Each morning, the first thing I do (after starting the coffeemaker, of course) is — as my late father used to say — “walk my property.” (Happy Father’s Day, Dad!) Dad lived on a small farm in Tennessee and took the time each day to appreciate nature’s bounty: strawberries in May, snap peas in June, corn all summer, and so much more. I don’t grow anything to eat, but my Garden State flowerbeds, shady trees, and koi pond all come alive in the summer and are equally satisfying to admire in the quiet peace of sunrise.
Scientifically, the Summer Solstice, which occurs on Monday, is the point at which the sun reaches its zenith over the Tropic of Cancer. Spiritually, it traditionally has been a celebration of the sun, without which we would have no food — let alone flora and fauna to enjoy in our surroundings.
Ancient peoples understood that life comes from the sun. The axis of Stonehenge is aligned with the direction of the sunrise on June 21. Today, neopagan groups often frame the ancients’ solstice-day appreciation of Earth’s abundance metaphorically, observing the holiday by taking stock of their own personal growth or by showing gratitude for what life has given them.
“The coming of a solstice is a time to reflect on the needs of our bodies, psyches, and spirits,” says Marybeth Carshaw, cofacilitator of the Earth-based Spirituality Circle at the Unitarian Universalist Church at Washington Crossing (UUCWC), in Titusville, Mercer County. “People are so out of touch with seasons unless they are looking at school schedules or their favorite sport. Sniff that flower. Honor the longer day of sunlight.”
Unitarian Universalist appreciation of the solstice is rooted in the seventh principle — recognition of our interconnectedness with nature — and in respect for the traditions of other faiths that inspire people to live ethical lives.
“Many UUs work to connect the knowledge and inspirations of different world religions into a cohesive whole and feel we are all looking at the sacred through different points of view,” says Parker Cohen, also a cofacilitator of the Earth-based Spirituality Circle at UUCWC. “I trace worldwide appreciation of ‘the sacred’ to our original observation [as a people] of the wonders and miracles of natural phenomena.”
If just for a moment, walk your property (or apartment or cubicle) Monday morning in thanks for what grace and life have provided to you.
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