The northern hemisphere's longest day of the year is today, June 21, 2018. Though this will be our longest day, the length of those days varies considerably depending on where you live. Here in Maryland we'll have about 16 hours of daylight, while the Florida Keys will have under 14 and the most northern parts of Alaska will have 24 hours of sun!.
There are perceptions that the summer solstice has an equal number of dark and light hours (12 and 12), that is is the hottest day of the year, and that with patience, you can balance an raw egg on end. All of these are false. The hours of light and dark won't be exactly equal unless you live in a very limited geographic area and the length of the day doesn't effect the temperature. I admit I've tried to balance the egg more than once and I've never beens successful.
The summer solstice means different things to each of us. For some it is simply Mother Nature's official start to summer. Others head to Stonehenge to wait for the perfect moment when the sun rises over the Heel Stone and hits the central Altar Stone. There are celebrations and parades, including the Santa Barbara and the Fremont Solstice Parade, which includes a naked bike ride. Others spend quiet moments, meditating, journaling and expressing gratitude. In Sweden, they gather flowers and herbs on the day of the solstice, and some make them into wreaths for their hair or add them to food and decorations for festivities that last all day, often ending with a bonfire. Here in Baltimore, listening to jazz in the exquisite gardens at the Rawlings Conservatory has always been one of my favorite ways to celebrate!
How delightful that we can adapt those celebrations in our own way. I've already done my daily meditation and journaling, I will be gathering herbs and flowers for recipes and decorations and i may fashion a wreath if there is time. I will listen to jazz as I prepare my favorite solstice recipes for an evening picnic, and it is very likely that Zippy will join me to howl at the moon, with or without the bonfire. Our area frowns on open flames.
My celebration begins before the actual day. Gratitude, vulnerability and contrast are on my mind as the day approaches. The solsitce promises another season, rich with nature's abundance. Many don't live in areas where there are four distinct seasons, and many don't want to! But I am grateful for the annual reminders of life's passages - birth, growth, maturity, death and decay, and back to the renewal of birth - all keep me aware. They also provide seasonal contrasts and variety, which adds so much to life.
There is a sense of vulnerability during these times. What is more vulnerable than a seed, bursting forth from its safe dark shell to expose its inner most essence? Seeds provide a metaphor for what we can become if we do our inner exploration and allow our most personal gifts to be exposed and shared. It takes courage and faith to share who we are with the world.
And then there is contrast - yin/yang. The hot forces of the summer's yang need to be balanced with the coolness of yin. If we are aware of these contrasts, we can be better prepared. This year in particular, from the raging molten lava of the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, to the anger and rage resulting from our current political situation, we need to find ways to bring balance.
In an earlier post I referred to the serenity prayer - to let go of what we can't control, to take action if we can make a difference. There is little we can do when volcanoes rage, but we can take action to improve the political situation.
It is imperative for our health to detach as much as possible while gathering and processing information. We all have different sources. It is best to find factual information that doesn't incite anger, fear or violence. Internal rage can do more damage to you than it will to any issue you are hoping to resolve.
The solstice is a time of opportunity and growth. Have the faith to open your heart and share your talents, creativity and unique gifts. We can all contribute to making this world a better place. What seeds will you plant during the solstice? How will you nourish them and encourage their growth? What ideas and talents do you have that no one else can share with your special grace and flair? What gifts will you harvest in the coming months?
I journal daily and add seeds at the bottom of my pages so I can return to review the dates when new ideas, relationships, and projects first appeared. Many of my seeds don't even sprout, but others grow roots, fruit, and even create seeds that become spin off projects and experience. I love processing and seeing the visuals of the seeds is an exciting way to process!
I hope your solstice will be filled with joy, hope and celebrations with loved ones, and the seeds you plant in the next few weeks will result in a bountiful harvest in the months ahead.
My hydrangeas are so gorgeous so I thought I'd share!
The name Hydrangea comes from the Greek word for water, "hydra", and “angos,”, the word for vessel.
The hydrangea is a flower of duplicity, both in form and meaning. It's large and showy pompom is mad of tiny, delicate, four petaled flowers. It has two meanings as well. It has been associated with sincere and heart felt emotions and gratitude, but a contrary meaning if one of coldness and frigidity.
At one time, families were cautioned not to place hydrangeas near their front door if they had single daughters. The flowers guaranteed the maidens would never marry.
Hydrangeas contain cyanide. DO NOT eat them. One of my first thoughts was how darling the delicate flower segments would be candied, like violets or lavender (recipes for both are hidden somewhere on this site, by the way.) But I am always cautious and do research. Sadly, they are poisonous and can't be candied or used in salads or desserts. Luckily, there are plenty of other herbs and flowers available.
