Happy Solstice ~ Welcome the Light

Happy Solstice!

Today is the time for celebrating and welcoming the returning light. Our days will become lighter and longer, minute by minute.

I use this time of year to reflect on the year ending by looking at what I accomplished, acknowledging all that was done, and dreaming the coming year into being with the narrative I wish to live into, a word for the year, and positively setting the stage for success. My writing includes what I’ve learned, what I want to let go of, as well as to what I wish to carry forward.

My word for last year was ‘Change’. Looking back, 2018 has been a year of major change — I’ve moved, let go of a home that nurtured me for many years, relinquished lots of stuff I no longer used or needed, and watched my daughter’s family do the same. Within my community, too many people have passed onto the work of light from the other side. 

The process is simple — slow down, go inside, write or create art, answer a few questions in preparation for the turning of the calendar. 

I invite you to join me to prime your environment for what’s to come. What do you want to bring into the light in 2019?

Settle into a few questions with your pen and/or your art materials:

1. Reflect: what was successful in 2018? Make a list. Embellish. I like to fill my journal pages (or large newsprint) with the lists of everything I remember. I’ll use my calendar to look back if I need some prompting. Let this process go on for several days. Then sit up straight and pat yourself on the back for what you have accomplished! Yes, take the time to celebrate with pride for your accomplishments.

2. Dream: what are your dreams for 2019? do you have a bucket list? are there projects that wish to be brought forward? what changes and/or additions do you get excited about? what narrative do you wish to live into? Dream it into being by giving it your blessing of welcome! Consider, how will your life be different when your dreams come into being?

3. Letting Go: what can be or needs to be released so the space is cleared for the new? Consider letting go during this time of darkness. Place a box somewhere so you can put the stuff you no longer need into it — then donate it or create a ritual to release it. I put in slips of paper that I write what I am letting go of ~ attitudes, negative thoughts, behaviors, habits, etc. 

Happy Solstice!

A Nature Bath at Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows is a nature park a short walk from my daughters townhouse in Alexandria. Everyone was excited to take me there knowing how much I love being in nature. I am grateful that they, too, love nature. Not long after my arrival, off we went into the woods.

As we began our walk I became very aware of the specialness of place within the city limits — an opportunity for people to step away from their fast paced lives and connect with nature. Living in the epicenter of our government’s hot spot, nature is a welcome respite. Though I noticed few other visitors. I was grateful for the quiet moments when we walked in silence. I also noticed the majority of others walking along slowly or standing by their cameras on tripods were Asian, which is where Shinrin Yoku or Forest bathing as a healthcare practice began.

With each step into the woods we all relaxed and opened our senses to what surrounded us and what surprises we might witness. We shared in one another’s excitement when we noticed something new and awesome — a Kingfisher which invited us to linger at the end of the boardwalk, a tree whittled down by a beaver, the wet footprints of some forest animal on the boardwalk, the variety of ducks enjoying the water, the deer enjoying the woods and the blue herons which seemed to be everywhere.

We relaxed. We enjoyed being together in quiet (or as quiet as children can be). We paused every few steps to witness our surroundings in awe. Though we were cold, we continued because being outdoors together was more important. So we made light and comical banter about being cold and, in places, numb. We were, indeed, bathing ourselves in nature.

Noticing what happened to each of us, I was reminded of living daily with the woods at my doorstep and why I spend so much time outdoors to walk, to meditate, to garden, and simply be in the presence of birds, wildlife, and the changing weather through the seasons. I noticed that, not only did we relax, our attitudes shifted toward more joy, we laughed more, and enjoyed being part of something greater than ourselves. For me, it was a deeply spiritual experience throughout the walk. I love being in nature where I can feel the presence of spirit in every living thing. Each breath and each step I am bathed in love and expansion.

Having recently moved away from the woods and into a neighborhood in the town where I work, I needed the refreshing rejuvenation of the woods. My daughter and family also recently moved from one city to another for a new job opportunity. We all needed to let go of the boxes both unpacked and still packed, finding new routines, and away from the stresses inherent in a major move. For them, Huntley Meadows is only 1/2 mile away. For me in my new home, I must drive several miles to go into the woods. Fortunately, we all have dogs who love the outdoors. I know that the responsibility of animals makes it easier to get outside.

My dog, Willow, loves the outdoors and the exercise of a good hike in the woods. She is my companion to explore and bathe in nature. Daily (weather permitting) we get in the car to leave people, cars and activity behind. Willow excitedly jumps into the car — she knows when we are going to the woods. As I drive the five minutes to a local state forest, I feel my shoulders relax.

Our first few minutes we walk at a brisk pace as if shaking off the cares and stresses of the day. Then we slow our pace to a meditative exploration — my breath deepens, my senses open to the view over the lake, I notice the scents of pine, wet earth, the breeze on my face, and the occasional campfire smell in the air. Willow puts her nose to the earth to explore who’s been here before us. My mind calms as I notice the song I am humming and I settle into the stories I imagine of this land before me. My imagination wanders into narratives such as my curiosity of the volcano that formed this lake, focus on the giant car-sized rocks left over from the glaciers, or who lived here and left their mark with the stone walls that wind through the woods of New England. I find my center, my connection, and my creative inspiration in nature.

I return home with gratitude and joy every time. Once home I more easily begin again the work that awaits my focused attention. For my daughter and family, our walk after Thanksgiving dinner allowed us to reminisce our gratitude for one another. We returned refreshed from the cold air and our exploration of nature.