Summer Solstice 2013

Where I sit is Holy,

Holy is the ground.

Forest, mountain, river,

Listen to the sound.

Great Spirit circle,

All around me.

                                                           Anonymous

Let the Sun Shine In

Let the Sun Shine In

There are two expectations I have for anyone participating in my workshops on the Divine Feminine, earth-centered spiritual beliefs, or self-awareness through intuitive arts–

1)  Approach everything with an open heart & an open mind

2)  Take what resonates with you & leave the rest.

(Within the next month, I’ll share how those two desires have formed my new venture called “Pure You- Awakening Your Authentic Self”.)

Summer is typically a time to celebrate our achievements both individually & as a culture (graduations, June weddings, Father’s Day, etc…).  We come together to recognize a lifetime of study through high school & college graduations, join in the joy of a new union represented in marriage, & pay respect to the fathers who have helped raise us, making us the people we are today.  In that way, we aren’t so different from people of ancient history who also saw this as a time to give thanks for their blessings & humbly acknowledge their failures in order to learn & move forward.  Summer Solstice is officially the beginning of the astronomical summer but it’s traditionally celebrated as midsummer because it’s the mid-point of the growing season & the pinnacle of daylight.

How did we honor Summer Solstice in days long ago?

Sacred, ancient sites around the world use the solstices as markers.  Stonehedge in England, the Angkor Wat temple/observatory in Cambodia, Mayan ruins, & what may be a sun temple in Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered have stones or openings where the sun perfectly aligns during the Summer Solstice.  Taoists in China recognize the Summer Solstice as the birth of yin (the Divine Feminine), a time of bounty as the literal & figurative seeds we’ve planted come to fruition.

So how do we honor Summer Solstice now?

Contemporary cultures tend to replace ancient bonfire rituals with campfires & fireworks.  Feasts of food ripening in June have been replaced with picnics overflowing with hotdogs, potato chips, soda, & beer.  Is this our 21st century bounty?    Forgive me if I sound cynical but I’m tired of the commercialism & shallowness of what have become “typical” American rituals (consider what we do for our graduates, brides-to-be, & new mothers to name a few).

I regrettably understand how we tend to “honor” Summer Solstice so a new question emerges in my consciousness… “How can I make it more meaningful?”

This year, I’ve designed a ceremony for women who want to reconnect to nature & one another.  We’ll dress boldly to honor the height of daylight, meditate while lying on the earth to feel the living energy housed within, connect with each other through a non-traditional ribbon cutting ceremony, share our  achievements & failures from the past year so we can learn from one another, & partake of sunflower seeds & orange juice- symbols of the sun.  Any leftover seeds will be scattered for the birds so wildlife can join our celebration.

Do I expect everyone to honor Summer Solstice this way?  Of course not.  You’d be missing the point if you simply adopted yet another ritual without personalizing it.  Here’s what I wish for you…

1)  Approach everything with an open heart & mind.

2)  Take what resonates with you & leave the rest.

Blessings & happy Summer Solstice!!

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Firefly Magic

As a little girl, I had a vivid imagination as most of us did when we were children.  A dishtowel folded to make a bed for Barbie, a cardboard box became an alien spacecraft, & a blanket draped over the bunk bed turned it into a covered wagon so we could play “Little House on the Prairie”.  There was no limit to my creativity, blissfully transporting me to other worlds for hours a day.

Despite the passing of years, bills, a mortgage, & other weighty baggage I carry as an adult, things happen to remind me that magic is all around if I open my “child” eyes & let my imagination fly.

A glistening field of fireflies is one such happening.  One evening, after an especially hot, humid day, I relaxed in the lawn chair to watch the sun setting & the fireflies rising from the grass like fairies waking from their nap to dance in the dusk.  I was captivated as more & more rose from the grass until my entire yard was shimmering light.  I raised my eyes to gaze out to the nearby field & lost my breath.  The entire field, sprinkled with thousands of fireflies, magically glittered in the dark!  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t even blink.  My eyes filled with tears as my heart swelled with joy.

Sometimes the errands & the chores & the obligations weigh me down.  But if I allow myself to pause…….. & truly see the world around me……… Mother Nature lifts me up again, on firefly wings.

Firefly Magic: a quick study in gouache

Insatiable Hunger for Books

My hunger for books is insatiable right now, perhaps it’s the lazy heat of summer.  For the last several days, I can’t get enough time to read.  Do you ever feel that way?  As I type this blog post, there is a beckoning stack of books on my nightstand, another stack calling to me from a bookcase in the living room, & an invisible stack piling up on my Kindle.  I won’t venture too deeply in the “paper book versus electronic book” debate but suffice it to say they both have merit.  My Kindle is light, easy to carry, & a great way to get any book at a moment’s notice.  Paper books will always hold a special place in my heart– the colorful shiny cover, the crisp pages just waiting for me to underline something or make a note in the margin, the smell of newness (or age), & the sound of each page as I fall deeper & deeper in the experience.  Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter.  At different times, I need different books.

