I think the time between Beltane and the Summer Solstice is my favourite time of year. Beltane brings the height of Spring with the flowers of the Hawthorn dripping in white fingers from the Maiden’s tree. Then, as the May flowers begin to disappear the Lady’s tree, the Elder, begins to fully blossom until at the Summer Solstice Albion is speckled with Her white flowers. The leaves are just a slightly darker Spring green, and the corn in the fields has yet to turn from green to gold and still stands proud.
Things change between now and Lughnasadh. Summer’s heat will take some of the moisture from the leaves and they will turn much darker, the green Corn King in full power will begin to turn gold, eventually bending his back with age – a bearded man with a crooked cane. Even the Downs here in Sussex will have some of that beautiful greenness taken away by the light and heat of the Summer Sun.
Man. I sound like I find this change all a little depressing. But I don’t.
My favourite time of year may have passed, but part of this modern Pagan path’s greatest gift is the gift of presence. If we mark our place on the Wheel once every six weeks or so by getting outside, be that to a local sacred site, a hill, woodland, local park or in our gardens, we take that time to fully notice where we are in time and space. The fact that we do this every year only adds to the gift. We have 5, 10, maybe 20 plus years of Summer Solstice dawns in our memory. Each one a moment to reflect on as we stand within the Now of the current moment.
It can be challenging to keep that presence of mind between festivals. Our minds can wander from the present moment into wishing time away – maybe looking forward to Spring more than we are experiencing Winter. Or if we are Winter people, wishing away the heat of Summer and looking forward to the cool of Autumn. There is, of course, nothing wrong with looking forward to the future, to change. But to wish time away is literally wishing away some of this precious time we have here in this life. To look forward to the future, yet to stay present, that is the key.
So once the Solstice has past how can we stay present? For me that key is a daily practice. It is wonderful that we have these roughly 6 weekly markers, but there can be a danger that the 8 festivals of the Wheel of the Year become like Sunday church services. We mark those dates then our Paganism is placed elsewhere until the next one comes around. A regular daily peace keeps us in connection with the land, sea and sky, with the sun and the moon, with ourselves. It doesn’t have to be long. Even taking a few long, slow breaths on walking out each morning. Taking a moment to fully notice the weather, the temperature of the air, the earth beneath us, the sounds of life, and our place within all of that, is often enough. If we can step into our garden each morning, turn to the four directions and ask each element for a blessing on our day, that’s good too. The secret is to always do something. If we can do that then, after about a month of these little daily rituals, they become habit, something that marks our lives and brings us, each day, back into the present moment.
To quote a very overused quote: “The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.”