They do come in handy for other purposes though. In addition to making gorgeous fresh bouquets, they can be dried and used in wreathes, bouquets and garlands, but they are best made while the flowers are just beginning to dry, and placed where they won't be touched or moved. Once dried, they are very fragile.
You are the only one who has the answer to "Today's Treasure". Your answer could lead you on a treasure hunt to a more peaceful and productive journey.
Fill in the blank.
We are surrounded by __________________
What is the first thing that comes to mind?
Choose your word before you scroll down!
Simply answering this question can say a lot about who we are, our stress level, and how we spend our time. Does your answer represent something wonderful you value and appreciate, or something you fear? Is it something in the present moment or does is involve things that relate to the past or the future? Does your answer direct you to action for improvement or simply more frustration?
I recently asked this question in a training and the answers were as varied as the people in the room.
Here are a few -
Answers were as varied as the differences in people and their points of view. There were examples of both half empty and half full. Some people felt hopeful, others hopeless.
If you thought of something positive, you will attract more of it into your life. Congratulations! What we focus our attention on increases. This is a universal law, first ecognized by the ancient philosophers and it continues today with Mike Dooley, Deepak Chopra and other great thinkers of our time.
With all of the concerns in the world right now, we undoubtedly need to pay attention and be aware of injustice. There are many parallels to things we've seen play out in history. Turning our heads, denying and being naive and uninvolved won't serve us well.
But we need to be cognizant of whether we can (and will) take action, or whether we will allow concerns and frustrations to continue to instill worn out messages playing over and over in our heads. If we don't, or won't, take action, our stress will continue.
If we can't think of any action that will improve our situation, we need to simply let go and focus our attention on what is in the realm of our possibilities.
The Serenity Prayer
If you've followed my blog for long, you can probably guess my answer. Treasures. They are everywhere! Some are hidden but many are right in front of us. Either way, aren't we blessed? If I didn't focus on my blessings, I wouldn't have the strength or the energy to address things that concern me.
Hopefully, you'll be able to direct most of your attention to the beauty and abundance that surrounds us, and have the optimism and energy left to find out how to make a difference. We are living in challenging times and we need positive, caring people to join forces and take action.
"To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing."
So many, myself included, are distracted with the fear based events of the day - the political situation, the media's successful attempts to keep us uncomfortable and distracted. These distractions rob us of the our energy.
One of the last things we think about is our talents, our gifts, what we have been brought on this earth to share to add value to our own lives and the lives of those impacted by our voice. Too many of us our silent.
Lack of confidence in our opinions and perspectives is also a factor. The fear of being judged keeps many of us silent. There was a time that one negative comment could stop me cold. A quote from Aristotle - "To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing" - created a shift in my perception. Now I collect criticism. It means I am extending my reach beyond what is safe. Leaving our comfort zones is the only way any of us will ever truly have an impact.
If we blend in the mushy middle of what is always safe, our voice will remain common and essentially useless. Our talents, gifts and opinions are valuable when they are used to make others think. Sometimes their not agreeing with us will ultimately have more value than rubber stamping our cautious, guarded options. We have an obligation to share our gifts in a way that makes us vulnerable and valuable.
This is the fourth year I've attended the UniverSoul Circus as a guest of Reverend James Lyles and
Youth 10Xs Better from Harrisburg. The circus is in Baltimore and I meet the bus load of young people and chaperones outside the circus tent.
This year, I was especially delighted to run into two dear friends, Lillian Bates and Phyllis Sweeting. We volunteered on various projects in Harrisburg for over two decades. They are still very involved with numerous community initiatives to benefit young people, families and the community.
This very special circus always pulsates with color, energy, vibrancy and talent. And they always weave a bit of their open and inclusive philosophy into the show. Groups from all over the world are represented and for the grand finale, they brought every group together with each county's flag and reminded us of the importance of being inclusive.
Below are a few of the photos I've taken over the years. You really need to attend personally to hear the music, feel the explosive and exuberant excitement from the crowd, get a sense of the amazing variety of talent and skills, but this will give you a fractional idea.
,Years ago, a few months before I lost my home in a flood, my daughter gave me this business card holder. She knew my volunteering had spun out of control. In addition to my full time job, I had key positions with America's Promise, United Way of the Capital Region, Project Youth, the Gandhi King Peace Coalition, and more. Asset based, youth driven initiatives were my favorite and supporting Judge Jeannine Turgeon with Do the Write Thing was one I considered most worthwhile.