I plan to read all of these… except the dictionary & thesaurus 🙂

What I read depends on where I’m at with my life & how I’m feeling at any given moment.  For example, while I was immersed in my women’s workshop this past spring, I read such titles as Creating Mandalas by RA Johnson, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood by M Stone, & Wise Talk, Wild Women by G Mazer, works that fed my need to unite creativity & the divine feminine.  As I prepared for a spiritual retreat at the Omega Institute, I devoured Soul Retrieval by S. Ingerman & Shamanic Reiki by L Roberts.

A rich variety that helped me be a better workshop facilitator & more well-rounded spiritual woman.

Needing a break from non-fiction, I turned to The Tiger’s Wife by T Obreht (complex yet beautifully written) & Haunting of Maddy Clare by S St. James (suspenseful escapism).  Today, I’m savoring Tolstoy & the Purple Chair by N Sankovich.  She writes, “… all the great books I was reading- were about the complexity & entirety of the human experience.  About the things we wish to forget & those we want more & more of.  About how we react & how we wish we could react.  Books are experience, the words of authors providing the solace of love, the fulfillment of family, the torment of war, & the wisdom of memory.  Joy & tears, leisure & pain: everything came to me while I read in my purple chair.”

It’s not a purple chair but it’s a wonderful place to read on a summer afternoon.

Lazy Days of Summer

Happy Summer Solstice everyone!  I have a secret that needs to come out; despite being a total nature lover, I find summer is the most difficult season to love. There, I said it.  Every June I come up with dozens of ideas for outdoor projects, ignoring Mother Nature’s gentle reminder which I vaguely recognize from last June, “You might want to do your outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day & rest when the sun is at its highest.”  When I continue to work in the yard, despite her warning, she gets parental by shrugging & saying, “Ok, I tried to warn you.  Now you have to learn the hard way.”  The reward for my stubbornness is exhaustion, icky sweat, & sunburn.  As I rub aloe across my red shoulders & down my red nose,  I humbly remember I need to work on Nature’s terms if I want to enjoy the summer.

Lawnchairs in the shade beckon as the temperature climbs.

It’s all about balance & learning from nature.  Birds, deer, & other wildlife are most active in the cooler parts of the day.  Intuitively, I know that & always have.   I now do my chores early in the morning.  Once the temperature rises, I read, meditate, sketch, or perform self-Reiki in the shade of my young maple tree.  Occasionally, I nap because that’s what summer is for!!  Just ask Paco, he knows 🙂

Paco, my Lhaso Apso, knows how to beat the heat.

One Flower

My art & spirituality weave so tightly with nature that I can’t tell where one begins & the other ends.  They are me.  I often start the day gazing across my back garden, saying “Thank you” to the Great Divine for every bird’s nest, blueberry, & flower in my yard.  There is such joy & wonder in these little things.

There is also great change from day to day.  Crocuses bloom & die, making way for forsythias, hyacinths, & tulips. They, in turn, die to make way for bee balm, daisies, & hibiscus blossoms.  I have to take time to walk my yard each day so I don’t miss any of the magic that is right here, changing with each season.

This whimsical 12 inch collage in browns, pinks, & a hint of turquoise metallic ink was inspired by a tulip blooming under my bedroom window.  Like Georgia O’Keefe, I knelt down very, very close to the flower to see the subtle color changes in her petals & note the many greens in her stem & leaves… taking time to really know her.  I drew a quick sketch then played with the image to make it mine.  There is no way to capture the beauty in nature; all I can do is hope to capture the feeling it gives me.  This flower was fun, joyful, & full of silent laughter so that’s the mood I tried to give this piece.

One Flower: All the wonder of the world is contained in its petals.

Take time to connect with a flower or leaf.  Get to know it well.  The universe is contained there, waiting to be discovered by you.  Happy summer!

Check out the art I have for sale at www.etsy.com/shop/PureSusan


Cows and Farms Inspire Me

I’ve always had a thing for cows, especially Holsteins.  I love the graphic black and white color from an artistic point of view but it’s their soulful eyes and moist pink noses that capture my heart.  I’m going to begin a new piece today with cows as my theme since I know the subjects that tug at my heartstrings make the best art.  As cliche as it sounds, art has to come from my heart.  If it’s forced, you’d know it.  I’ll share my work in progress soon.

For now, take a look at two of my recent farm collages– Pennsylvania Farm #1 and Pennsylvania Farm #2.  These pieces are in response to the knowledge that family-owned farms and farmland are being lost every day.  Don’t even get me started on developers, “progress”, and the almighty dollar!  Instead of focusing on the negative, I want to show the beauty of farms and pay tribute to this way of life.  Hopefully, my art will inspire others to protect agricultural areas and begin to shop locally 🙂   These are autumn and summer scenes respectively.

Pennsylvania Farm 1

Pennsylvania Farm II