06-18-2015 | Lindsay

On a night two weeks ago, 15 women walked single file through the woods singing softly on their way from the Retreat House to the Meditation Shelter. The clouds played tag with the waxing moon, but still it shone like silver through the dark trees. As the group approached the Shelter, they saw candlelight glowing through the windows and heard the pensive cadence of a Native American flute. At the door, each was asked, "Are you willing to enter the door that leads to the realm of heart and soul and mystery?"

We are in a thin time, one of my very most favorites, nearing the solstice, when the northern half of our planet tilts fully toward the sun. For us in the northern hemisphere, the hours of sunlight stretch long and lazy, and the darkness shrinks. Those who lived, and live, by the rhythms of seasons, know the vital, abundant energy of this time, and sense its import and sacredness. The ancients celebrated the full force our sun-star on the solstice with feasting and play. Edward Hays writes in Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim, "It was believed that on midsummer's eve, the walls separating the worlds of the spirits and humans became as thin as tissue paper. The spirits of field and forest, of river and stream—all the inhabitants of that inner world—were free to pass back and forth between those walls and play among humans...."

Perhaps we no longer believe in faeries and woodland sprites, but some traces of wonder, play, magic, and mystery remain in our psyches. We walk singing through the night.

In this thin time, we remember that we live between realms. As John O'Donohue notes, at some level, "You know that the real nature of things is hidden deep within them. When you enter the world, you come to live on the threshold between the visible and invisible..."

Solstice in the northern hemisphere ushers in the time of playing in the visible and invisible. Our calendar marks it as the first day of summer. School is out, children released from classrooms. Families go camping in the woods and frolicking in the sea. Right now, Scot and Linda are hiking through Dolly Sods in the immense Monongahela Forest. Next week, Billy and I go to Assateague, a barrier island in the surging Atlantic, off the Virginia coast. The powerful sun of summer, with its radiance and warmth, draws us outward and illumines the inner life of the beings that in this season flutter and rustle, throb and roar, hum and whistle all around us.

Just now, a Carolina Wren alighted on the azalea bush and began to sing. Tiny, russet brown with a jaunty tail, it opened its beak and released sweet trills into the bright air, its small feathered neck pulsing out and in with delicate, vibrant force: a diminutive, full-throated solstice celebration.