I learned from Waverly Fitzgerald many years ago that many of our common practices on the Fourth of July here in the states hearkens back to ancient Midsummer celebrations. She has a great blog post about that very thing today:
I like to think of Fourth of July as a secular version of pagan Midsummer festivals.
Like many historical holidays, Fourth of July seems to have co-opted many of the symbols of the earlier celebrations at this time of year. For centuries at Summer Solstice, people stayed up all night, dancing around bonfires and rolling burning wheels down the hillsides, to honor the sun. On Fourth of July, we set off pinwheels in the street (evoking the circle, the symbol of the sun), wave sparklers around in the darkness (they look like the embers dancing up from a bonfire) and gaze at fireworks blazing overhead late into the night.
Read the rest of Waverly's post here.
It also occurs to me that, as we celebrate our Independence, let us also celebrate our Interdependence.
The Global Declaration of Interdependence:
In acknowledgment of the many existing documents and efforts that promote peace, sustainability, global interconnectedness, reverence for life and unity, We, The World hereby offers the following Declaration of Interdependence as a guiding set of principles. It is inspired by the Earth Charter, the essential values of which represent those of the many peoples of the Earth.
We, the people of planet Earth,
In recognition of the interconnectedness of all life
And the importance of the balance of nature,
Hereby acknowledge our interdependence
And affirm our dedication
To life-serving environmental stewardship,
The fulfillment of universal human needs worldwide,
Economic and social well-being,
And a culture of peace and nonviolence,
To ensure a sustainable and harmonious world
For present and future generations.
Last Friday, I spent several hours on my favorite island, visiting some of my old haunts. It was the first sunny day since we marked Summer Solstice on our calendars.
I sat under a hawthorn tree at the edge of a vast meadow ringed round by evergreens, and gave thanks for this place of sacred solitude. I was utterly alone (no other humans, I mean!) and felt completely safe and cradled by the love of the island. I cloud-gazed. I listened to the song of red-winged blackbirds. I pulled up a clump of wild garlic and deeply inhaled the pungent scent of its bulbs. I noticed the iridescent wings of dragonflies flashing in the light. I felt the sun on my brow and the breeze on my cheeks. I nibbled on a handful of fresh-picked raspberries from a neighbor's garden. I watched a swallowtail butterfly dance up to the tops of tall cedars then circle back down to the meadow again. I gave thanks for this most holy place and time.
This was my Solstice celebration.
A Blessed Solstice to all, on this longest day of the year.
For the last several years, I have been rising before dawn on Summer Solstice with a few of my island sisters. We go to a beach on the east side of the island to greet the rising sun on the longest day of the year. (The background on the Elder of Water card is from a photo I took on one such Solstice morning.) This year, alas, I did not make it over to the island to spend the night and the sun is up long before the first ferry arrives at 6 AM. So my island sisters held me there in spirit, and a couple of hours ago they wrote to me:
"We made it to the beach in time to imagine the sun rising as we couldn't see that ball of fire. We sang and acknowledged our gratitude/thanks to the water with Dr. Emoto's water blessing. We were visited by three oystercatchers, three bald eagles (maybe more), two great blue herons, a kingfisher, purple starfish and a river otter. The beach was beautiful . . . We chose a card, in your honor (your deck of course) . . . it was 'The Wheel' with the trees in all seasons against the day time sky with night sky surrounding the wheel graced with moons, and the text that reminds us to center ourselves. It was a chilly but beautiful Solstice morning."
A true Moment of Grace. How blessed I am to have such friends.
I was utterly charmed as I caught up on my blog reading this week and saw page upon page of views from people's windows all over the world on Terri Windling's blog, The Drawing Board. I am inspired to try it here, especially since the rhodies outside my kitchen window are putting on their once-a-year glory show. (Truly spectacular!) Won't you email a photograph of the view from your window to me? I'll post it here so we can all see it. (Terri in turn was inspired by blogger Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic Monthly.)
I especially love the way you can see the pink reflection on the underside of the top windowframe in the first photo, and the way the pink lights up the bevels on the Celtic knot lightcatcher in the second. Sigh. So lovely.
Can't wait to see the view from your window!
On May Morning five years ago, I sat on my porch at Heron House and sketched the garden & "the gossip of the Place" as Gary Snyder says. I don't live there anymore and our beloved neighborhood dog Rex is gone too. Still the sweetness of that May Morn persists like the scent of lilacs and lily-of-the-valley. (Here's a link to a giant version so you can read all the little notes.)
A Blessed May Day to you all!