Day 131 / 365

When I was a little girl, I remember walking along the Red River with my mama and asking her what God was. My mother was and still is, a super spiritual woman, and had done her best to educate us on all religions, not just the Christian background the rest of our family embraced, nor the Pagan learnings my mum was studying at the time.

It was solstice the day I asked this question, and my sisters, mum and I had spent the morning making sun's eye crafts which we were hanging by the river when the question rose. I remember my mother's answer to my question, as if it were yesterday, I remember her pointing to a tree that gently swayed in the warm summer wind and saying: "It is up to you what you decide to believe God is, but to me it is not a man in the sky. To me God is alive in all living things, God is in the trunk of that tree, and all its branches, God is in the leaves and the birds and in you. God is in the sunshine, the moon, the wind, the clouds, the water, and in all of the stars, anything that belongs to the earth or the stars, to me, is God."

I remember years later learning about Stonehenge and how on Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, the sun reaches the middle of the stones, shining on the central altar for this day only throughout the year.

This particular summer solstice, the one of 2016, coincided with the Rose Moon (or Strawberry Moon) too.

Summer solstice signifies the mid-way point of the year, it is a good time to celebrate what you've accomplished and what you still wish to achieve. To allow the sun shine on your own central alter, chasing away the shadows which linger, so you might take a look closer at yourself and see what you might have missed. Exploring your discomforts, listening to the bits of yourself you've quieted.

On the day before summer solstice my husfriend and I went searching for second hand furniture at our local Vide De Grenier. We recently moved into a new apartment which we've been carefully decking out with second-hand and vintage things, ideally ones we find serendipitously on the street corner, or for a few bucks from those who live near us via Le Bon Coin or the weekend wonders at France's version of the garage sale.

We'd gone in search for a dresser and a desk as this new space has some additional cosy corners that our previous space did not. We ended up finding neither thing we set out for, but found instead a knife sharpener and a beautifully worn vintage Pakistani carpet. We have developed a habit of stopping in at random cafe's as we wander back home post treasure hunt, sharing a half pint of beer as we go.

About mid way through our watering, we came across a church, one of those old stained glass beauties that Europe does so well. I'm a spiritual person but by no means prescribe to any particular religion, but I've always had a deep love for old churches. I nudged my husband suggesting we go in, and as the good Catholic boy he was brought up to be, he agreed.

It turned out it the church was named after Saint Jean Baptiste (Saint John the Baptist) and we had happened to stumble upon it the day they commenced the celebrations leading up to the celebration of his birth (June 24). This meant we were greeted at the door by a rather happy priest (Curé P. Stéphane Esclef), who excitedly offered us Roses. I told him my family name was Rose which seemed to tickle him into elation and, upon hearing my accent enquired if I was Canadian as well. I confirmed that I was, a bit confused how one's flowery family name related to one's nationality so clearly, until he exclaimed, sending himself over the edge with joy, "Jean Baptiste is celebrated in Quebec too! We're going to have a French Canadian night on Thursday, we're going to have champagne and poutine and everything!"

Now, I'm not sure what champagne has with being Canadian or if he could smell the booze on our breath and figured he could bring us to God by offering more of that sweet sweet nectar, he might have been joking, I don't generally catch sarcasm at my current level of French comprehension, but I appreciated his energy and we happily allowed him to lead us deeper into the breast of the church.

He lead us with an even happier nun, who explained the story of Jean Baptiste with the identical combination of enthusiasm and exuberance which my 2-year-old nephew exudes recounting his most recent train sighting; literally shaking with glee.

She then instructed us to set our intentions for ourselves through prayer, then bless ourselves with Holy Water.

We did.

And in the midst of the silence, this pagan child found a peace she'd forgotten for some time.

I used to be a 3x a day meditator and a daily yoga goer, but since moving to Europe where Yoga and rent are astronomically high and life incredibly fast, I've reduced that rate considerably. And I pay for it. Balance is not kept when spirituality is not included, at least not for me.

For the days that have followed I've found myself thinking about that church. Not about God, but the church as a Holy space, where the buzz of life can't reach. Sanctity in its truest form. I realized I need to find or create that Holy space for myself, literally and figuratively,  to communicate with that which I have faith in and with myself.

The solstice which just passed, the one which was accompanied by a once in a lifetime experience of a Strawberry Moon is a signal to connect to yourself and to the world beyond you.  To understand that you make up a part of the story which exists in our reality, that you're important as is this land on which we live. The more we truly connect to ourselves, the more we are able to connect with others, to speak with vulnerability and honesty about how we are feeling, to be honest with ourselves about what changes we wish to see beneath our bones and in the world which surrounds us.

As much as I am no longer an advocate of self enlightenment for the sole use of ones soul, I understand equally that without our own enlightenment we lack compassion and empathy, the core traits which bring change inside and out.

It doesn't matter which God(s) you pray to or what story you follow, what matters is that you covet compassion, that you exude empathy, and that you follow whatever path those two characteristics lead you. Whether it be a path towards your greener self, a path towards your greater self, or a path towards both. I'm not sure you can have one without the other.
photos: pinterest