Life Transformed in Light of the Summer Solstice

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-- Anais Nin

By C. Austin

On June 20, at 10:47 PM PDT, the sun will reach its most northerly point, a pinnacle, a victory, a defeat - all in one moment of time, the summer solstice.

Celebration of the solstices is a solar affair, a thing of consciousness. The word "solstice" derives from "standing sun," a perceptual suspension of time. Like the sun, consciousness is always on the move, pausing briefly on occasion, then moving on. Funny how those moments of lucid consciousness, of "standing sun"- when an instant feels unending - seem to occur at the highest and lowest points of our lives.

And one could say that it isn't even the sun that is moving, it is us, the matter, the dust of this earth - that instead revolves around consciousness. But our sun has its own orbit around this galaxy, its own business, just as we do in our lives. An "orbit," "a track, or a course" - all things moving imperceptibly in relationship to each other.

Summer solstice is the beginning of the season in this hemisphere. It is also old European midsummer, when the Oak King, the mighty, expansive monarch, is nearing the end of his own track, his course in the turning of days. The earth has been clad in green, sun shines abundantly, the frozen stillness of his youngest days in winter, a memory.

We also have lived our lives, some have lost them too soon. We clothed our time, we served it in freezing snow and sun. Our youngest days, a memory. We too expanded into life, or we tried to, and in doing have gained the stories and sorrow that make us who we are.

Like the Oak King we are nearing a change in track, a turning of seasons when attention is drawn inward, to what rises from within, not without. The Oak King, bright and conscious, shakes his magnificent head in disbelief, but he too can feel it as he looks out on the wide world.

There is a time in all of nature's works when old modes no longer fit. Old relationships and worn ways may feel reliable, comfortable and known, but no matter how many years one tries, meaning has melted away with the seasons. That vague discomfort, impending change, moves one like a caterpillar instinctively toward transformation.

Born anew each year, neither the caterpillar nor the Oak King can know the future. Both know only there is change ahead, one in internal dissolution, the other in external combat. Anxiety, fear and hope tear at the breast of anyone who can feel these sorts of departures, these leavings.

At our zenith, our moment of "standing sun," old modes give way - we are at our greatest clarity - every step of our lives leading to this moment. And at that instant the Oak King dies in battle with the Holly King, eyes closing on his beautiful world, now lost to memory. Like the caterpillar, we turn in, giving ourselves over to change.

But eyes open again, on a new world - strangely similar - though altogether changed. No longer expansive, no longer external, the Oak King reawakens in the Holly King whose great world is that of essence, of essential nature, rather than expansion. The lowly caterpillar, whose future form was always held in the soup of its dissolution, emerges a creature of both earth and sky. And the fixed horizons that drained our lives of vital meaning, have now become mutable.

Despite incessant movement, nature grants structure to all orbits - a certain predictability in the means by which one transforms. From caterpillar to butterfly, or from embryo to you, nature's gift, along with unending orbit is inherent structure.

Those exalted or fearful moments of "standing sun" can be faced, we can live our gain, or our defeat - accept transformation - knowing that our business, like that of the sun will persist. It is our nature. Grace to all who face change in coming times.


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