Last year at this time I wrote on the spiritual meaning of the summer solstice,
"The solstice, sometimes called midsummer because by now farmers have long done their planting, is technically the first day of summer. It both ushers in the warmest season, and reminds that the season is short, slipping away day by day. For those who revere nature, summer solstice may be celebrated by a bonfire, and staying up to greet the dawn."
From here on out, the days become shorter, and the most intense growing spurt of the year is behind us. Even though the heat will continue to increase in July and August, the year is beginning its passage into the waning light.
This year, there is more uncertainty in the air. We've had deadly tornados in the U.S., including states that do not usually have these devastating storms; record flooding that threatens the food crop; predictable "accidents" in fracking processes that show the intensifying conflict over increasingly desperate attempts to get at fuel and the desperate need to stop destroying the environment. Despite such "accidents" that threaten ground water, desperate farmers in New York are looking to sell the rights to gas beneath their land, while equally dedicated activists and environmentalists seek to halt fracking.
High holidays mark the passage of time, offering a moment for assessment and appreciation. It is always appropriate to be grateful for what we do have, and at the same time to notice what is waning and how we are called towards reconstruction. Energy security, food security, job security, water security, health security, weather certainties, we just don't have them. Nor do we yet have a full creative mobilization for new solutions, but it is building while the framework of the old American dream is waning. Buying a house, getting an education, these are no longer guarantees of future security, but there are signs of constructive change. Boston's prestigious Newbury Street shopping district has more second hand stores than ever, a brilliant kid offers a TED talk on his aim to become a lunatic farmer, and a young woman is blogging about detoxing from over consumptive fashion by wearing one dress for a year. So maybe there is reason to hope that American people and culture are ripe to shift from outmoded expectations and bloated energy demand into something more sustainable. The Transition Town movement is taking hold in the U.S., where communities are not waiting for legislation from above but are taking the lead in locally restructuring for energy descent, and in the process reweaving relations with neighbors and extended community.
New Jersey, one of the country's more polluted states, has an inspiring certification program for environmental progress, a partnership of communities and local and state government. Where there is great challenge, there is also great opportunity. Can we move out from under the deeply ingrained infrastructure of oil and energy-intensive habits we've come to think of as normal? Can we the American people retool communities to thrive on the energies of people creating, collaborating and communicating? Those who jump over bonfires this solstice can ask for blessings on the opportunity at hand, knowing that Pagans have been about building creative alternatives for years, that closer more intimate relationship to the land is a wonderful thing, and that the Earth is resilient in ways we can't fully predict. Have a blessed summer solstice. Renew, enjoy, celebrate, and get creatively active, locally and politically.