Losing my home and my move to Baltimore forced me to make changes, and much to Mycala's delight, most of the volunteering ended. I did some courses with the Renaissance Institute locally and have continued to support Youth 10xs Better in Harrisburg because their mission incorporates all of Colin Powell's Five Promises (American's Promise), but my direct interaction with youth programs ended.
Moving to Baltimore has been a blessing. I love this town for more reasons than I have time to write or you have time to read. But the youth violence is staggering. I've been quietly watching since I moved to Baltimore County in 2012. I purchased a home in the city in 2015 and have continued to consider the best way to help.
Almost over night it occurred to me that Do the Write Thing might be the answer. I have always believed that young people, not adults, know the answers. When I first started out in social services, I am embarrassed to admit that I was part of deficit based programs centered around "what's wrong with young people and how can we (adults) fix them."
Fortunately, I was introduced to healthy communities. I became our local director in Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry and norther York counties through SHIP (State Health Improvement Plan) under the PA Department of Health. The healthy community philosophy embraced Dr. Peter Benson's 40 Assets for Youth from the Search institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the most startling realizations was that only 20% of young people feel that adults value their opinions.
Do the Write Thing encourages young people from middle school to process questions and come up with answers. And adults listen. It reaches people who are young enough to be guided to make better decisions.. It gives them the opportunity to consider actions and their consequences, gives them a voice and makes them feel part of making positive changes.
A Postive Experience in the Courtroom
Judge Turgeon felt strongly that academic participation and achievement should be given the same value as those for athletic competitions, so she always provided trophies for the students.
How often do young people and their families have an opportunity to have a positive experience in the court room? This was one of the most gratifying aspects of the program.
So now I am exploring the options of bringing this program to Baltimore. I would be willing to organize the project, but it require approval from the national organization to add another community to those already participating and also to find someone with the credentials and status who would be enthusiastic and dedicated to support the initiative.
In Harrisburg I was well connected and familiar with the community. I had spent decades working with people from board rooms to prisons, and had worked in state agencies, school systems from K through university level, health care systems, police departments, social service organizations and people on both sides of the political spectrum. In Baltimore I'm not nearly so well connected but recently I have connected with some people who might be able to help me with coordinating the community efforts. There seem to be so many people interested in making a difference but not sure how to help.
I still have contacts with people participating in Do the Write Thing and i am exploring the options of adding a Baltimore.
Do the Write Thing combines so many things I value - youth opinion, writing, processing, asset based programming, and community collaboration
Years ago I heard a metaphor for chaos and clarity. A fraction of an inch under the surface of a mirror, it is absolute chaos. But a tiny move can bring everything into perfect focus. Hopefully, there will be a clear of vision of what this might look like in the near future.
We're under an emergency alert for flash flooding, and torrential rain, thunder and lightning have altered today's plans.
I'm happily settled inside, recovering all of my dining room chairs with a striped velvet that is much more complimentary to the furniture in the adjoining living room. I used the same fabric in the rose velvet pillow.. It's been a productive day in spite of a change of plans.
This came up on my Facebook memories today! What a fabulous event! The Pride of the Susquehanna is docked on the river in Harrisburg, PA and the atmosphere is delightful. We had a catered dinner as we cruised down the river and then had our training. I even had people come from out of state! So many wonderful memories.
One of these days I'd love to do the Hidden Treasures Styles on the pirate ship in the harbor in Baltimore!
The last few weeks have been overflowing with color and kitsch, both here in Baltimore and on recent travels. Seeing so many vibrant creations - kinetic and still sculptures, statues. screens, jewelry and even menus was a whimsical delight. From now on, in addition to museums, natural and historic sites, and more typical tourist attractions, I plan to seek out whimsy when I'm touring! I returned with my sketch book over flowing and numerous ideas for gifts, home and garden!
Kinetic Sculpture Race
On Saturday, May 5, we headed to the harbor early to see the start of the kinetic sculpture race, followed by lunch at Marie Louise Bistro and a stroll through historic Mt. Vernon for their annual Flower Mart.
Baltimore's Visionary Art Museum's annual kinetic sculpture race - "a race through Baltimore of wacky, imaginative, TOTALLY HUMAN-POWERED WORKS OF ART, DESIGNED TO TRAVEL ON LAND, THROUGH MUD, AND OVER DEEP BALTIMORE INNER HARBOR WATERS, constructed out of used bicycles, gears, and parts, created by a lunatic genius who tinkers around in the garage or backyard.
Jim Thorpe, PA
This is just a small sampling of the delights in Jim Thorpe. I've narrowed the number of photos down by focusing on all things Alice in Wonderful!
And back to Baltimore, MD
The Paper Moon Diner
Even the menus were fun!
Some of the interior decorations were a little bizarre, but it's all in fun!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!