For the Celts, the Summer Solstice was a time of feasting, rejoicing and the lighting of bonfires which were believed to chase away evil demons, protect the cattle and bring luck to the couples who jumped over them. The promise of fertile abundance of this ripening time was celebrated and gatherings at Stonehenge, the ancient stone circle on the Salisbury plains, took place then as they continue to do now.

One of the most memorable Solstice experiences I ever had was bicycling to Stonehenge from London with a friend to watch the sun rise and set at a precise angle between the henge stones proving that the ancient circle had astronomical significance. It was 110 miles and we decided to make the journey in 5 days by taking the small scenic special cycle roads and staying at pubs or inns on the way.

Even though I was in my twenties and pretty fit, it was hard going and on the third day I was attacked by allergies, so I essentially sneezed the rest of the journey. But nonetheless it was beautifully green much of the way and it felt like a pilgrimage to a Sacred Site, especially because the cozy inns were often ancient and it was easy to imagine we were joining many previous pilgrims on a well-trodden path.

Once we arrived, we stayed at a local BnB and from there went to the sunset and sunrise gatherings, joining with hundreds of other celebrants and a circle of white-robed Druids, or modern Celtic priests. When the sun sparked between the pillars, as it had for thousands of years at this time, a gasp of awe spontaneously rose from all us. We felt bonded to each other and to thousands of ancient ancestors performing the same sacred ritual. My own British ancestry suddenly awakened in my heart. So now when the Solstice comes around, I feel this heart bond with Stonehenge.

For us moderns, the Solstice signifies end of school year and vacation time is near. In my childhood, summer meant freedom from school and permission to play outside and roam about to my heart’s content. Nature became the classroom as it is now for my two granddaughters. They spend their summers living in a remote magical cottage surrounded by an Oregon forest of Douglas firs, incense cedars and hemlocks where they are free to engage in wild play.

I usually join them for the week of the Summer Solstice. We make fairy houses, have forest tea parties, walk to the nearby MacKenzie River, paint faces on rocks, and climb around on the supple limbs of a vine maple. Both girls know the names of all the local wildflowers, birds and trees and where special fairy places are.They are blessed with an old-fashioned childhood where they can access enchanted play in nature—a gift that I wish all children had. Can you find ways to let yourself play more in summer and let your imagination run a little wild? I love the sentiments in this poem by Mary Oliver.

Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods,
and spent all summer forgetting what I’d been taught—

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn’t a penny in the
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

Playing with children in nature opens the heart and it’s interesting to note that the Heart itself is considered to be the sacred organ of summer in Chinese medicine since it controls the fire or Yang powers and out-going energies of the body. Many of us in the Northern hemisphere may feel the urge to travel at this time and leave behind the familiar and the routine and open our hearts to new adventures and people. It’s also when family reunions take place and exotic vacations lure us, but I’ve found that the more rooted our daily lives in nature become, the easier it is to live more of a ‘vacation’ type of mindset or a consciousness that is open and relaxed.

  1. Notice how the arising of summer makes you feel. For a ritual, you might create a small bouquet of flowers and light a candle to honor the sun and meditate on the heart. Or watch the sunset on the Solstice in a contemplative manner.
  2. What memories emerge of play, exploration or adventure
  3. Can you give yourself permission to do something unusual this summer, to trust the courage of the heart’s longing?
  4. Could you engage in something playful?
  5. How might you direct the creative fire of summer in a new project or commitment perhaps to your own wellbein