nature

Happy Solstice.

Can Christians celebrate Solstice

Growing up in Christian circles, the natural calendar was barely a blip on my radar. If anything, June in Texas was commemorated by the Great Pilgrimage To The Nearest A/C. Solstice was something pagans celebrated and therefore Christians did not.

But I’ve started to look more deeply into the rhythms of the natural world around me. Living in New England has made me more keenly aware of the seasons than the South and Southwest ever did. As I think about the values and culture I want to pass down to my kids, I’m realizing that rootedness is a huge part of it.

Rooted in faith.

Rooted in truth.

Rooted in the beauty and rhythms of the natural world.

Why aren’t the solstices and equinoxes just as celebrated as the comparatively arbitrary “holidays” on my calendar? Not just by Pagans or Christians, but by our culture at large?

These quadrants of the year are THE archetypal markers of time passing, seasons changing, light and darkness.

For many years, I marked the beginning of a new year by watching the sun set on the old year and rise on the new one—or one or the other. But maybe I’ll begin doing that on solstices instead. Every season has a sacredness and a life all its own.

The summer solstice is the longest day of the year. All life is showing off its flamboyance. In much of the northern hemisphere, the growing season is in full swing, and it’s hot—the sun’s fire is burning bright as ever. It’s both a carnival of life and a recognition that all this buzzing cacophony of light, color, and sound is going to burn and drift away with the coming of autumn and then winter. Solstice bubbles over with echoes of the story of life told in the Bible. It shows us with our eyes and all of our senses that light is victorious over darkness. It’s the apogee of creation, fertility, and warmth.

It’s beautiful.

I’m going to start finding ways to make our own solstice traditions so we don’t lose the significance of that amidst our ignorance and “Christian” fear. Any suggestions?

Visiting Concord, MA

When you get odd opportunities to visit a new place, you take full advantage. Yesterday Manny had an appointment at Hanscom AFB, so I tagged along with the twins and we wandered around Concord a bit afterward.

Somehow I grew to adulthood without realizing what incredible historical and literary significance lives in that little town. Having realized what talent (and, arguably, genius) came from there, I seriously want to go sit under a tree in the Minute Man Historic Park for awhile and hope that whatever inspired Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott seeps into my pores just a little bit.

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Yesterday we just had time to visit the Old North Bridge and the Old Manse before heading back home to get the twins to bed. But I’m definitely planning to go back to visit Orchard House (where Louisa May Alcott lived and wrote and set Little Women), the Wayside (home to Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Sidney, and Nathaniel Hawthorne), Walden pond, and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery’s Authors’ Ridge.

The Old North Bridge’s significance is more historical than literary. It was the site where the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired when British troops came to confiscate settlers’ firearms.  They met unexpected resistance from the colonists, who occupied the hill overlooking the Old North Bridge and fired on the British troops below.

Later, Emerson wrote the Concord Hymn for a ceremony dedicating the Old North Bridge. Today, a statue of one of the Minutemen and a stanza of the hymn stand directly in front of a replica of the Old North Bridge that crosses the Concord River in the same spot.

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It was a little eerie to stand in this spot and remember reading the Concord Hymn back in grade school, when all that history seemed so far away.

It was also a little surreal to take the short walk to the Old Manse and its peaceful garden plot, and to walk down to the boat dock–just minutes away at a slow walk–that was a popular picnic spot, swimming hole, and boat dock for Emerson, Thoreau, the Alcotts, and many other colonists around the time of the Revolution.

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It’s easy to imagine stepping back into that world of farming, picnics, gardens, poetry, and transcendentalism. It’s hard to imagine wrapping your mind around something like a revolution–and the fact that those settlers were essentially going about their everyday lives–when shots rang out over that peaceful, winding river, and everything changed.

A Tabernacle for the Sun

I’ve been collecting a lot of sunrises and sunsets lately. It feels like I’m packing them away like fragile things and adding them to a secret collection. Sometimes nothing makes you slow down and regain perspective like watching a sunrise or sunset, especially reflected in the placid waters of the Pacific.

 

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Every one I miss is one that I’ll never get to watch as it paints the sky again.

I’m not a fan of Emerson. At all. But something I read in high school stuck:

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.

― Ralph Waldo EmersonNature and Selected Essays

A few weeks ago, a good friend went with me to watch a sunset from one of Guam’s clifftops. She gazed at her phone for twenty minutes, rapidly messaging someone on the other end of the Internet, then looked up just before the last drop of honeyed gold dripped below the horizon. “That wasn’t such a great sunset,” she remarked.  “Ready to go? I’m hungry.”

It’s a testament to how good a friend she is that she even went with me to watch the sun set at all. But for her, unless the entire sky is riddled with brilliant golds and oranges that show up well on an Instagram pic, it isn’t really worth her time–or attention.

If we only saw a sunset once every thousand years, how many people would swarm outside and find the best possible spots to watch those colors light up the sky? Yet our smartphones, books, and conversations about the weather seem infinitely more consequential.

Look up

For the last few days, I’ve had sporadic urges to stop walking in the middle of various sidewalks and stare up at the trees like an idiot.

…at least people look at me as though they’re questioning my intelligence when I’ve got my eyes above the horizon line. Maybe that’s an unfair assumption about what they’re thinking, though. They’re probably much more understanding than they seem.

This morning, it was about 35 degrees outside when I walked past a Japanese maple tree on the way to engineering class. Something about the texture and color of the burgundy-brown mini maple leaves compelled me to stop and stare.

I stood on the sidewalk near the building’s entrance as other students from class filed by. If I had been staring at a cell phone, no one would have looked twice. But I was looking up, thinking textures, colors, shadows, and lace against a cold blue sky. Like an idiot.

“You know, it’s colder in the shade.”

“There’s… a heater on inside, Steff.”

“What, is there a possum in the tree again?”

*freshman with thick-rimmed glasses raises eyebrows and shakes head*

*freshman with a parka carefully steps over cracks in sidewalk, obliviously walks into me*

“You could always take a leaf inside and enjoy it there…”

I couldn’t bring myself to disturb the scene by taking even a single leaf out of it. A big gust of wind blew, though, and for a few seconds I was part of the picture in front of me. It snowed burgundy mini-maple leaves. Later, over an Excel spreadsheet, I found a leaf that had hitched a ride in the folds of my scarf.

I feel like I’m thinking along the lines of the romantic poets I generally despise, but they might have been on to something.

This world the Lord has made–it’s so beautiful.