year. The weather could not have been more perfect where I was in a little guesthouse in the rural Vermont mountains. Mother Nature seemed practically to be bragging with so many daylight hours of uninterrupted perfection. I wanted to soak up every last bit, recalling all too well the short, dark, grey days of winter that lay both behind and ahead.
I often envy more ancient cultures and many living societies that mark this day—and the equinoxes and winter solstice—with proper attention. They appreciate the rhythms of the natural world and pay attention to the cycles of time more fully than do we clock-bound, calendar-obsessed people. The hours of daylight and darkness, the rhythm of the seasons, the seasons of the year. It’s the circle of life, but it seems that clocks and calendars render life linear and we lose our grounding in the cycles of time and the world around us.
Gardening helps me to break this habit. It forces me to slow down and live alongside the gradual unfolding of Mother Nature. It calls on me to pay attention. It calls on me to respect the earth, and my own dependence on it.
And so it seems that it is worth pausing to recognize the life-giving warmth of the sun and its gift of light. Whether of God, Goddess, Nature, or Science (or, as far as I’m concerned, all of the above), the sun is a most precious gift and the Solstice reminds me to pay attention to that and be grateful.