How to refill your batteries at the beginning of summer
This is my summer solstice post in my series about activities for the eight holidays throughout the wheel of the year. We are now at the beginning of summer.
Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog post about the 21st of June. There are a few traditional threads that weave through it all:
- the Summer Solstice
- the beginning of summer and the holidays
- St. John‘s Eve and the end of asparagus season
My thoughts about this day crystallised into the following main themes: How things are valued even more due to their transience, the importance of resting for gathering strength for less plentiful days, enjoying the current abundance around us, trusting in natural processes and preserving your harvest in time.
In the following paragraphs you will find suggestions that may help you experience these themes more tangibly, also some descriptions of my own activities and experiences. I will keep adding new thoughts and ideas in the future.
You can find another perspective and additional insights into this time of year in the recent podcast episode The Wonder.
If it was up to me, the temperatures would be a bit lower in general. At the moment, even my cat seems to just melt into the floor tiles most of the day, even though we llive in the North of Germany. Apart from that, I am amazed (like I am every year) by how light it is outside at 5 am as well as at 11 pm. Some astronomical info on the side: The earliest sunrise of the year does not happen at the solstice but a couple of days earlier, depending on your latitude. I made a graph for surise and sunset times around the winter solstice. For the summer it should look very similar, just the other way around.
Gone is the tenderness of may. Instead, I am faced with an abundance of leaves, fruit and flowers in my region. The main colour impression is green with a couple of multicoloured dots sprinkled in between. In my area roses are a very traditional plant to grow but also the elder trees are still blooming in bright white. There is hardly any stretch of path where I cannot smell them. The lime tree flowers on the other hand, are just about to open in a few days and release their fragrance when the elderflowers have faded.
What does your neighbourhood look like at the moment? Which flowers can you see especially abundantly? What can you smell in nature around you? Are there as many butterflies around you seemingly soaking up every ray of sunshine they can get?
In my garden several plants were no match for the army of slugs. Almost all of my sunflowers and all the courgette and pumpkin plants. Those that have made it this far now thrive more or less without depending on my intervention. I planted peas again, severely underestimating the way they stretch sideways when they do not turn out as pathetic as mine did in 2021. I am very much in love with how they fill one of my raised beds and produce blossoms and pods that thicken daily.
In the same way that the time of illumination increases, the trees in my area (known for its tree nurseries) offer highly welcome shade. I am very grateful for the shaded corners in my own garden, being more of an autumn fan myself.
Two years ago I planted some climbing strawberries which are still a bit on the puny side. The wild strawberries, on the other hand, run rampant all across my garden without me having to do anything. Actually, me not doing much in the way of “weed“ removal was exactly what helped these little friendly presents of nature to flourish.
The manual that came with them told me I have to wait one more year before I can harvest the first asparagus. They still have to develop and gather strength to be able to withstand someone cutting pieces off them. The little trees they grow into are fascinating and beautiful to look at, as are the little shiny green berries. Another instance of non-intervention leading to an opportunity to observe something I had not seen before.
Last year I had bought some watering bulbs, this year I added two clay jugs that are inserted into the soil and some clay tips for bottles to also poke into the ground to provide your vegetables with water more evenly. So this year I have to spend even less time worrying about those plants I am most emotionally invested in. On top of that the content of my rain barrel lasts longer.
What is the current state of your garden, balcony or windowsill? What grows without you having to do anything or maybe even because of your non-action?
Apart from my own meditation there is a broad variety of other choices to be found online, covering different styles and durations. I would suggest the search terms “Summer solstice“, “gathering strength“ or “regeneration“ in combination with “meditation“. There are also yoga flows suited for the occasion, especially yin yoga flows. Another option would be to create a fitting atmosphere and just quietly meditate on one or more of the themes of the day.
To anchor the theme of the season in my mind I searched for a way to craft a miniature hammock. I ended up using this pattern, which I modified a bit in the second row. If you are interested in how and why I made one less loop at the end, let me know. Another tutorial shows you how to create a cash gift in the shape of a tiny hammock. This could easily be done with just a colourful piece of paper if you are not keen on putting a note on your focus. The description is in German but the photos are pretty self explanatory.
Traditionally, the summer solstice is another great opportunity to crowns made from flowers. It‘s especially nice for kids, maybe this time of year the colours can be a bit more vibrant than for the 1st of May. The main thing is to enjoy the opulence of the season. Instead of paper flowers, I decided to crochet some roses to place on my own focus.
