Tomorrow is the feast of Beltane, the first day of summer according to the Celtic calendar. Like its sister feast of Samhain on November 1st, it is a time when the boundary between this world and the Other world is believed to be especially thin. It is also a time of lighting bonfires for rituals of purification and bringing livestock out to summer pastures. I find the Celtic dates for marking seasons make more sense to me, by the Solstice we have already reached the longest day and then we begin the slow turn back to darkness. I realize some of you are just beginning to get a taste of springtime, but the seeds of summer are dancing on the horizon.
I have a mixed relationship with summer. Unlike most Seattleites, I actually find the long light days difficult because I often can't sleep enough to get well rested and I prefer our more usual, cooler, rainy weather to the brilliant, sun-filled days of Seattle summers (it really doesn't rain all the time, summer gets very little at all) as bright light is often a migraine trigger for me. Last summer I spent a lot of the time feeling tired and having headaches.
And yet despite this, I have to admit there is definitely something wonderful about summer. I am eager for the return of our local farmer's market in a couple of Sundays, where summer fruits and vegetables are piled high next to containers of brilliant bouquets, fresh bread, handcrafted cheese, and luscious lox. There is a wondrous bounty to the summer months. My birthday is two days after the Solstice, so summer has often been about celebrating (and my husband's birthday is the day after mine, same year, so we get a double celebration).
Since my husband is a teacher and I often teach in the academic world as well, summer also means vacation time, those long stretches of carefree days without ordinary responsibilities, time to play, Sabbath time. And even though I continue to see people for spiritual direction and have writing projects to tend to, there is a lightness to my schedule since many meetings and other commitments are pared down for the summer months.
Despite my difficult summer last year, I find myself eager for the gifts this summer brings: the time my beloved and I get to spend together, the creative rhythms that emerge from following my own longings and listening for what wants to emerge in a given moment, and permission to play! We will be traveling to Ireland in a few short weeks, and then I have a couple of art retreats I have signed up for with space between to simple honor the gift of time to breathe deeply.
I am feeling a sense of eagerness to surrender into the gifts of summer, to welcome the freedom that is calling to me. I am trusting this longing as a holy one and know that what will emerge will be surprising and new. What is ahead for you this summer? What are the gifts of summer you celebrate?
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts