Trusting Solstice to Solstice

On the solstice, the year’s high tide of light, I was reminded of the ebb and flow of our existence. This longest day, the peak of the wave, is also the beginning of the fading of the light.

I love the fullness of summer, the long days, the bounty and spectacle of fruits of all colors. I love the swooping and diving of the swallows who built their nests under the eaves of a nearby building and their little heads peeking out of the holes, keeping watch. Summer is a time for savoring some of the sweetest gifts of life, and its arrival began with the winter solstice.

I often forget nature’s rhythm or try to live as if I could choose to be apart from it, as if force of will could keep the wave of productivity ever cresting. As if this were somehow desirable.

If we try to skip our own ebb times—hours, days, or seasons—it’s so much harder for the fruitfulness naturally growing within us to fully ripen. We are so convinced that we have to do something, to work hard to become what we are supposed to be, but life is working within and around us to draw forth and bring into being who we are.

This process of becoming is not so much up to us as we think. We can’t hurry it along any more than swallows can build their nests in winter.

Allowing our own ebb and flow requires trusting life. There are so many reasons not to trust—chronic sickness, war, cruelty of all kinds—but perhaps the deepest reason is that we do not believe in our own divinity, that who we are becoming is beautiful and beloved.

It’s easy to see how this happens. Our culture tells us hundreds if not thousands of times a day that love depends on performance and appearance when anyone who has loved another person, animal, or plant can tell you that this is fundamentally untrue. We love the dog’s floppy ear, and we often love our friends most tenderly when they’re struggling.

Summer and winter, ebb and flow, the Life and Love that lives through us sees that we are dazzling.

You Cannot Improve It

I experienced a moment of not worrying about anything last night. My sister and I had just finished video chatting about our backpacking trip. I was reading a friend’s post on Facebook and listening to my sister and my dad, who is visiting, catch up.

Nothing was more in order than it usually is. It was after 9:00; I hadn’t begun this blog post; the dinner plates were still on the table. But for unknown reasons, none of this particularly concerned me

Maybe because it is summer, and in summer, unless you are a farmer, it is a little easier to let things slide, to revel in the earth’s bounty, to believe that everything is going to work out. Or maybe we simply don’t care so much if it doesn’t because after all it is warm and sunny outside and the jacaranda trees are blooming.

Or maybe the Facebook post  gave me piece of mind. It showed a post in the xkcd forums that consisted of an entertaining series of historical quotes, beginning in 1871, about how we’ve always thought that life is speeding up, that people are too distracted to think deeply, that the new form of communication is ruining our use of language.

I wonder if this larger tendency of the human race is reflected inside my head, if the endless hamster wheel of how I and the world could be better “if only” is really no more worrisome than the fear that reading newspapers in the train car kills the art of conversation and makes people antisocial.

Chapter 29 of the Tao Te Ching says, “Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done. The universe is sacred. You cannot improve it.”

Bird song is floating in through my window. Just for today, I might try believing Lao Tzu.

Note: The blog and I will be on vacation in the high Sierras next week. Here’s wishing you all a few breaths of alpine air.

Dig In

This may change in a few months, but right now, summer is my favorite season. It has earned this accolade by mastering the most important criteria of all: food.

produce at a farmer's marketThe August issue of Bon Appetit arrived sporting a picture of an heirloom tomato sandwich so drool-inducing that any sane person must have been tempted to eat the cover. When I made their tomato, raw corn, avocado salsa (with lime juice and, if you insist on ruining it, cilantro and serrano chilies), it looked just like the picture. I do not make food that looks like pictures. Martha Stewart crosses the street when she sees me coming. The food this time of year is just that beautiful.

In summer you can make things like buckwheat pancakes with fresh peaches and cardamom cream syrup, if you have cream, which I didn’t, so I can’t report on them. But just saying fresh peaches, cardamom, and cream in the same sentence lifts my heart (recipe from Cook This Now by Melissa Clark).

This evening I was slicing some squash for future use (don’t worry, I won’t let this one, ecstatic moment of advance preparation go to my head). The deep yellow of the squash was such a clear, visual sign of overflowing goodness that I had to eat one of the raw spears even though I was in the middle of my third chocolate chip cookie.

Last weekend I spent way too much money at the farmer’s market; way too much is the amount that buys more food than I can eat before it goes bad. But how do you choose among raspberries, peaches, Santa Rosa plums, Early Girl tomatoes, and fresh corn? That’s right, you don’t. Yum!

Plus I have these amazing friends who, unlike me, grow things. The sunshine-in-flesh-form squash mentioned above came from a coworker’s mini-farm. Another friend grows scarlet runner beans, which are green on the outside, pink on the inside, and more delicious than any other green bean ever. Yes, ever.

To top it off, while entertaining your tastebuds, you can also sit outside and be warm (except maybe in certain parts of northern California). So rejoice! Summer is celebrating and we’re invited.