Summer Solstice 2011

One of the things that disturbs me about blogging, scrapbooking, and photography in general is that, more often than not, it presents a skewed perspective of  life. When documenting our lives, we tend to include the beautiful moments, that one precious second when a child smiled, even if it was bookended by tantrums and meltdowns. While it’s lovely to preserve life’s beauty, when that’s the only snapshot we present, we participate in perpetuating the rampant fantasy in this culture that everyone else’s life is greener than ours.

A few months ago, I received an email from someone thanking me for my work. At the end of the email she said something like, “I love seeing your family in your blog. It seems like you have the perfect family.” I almost fell over, and immediately called one of my closest friends to ask, “Is this the image I’m presenting of my family?” I was horrified to think that I had, in any way, participated in the fantasy of perfection. My friend assured me that I portray a balanced picture of our life and that I’ve included plenty of our struggles in my posts. I took a deep breath and decided to trust her.

But I’ve thought a lot about that email. I’ve thought about how much I feel comfortable divulging about our struggles, especially when it comes to my children’s lives. After all, this isn’t a blog about family life; it’s a blog about transitions, and I’ve chosen to include our own transitions as a way to elucidate certain points and themes. I celebrate our changes in the deepest sense of the word “celebrate”, sharing the darkness as well as the light.

All this to say, that when I woke up this morning and realized it was Summer Solstice, my first thought was, “Ugh.” Last year, I felt inspired by our solstice projects and brought an energy of enthusiasm to the day. But today I felt tired. And I could see the same look in my husband’s eyes when I reminded him it was solstice. Still, knowing how important these days are to our kids, I reached into the pocket of negative reserve and forced myself to take action.

As Asher napped, Everest and I found pieces of bark, leaf fronds, and a sturdy branch. We covered the table with a white tablecloth and picked flowers from our garden for the centerpiece. We made a second fairy wand for Asher to complement the one we had made for Everest last year. At dinner, we talked about what we wanted to let go of and asked the fairies to help us let go. Everest said things like, “Fairies, please help me let go of grabbing things from Asher and help me bring in having fun with him.” He also asked to let go of his fear of death. We wrote everything down on the leaves, and wrote prayers for the earth and all beings on the piece of bark.

After dinner, as the sun started to set, we dressed the boys in white (Everest wore his beekeeper suit) and walked down to the creek. Everest played the recorder and Asher danced. Last year, we threw the leaves into the traditional summer solstice bonfire, but this year we decided to utilize the force of the rushing water and threw our leaf fronds into the rapids. The boys each threw one, and then we dashed back to the house to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

The ritual was lovely and our land is beautiful this time of year. My husband and I connected to each other and our boys rose to the energy of the intentional activity. And while I can’t say that the ritual magically lifted my mood or infused me with a rush of energy, I trust that our prayers, now swimming downstream on green leaf boats, will find their way to higher ears and that ultimately, eventually, over many solstices, equinoxes, birthdays, Shabbats, weddings, deaths, and births, we will learn how to let go.

8 comments to Summer Solstice 2011

  • Amy

    These tales can be perfect: prefectly frank, perfectly original, perfectly Sheryl loving herself and her family

  • What a perfectly lovely comment; thank you : ) I have a charge around the word “perfect” because of how much trouble it causes in the wedding industry – and in our mainstream culture in general – but overall life could be seen as perfect in its imperfections, where there are really no mistakes, only learning.

  • cynthia

    this article highlights for me the difficult time I have ‘letting go’. Of people, seasons, family gatherings, playbills. in fact, sometimes i’m so focused on the impending separation that i don’t enjoy the gathering! in the past few weeks i’ve been cleaning drawers and closets and notice that i have a lot of archived moments and continue to struggle with parting with clothing or objects that remind me of a special memory. the idea of honoring the experience, awakening to the vulnerability that it calls forth and reverently releasing offers a new way of being. thank you, sheryl.

    • Cynthia – Oh my goodness, we ALL have trouble letting go! But I do think some people have more trouble than others – usually the more sensitive among us and those that are connected to the loss aspect of life. I’ve written quite a bit about my son’s challenges with letting go and his fears of death (connected, I do believe), and I can just him growing up to have drawers full of playbills! One of the secrets to being able to participate fully in the joy of the moment is to also make room for the loss – and to remind yourself (your Inner Child) that when the gathering is over you will make time and space to attend to her feelings of loss. Allowing for the loss allows for the joy, and the converse is true: when you limit a full expression of loss, the joy is limited as well. I wrote about it here:

  • Kathleen

    As I was reading your blog yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel that the email you were describing was a little bit too familiar. Turns out, I was the one who emailed you about your work and your “perfect” family! I had emailed you for advice just before I was about to get married, graduate from grad school, become a step-mom, move, leave a job that I loved, and start a new job in a field that is completely new to me- all of this in one month- talk about transitions! I was terrified and feeling a million different emotions. Reading your blogs, hearing you speak in your video clips, and reading your book has always made me feel like my feelings are normal and that it’s ok to feel a bit terrified of the unknown. Not only do I love reading your blogs because of the advice that you give, but I also like reading about your family life. Looking back, “perfect” may not have been the right word, because you’re right, there is no such thing as a “perfect” family, “perfect” relationship, or “perfect” person. I think a better way of explaining what I meant by “perfect” is that your writing really portrays how much you love, appreciate, and cherish your family and the time that you share with one another. Coming from a “broken” family, that wasn’t always very loving, I admire the life that you and your husband have created. I know that marriage and raising children are both very large responsibilities, that take a lot of work, but at the end of the day, I feel that you know what’s important in life- your marriage, your family, and your husband and children’s well-being. I think that is wonderful! Thanks for sharing your life, the struggles and the happy times, with us, Sheryl!

    • Thank you, Kathleen. This is such a lovely comment and brings a smile to my whole being. I’m so grateful to express our joys and challenges here and to know that it provides inspiration to others. Thank you for clarifying what you meant by the word “perfect”. That makes perfect sense : ) And congratulations on taking all of your leaps. Wow, that’s a lot all at once! But not only did you do it, you did it with courage and grace. Bravo!

  • I’ve never done a solstice celebration, perhaps next year. seems like a good thing to do.

    I find it funny when people look at pictures I post and say my son looks like such a happy child. not that he isn’t, for the most part, but with today’s digital cameras and picking what we post, we can all create an image-impression of what we would like rather than what really is. sometimes that isn’t a bad thing as it helps us move toward that. I was just commenting to a friend a few weeks ago how much different our childhood memories of pictures are then nowadays…the closed eyes, goofy faces, etc…and we didn’t know for weeks…or years however long it took them to be developed right? now we want perfect pictures instantly and don’t appreciate children being themselves – making goofy faces etc…wonder how that will affect us all long term.

  • I wonder the same thing, Nina. We can so easily discard the slightly “imperfect” photos that we’re creating a glossy memory bank for our kids.

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