To represent the sun itself you can weave wool and strips of fabric into a paper plate or a couple of sticks. Another great idea is to make a lantern from paper that you have done some water colouring on.
I made a mini cardboard easel for my focus which I can present different pictures on throughout the year following these instructions originally meant for making a phone stand. Now I am going to create a new picture to put on the easel to focus on during the following weeks.
Food and drink
If there is one thing I associate with Summer solstice, it is a last meal of asparagus, strawberries and sirup made with elderflowers.
Last year I learned how to make an elderflower champagne via fermentation. Here is a similar recipe to the one I am using. If the elder trees near you are still blooming, here is a list of recipes you might like to try. Just remember to pick only what you need and leave some flowers so there will be berries for the animals later in the year.
Listening to or making music
In her cycle through the year, Fanny Mendelssohn also composed a piece about June. Listening to it makes me think about sitting in the shade in my garden and watching the butterflies dance through the flowers. In comparison, the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy feels much warmer, a taste of the summer to come.
No list would be complete without a mention of Vivaldi’s Summer. His version and also the one by Glasunov perfectly express the floating feeling of a hot summer afternoon. My research also made me come across “Apaisé, boisé” by Camille Pépin, a contemporary piece that transports me into a very summery forest with very old trees.
As with the subject of love for the 1st of May, pop music offers a large variety of songs about summer. One of my favourites is “Zu heiß” by Farin Urlaub, a German ode to just lounging around instead of joining any reolution anytime soon, because it is just to hot to rebel. We can postpone any kind of street fight until maybe autumn, right?
When I was a child in the 702 my father used to play his already dated records. One of them contained “Summer in the City” by The Lovin‘ Spoonful, a song deeply embedded in my oldest memories. Their good news is: „Despite the heat it will be alright.“ We just have to wait with any partying activites until the late evening when the temperatures have dropped a bit.
Of course, there are new and traditional childrens’ songs to be found. For example Disney’s snowman Olaf dreaming about what he would like to do in summer.
I did not come up with any proper Metal songs about summer, but there is always “School’s out” by Alice Cooper celebrating the weeks of freedom lying ahead and also Type O Negative’s not exactly refreshing but still enjoyable “Summer Breeze”.
The following poem by John Updike captures how we felt as children, when the long weeks of summer holidays were before us, promising sunshine, carefree hours of playing outside and just being able to live in the moment.
The sun is rich
And gladly pays
In golden hours,
And long green weeks
That never end.
The time Is ours to spend.
There’s Little League,
Hopscotch, the creek,
And, after supper,
The live-long light
Is like a dream,
and freckles come
Like flies to cream.John Updike
There is an endless list of summer novels old and new. One book that I will add to my “to read“ list is “How to do nothing“ by Jenny Odell. In it she says:
“Our very idea of productivity is premised on the idea of producing something new, whereas we do not tend to see maintenance and care as productive in the same way.”Jenny Odell
There are other similar books out there about how we can learn to cut back from the high level of activity we have grown accustomed to. Also I have seen some fun looking childrens’ books on the same subject.
Two stories I just have to mention are Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” as well as Terry Prattchett’s “Lords and Ladies”, the latter being very obviously based on the former classical comedy. Both of them feature a royal wedding, a group of craftsmen doing their very best to put together a play for the wedding entertainment and the activities of the elves threatening to bring even more chaos into the situation.
These are the questions that might be helpful to ask yourself or the oracle of your choice:
- What is growing in your life without you having to do anything?
- What in your life actually profits from you not intervening?
- How does not being able to keep hold of the moment help you enjoy it even more fully?
- How can you integrate regular times for restoration into your schedule?
- What does your conscience say about intentionally doing nothing?
Focussing on your most important findings
I have put together my own focus gathering all my findings:
What about you?
What are the most meaningful answers to the questions above, the most fitting quotes or poems? Is there a piece of music that you can condense into a word, a phrase or a symbol? Did you find an object outside that deserves to be showcased on your focus?
Do you have a tradition for the Summer solstice on the 21st of June? What do you like to eat at the moment? Which fruit and vegetables are currently in season where you live? How does the concept of transience help you enjoy life even more intensely? Do you allow yourself the amount of rest that you need? How do you feel about rest and enjoyment without a guilty conscience?