Making the Most of Summer
Making the Most of Summer
I have a little bucket list for every summer. I don't write it down on paper, but I carry it in my heart. Every year comes and passes, days come and go, seasons turn. Making the most of a season I'm currently in means being present & embracing life as is. So each season I take joy in what it has to offer. The summer is a time to be wild and carefree. In this modern life, it can be difficult to unplug from all the daily stress. But it's fundamental to a happy and fulfilling life. The summer is an opportunity like no other, to maintain a daily practice of leaving work, technology and pressure aside and immersing yourself in the present moment. This is a reminder to myself, and to you, to finds those pockets of time to just be. And the simple ways to enjoy the beauty of summer even when life is filled with endless to-do lists and pressures. Too many of my springs, summers, autumns and winters over the past years were spent with my head burried in work and worries. My heart aches and longs for those childhood days when each season was tasted and lived to the full. Writing this is a way to make an intentional effort to slow down and relearn the way of being that I miss. I will be putting together a blog post like this each season, hoping that it will help me celebrate the magic of the yearly cycle.
Here are some simple ways to make the most of this beautiful summer...
Litha - Summer Solstice - 21st-22nd of June
Summer Solstice is when the sun is at its highest and the day is at its longest. Celebrating Soltice is an ancient pagan tradition. And although I'm not techincally a pagan, those are the roots of my culture, and I find these traditions to be quite close to my heart. Because they're all about celebrating & marking the natural rythms of life. You don't have to build a bonfire and dance naked till dawn to celebrate the longest day of the year (though you certainly can!). Creating your own rituals and traditions around this time of year is a beautiful opportunity to bring you closer to nature, to find space in your busy life, to slow down and reflect. A simple way to mark this day could be to get outside, climbt the closest hill or find an open field where you could set up and follow the sun until the last ray goes. If you have a chance to gather some family and friends, you could light a fire and enjoy the beauty of this summer night, the shortest one of the year.
When it comes to your work & business, you can take this as a chance to reflect on the last 6 months, your progress, your goals and aims for the next half of the year. Treat this time as you would a fresh start of the New Year.
Joninės (St. John's Day), Rasos (Dew Holiday), Kupolė
Lithuanian Celebration of Midsummer
As Lithuania is my home country and where I learnt to love and respect old pagan rituals, I thought it would be a lovely idea to share a little about our old as time traditions of Midsummer. This festival has several names, some pagan, some Christian, but the traditions are old, mystical and stem from our pagan roots. Midsummer is a big festivity there and although heavily commercialised in places, there are still many traditional celeberations accross the country. Midsummer is believed to be the most potent time for healing herbs and when they should be collected if one is to channell their full power. Unmarried girls used to make wreaths from twelve kinds of herbs before midnight to attract love into their lives. Wreaths were then set afloat onto rivers. Fires were lit and kept up over the night to illuminate the fields and bring good harvest. Fire jumping proceeded as it was believed to be a ritual of cleansing and a dance for good health. The most magical of all traditions starts as soon as the last ray of the sun dissapears. Once it's dark, people wander off into the woods in search of the magical fern blossom for it is believed that the one to find it will be granted enormous power, health, happiness and riches. Whilst people delve into the forest by themselves, they tend often come back in pairs - love and fertility are big themes in this celebration.
You could adopt some of these traditions or those of your own culture as a way to mark the summer & bring a sense of magic to your life. I love learning about old ways as it makes me feel closer to my ancestors and gives an insight into their beliefs and way of life.
Gather & Forage
It is believed that St.John's Wort, if gathered on Midsummer and worn, will protect one from cold and fever, or as some believe - may even make you invincible. As many herbs reach maturity around this time of year, Midsummer traditionally is the time of year to gather your magical herbs for winter. But the whole of summer is abundant. It's the time to venture outdoors, to gather & savour what nature has to offer. It's time to stock up on resources that will not be available come wintertime.
"The Elder is sacred to the Mother Goddess, and is often called the Witch's Tree, the Elder Mother or Queen of the Trees. It is protective, with wonderful healing properties. It aids transformation, change and renewal." - Lisa Lister, Witch.
Each year I try to learn of new herbs, fruits and flowers in my surrounding areas. And I always make sure to seek out, forage & harvest some of my favourite herbs, like oregano, thyme, mint, chammomile, sage, lemon balm and lime tree flowers. We've made it our own tradition to gather elderflowers and make cordial using my partner's secret family recipe, which they recon is about 120 years old at the very least.
Harvest Your Own
We life in a flat, with no balcony or garden. So growing my own food is one of the things I miss the most about my life growing up in Lithuania. We have a huge vegetable garden and fruit orchard at my grandparent's, and I spent all my summers there. A whole lot of that time was spent weeding, watering, harvesting, preserving and eating tons of seasonal fruit, berries, and veg. Back then, I was of course often a little annoyed at how mundane and exhausting many of these jobs were. What kid wants to spend 70% of their summer day in what feels like a mile long betroot row? And beets are a nightmare to weed - It's like plucking eyebrows. I spent what felt like half of my childhood in a veggie patch. And then there's fruit & berry harvest and spending long blazing hot afternoons turning hay over in the fields, or sitting around a blackcurrant bush. But as much as I couldn't wait to be done with all those jobs as a kid, I miss it all the most nowadays. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you really close to the source of your food and your life. And, even against your own will, it makes you so much happier than life in a concrete jungle ever could. Think of all that Vitamid D and fresh air filling my lungs whilst I was complaining about the heat or the gazillionth spider crawling onto my arm from the cool shade of the thick blackcurrant bushes.
As we don't have a garden of our own, I am attempting to savour at least a little of that joy that growing my own food gives me, by growing tomatoes in our bathroom. It's a pretty big space and the only room in this flat that gets enough sunshine. We'll have to see how it goes, but fingers crossed, in a month or so, we will be tasting our own little red beauties.
Fill your daily world with the Essence of summer
I try to fill all corners of my world with a sense of summer magic. I dress lighter, choose linen, light cotton - clothes that feel light, soft and let my skin breathe. I wear straw hats and chew on long grass like the stereotype cartoon farmer. I burn white candles and wash my hands with apple scented soap. I drink fresh mint, lemon balm and lime tree tea. I declutter my home and keep the windows open to welcome in calm, freshness and that divine summer air. More salads, berries & fruit fill my plate, accompanied by fresh home-made elderflower cordial drinks. It's always the simple things that help me enjoy each season the most.
Be a Wild Child!
It was a summer tradition that my mum, my sister and I shared each year, to pull our mattrasess from our beds and lay them down in our upstairs balcony. And we'd spend a few nights each year sleeping outside, enjoying the starry skies, protected from the rain, but breathing fresh air and sharing stories. It still stands as proof to me that you don't have to venture to the depth of the woods or the grandest of canyons, to taste a little bit of that wild life. As little as camping out in your own back yard could give you a chance to feel the spirit of a summer adventure.
Savouring summer isn't all about jet-setting to Thailand and sipping mojitos by the pool. Summer is in the little things. It doesn't cost anything or require any planning. It's just about taking those moments each day to get just a little bit wilder. I made a daisy chain for the first time in my life this summer. When I was a little girl, we used to make flower crowns from dandellions, so this was a new art to me. I love embracing those simple joys of life we weren't too shy to embrace as children. If you want to feel that summer spirit, run barefoot on the grass, have water fights, dance in the rain.