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Summer Solstice and Self-Reflection


Last year, at the suggestion of my beau, I celebrated the summer solstice with a ritual which has officially become tradition.

Burn (literally) destructive behaviors and manifest new, accompany with gratitude, self-reflection, good food and pleasing drink. This year, while I’ve evolved into a more focused and less fractured being than I was on last year’s longest day, I’m also in the midst of one of the most intense and disorienting periods of my life — preparing to vacate one city, culture and circle of friends, for another. It’s a most welcome and necessary change, but it’s a major transition, and a mental, physical, and spiritual test.

Moving is statistically considered one of the most stressful events in a person’s life, just a few ticks below the death of a spouse. Moving after the death of a spouse, while trying to nurture a meaningful romantic relationship and foster a new career — well, let’s just say on this solstice (which also happens to be my dearly departed sister’s birthday), I had a hell of a bonfire, my friends.<

After giving thanks for the bounty of the past year over a French summer supper and Provençal Rosé…

Ribeye with shallot, mustard and vermouth cream sauce

…I made a new list of stories I no longer want to tell about myself, and sent it up into smoke and ash. I looked at  the picture I’d taken of last year’s list. I had gotten past 80% of the behaviors I’d wanted to eliminate. The hadn’t simply floated away like embers — I had acted deliberately to change them. The other 20% — well, they were back on this year’s list. Some beliefs take longer to unseat.

Then I wished and pondered and set down where I saw myself in a year’s time, before unsealing the champagne bottle that held last year’s list. Again, about 80/20 to the good — maybe this is the Pareto Principle of self-help?

Charles Dodgson said, “Ever drifting down the stream…Life, what is it, but a dream?” When his Alice stepped through the looking glass, the world seemed to her familiar, but was deceptively skewed.

We live in a world of mirrors as well — our action (or inaction) is reflected back to us by our friends, family and loved ones. Sometimes the reflection is beautiful and brilliant, and that’s how it makes you feel. Sometimes it’s less flattering, and, well, doesn’t feel so great. Am I living larger and more brilliantly than I ever have? Or am I avoiding life? It depends on who’s holding the mirror.

Willapa Bay morning


A good bit of that 20% that managed to hold on from last year to this, is needing to learn that these reflections are limited by the beliefs and experience of others. Even the mirrors we hold up to ourselves often show a skewed image.

So this next year (and hopefully every year from here on out), while I receive with gratitude the reflections of light and love from every direction, I’m resolved to spend a bit more time looking within. That’s where the true self lives, even though she’s gotten buried in bubble wrap and moving boxes and memories of a life once lived. Stepping back into the glass, here are some of my most memorable moments from the last twelve months, with questions for the next.


1 – What are you going to put out into the world?


2 – Will you recognize the promise others see inside of you?

Hoover Dam – October 2013


3 – How will you face the fear that you won’t live up to it?

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve – April 2014


4 – Will you not settle for less than the most you can do? No, the most you can TRULY do.

Willapa Bay – June 2013


5 – Will you just let yourself suck once in a while?

The Planet Mars – December 2013


6 – Will you do whatever you have to do to get there?

Istanbul – September 2013


7 – Will you stop stopping before you start?

Oysterville Cemetery – January 2014


8 – Will you let yourself be loved even when you don’t feel super lovable?

Portland, OR – June 2014


9 – Will you bend to your own will, and not try to shape how others think about you?

Surfside, WA – February, 2013


10 – Will you learn to let go?

Descanso Gardens – May, 2014


11 – Will you remember the power of gratitude?

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Thailand – September 2013


12- Will you look at yourself through the eyes of your present, not your past?

Oysterville Sea Farms, Willapa Bay – March 2014


And one last question – will you let me know how you’ve done on next year’s longest day? As for me, I’ll be aiming to blow the Pareto Principle to smithereens.


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