A Solar Genealogy

Sometimes it feels impossible to enter the extraordinary. The mind has its tricks to keep you firmly planted in the mundane: necessities, bills, eating, sleeping. And each thing carries a weight and a tether and a nook that allows more of the same to pile on like some great, cosmic Lego. Fears and regrets pile on in the same manner, as the days slide by and you’re left wondering just what you did all week. But what is that tugging sensation in your heart? Can you find the strings of hope and wonder that once upon a time pulled you up and into the day, luring you with possibility?

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Then comes a simple chance encounter to lift you out of the dull like a beacon. In an instant you’re offered the miracle of a clear view, or beauty, or purpose and on you get, refueled and whole. I find that a natural act is what does the trick for me: a sudden summer thunderstorm, my son’s laugh, a perfect spiral of cream swirling in my coffee. What might we call this state? It’s not the ecstasy of St. Theresa, quite; but it is for just a moment a reminder that we’re capable of that joy. It’s the simple ecstasy that inspires you to write, “You’ve restored my faith in humanity” after a kind and random act. It’s the love that makes your usual morning brew a deeper experience.

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Sometimes those simple ecstasies collect like beads strung together, decorating a pathway toward the extraordinary. Treat them like climbing rope, they are easy to follow– one simple ecstasy after another, one noticing moment after another and soon the mind is miles from the ordinary. We find ourselves in a communal space, with people from the four directions called together by our bright star and the changing tilt of our Earth. It’s a call from an older place– maybe for you it’s across the ocean, or maybe just over the mountains, or around the bend. It’s an ancestral place, a place where the people grew, generation after generation, in a long line up to your birth. Dipping into the bones of that latitude, an older voice emerges. A quiet voice sings deep in the opera of groaning earth, its voice the low melodious hum of blood in the womb, bright like magma. Give in to it.

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Go gently: it is a slower time. It is the pulse of sap in the wood; it is the flow of viscous tincture within a single leaf. It ticks not by the second-hand, but by the cell, and its clock is the universe itself. You breathe gently now, sensing the breath not so much as your life, but as one in the same with the wind that sweeps by your body. You feel your body as the land, and your eyes convey the light from outside within. Your limbs carry weight like stones and yet they are also as light as bird wings. There is nothing left to wonder in this space; you are home, and this is extraordinary.

Solstice Eve Sunset positions the sun just so in my very own Wood-Henge, 2022.

It has been this way for eons. Our oldest ancestors knew the secrets of this growing time, and built monuments to them. There is an awe in observing them, but also a tug of fear like what arises when we brush by memorials and cemeteries. We usually hurry along. But is it really that mortal dread that we’ll become “just like them,” or could the sensation be tied to something deeper? Perhaps it’s not so much fear as it is the weighted sense that we never knew these people. We pass by them every day in our own cities or towns, but they are strange to us. Their stories are silent under the weight of granite, yet they reach out to us all the same, the tendrils of each requiem singing out from under the collection of faceless names. “Learn me,” they say. “Do not forget. I had a rich life. I knew the things you know now. Be with me.”

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I say it is this haunting sense of unknowing, and also this impossibility of knowing, that turns us away. My teachers always emphasize that the extra-ordinary space of ceremony isn’t just a form of worship; more so it is a building of relationship with our ancestors. It’s daunting, it’s a little bit frightening, and we don’t quite know how to make the right effort. Think of all the lives that came before you in order for you to exist! Relatives, friends, neighbors, strangers… It’s overwhelming. Where would you even make a start?

Essentially we don’t, I say. We make a stop. We slow down and settle into the rhythm of our own bodies, this momentary space we sit in, and the land whereupon that is, with the sky over the land, and the deep expanse even beyond that: the swirl of the deep quiet of boundless outer and boundless inner, the vast shared space of swirling atoms, being beyond even the biggest and tiniest things we know. That space is where we will hear them. That beautiful, effortless space is where the relationship resides, and it is a celebration.

2022 Summer Solstice English Heritage sunrise (livestream screen grab)

Summer Solstice brings us directly into the energy of this boundless knowing. It is the source of all that is, and the light that defines it. The plants are so nourished by it, and soon they will gift that nourishment to our own growing bodies. Later in the year we can celebrate the ways we nourish them in return. But for now, on this bright day, we hold it aloft before us as a golden rotating disc. It is life-by-life, in an endless pulse of xylem, phloem, and blood, and through this pulse you know the extraordinary is not something beyond you. It is you.

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