People don’t half getting their knickers in a twist at this time of the year, worrying about spending unnecessary money and catching up with relative strangers. If you know me, you’ll know I don’t go in for all that stuff. For me, this time of the year is about the solstice; a time to reflect on the transition of the year; to remember my connectedness to the earth and its people; and a time to celebrate being alive.
Solstice happens twice a year. It occurs simultaneous in the Northern hemisphere and in the Southern hemisphere: winter/summer and summer/winter. The solstice marks the exact moment when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, so the longest day or the longest night, and spiritually the solstice is about transition. The moment solstice arrives I’m aware that the days will start to shorten or lengthen (depending on which side of the planet I’m thinking about),and this is very real thing. In winter, when the sun is at its lowest, there’s a celebration of the darkness and an expectation of the return of summer, and in summer we cherish the sun and remember to work hard in the garden because winter will return all too soon.
For me, being a newcomer to New Zealand, I’m very aware of both sides of the planet and both aspects of the solstices. I talk/video chat to my friends and whanau over there heaps, so I’m aware of the shift in both our seasons. I see when they curl up in extra layers and I’m walking around covered in sunblock, and when they’re all full of sunshine as I huddle down. There’s a clear give and take of warmth and light, dark and cold. Despite being on the other side of the planet,through our movement around the sun, we’re connected. And, for me, this connectedness is so important. It reminds me we don’t need to cut ourselves off with traditions or divides, but instead, we should celebrate our humanness and being alive in the here and now, wherever we are.
There’s a beautiful Maori story that sums up this sharing and movement so well. It’s called Tamanuiterā: The sun and his two wives. The best version I heard was at a story-telling. I can’t find a link to the man’s site (maybe he doesn’t have one), but it was such a good re-telling. So, instead, you get my really my brief version. (Also you can read more here and here.)
A very long time ago, the sun, Tamanuiterā, really wanted a wife. He searched far and wide, and ended up falling in love with two women: Hine Takurua, the Winter Maid, and Hine Raumati, the Summer Maid. ‘Hine Takurua and Hine Raumati live in two very different domains on Earth. Hine Takurua dwells out on the ocean and is connected to the foods of the sea, while Hine Raumati resides on land and supports all the various food that grows on Papatūānuku’ (Te Miri Rangi, 2017).
The seasons happen because Tamanuiterā spends some of his time with one wife and the rest with his other wife. The solstice marks the time when he makes his slow journey between one and the other.
I love this story for so many reasons. It summarises how I feel about the turning of the year. It resonates to me about movement and the pull between my two loves. I have my love for Aotearoa and the life I have here. And my love for my daughter and whanau and friends in the UK. Unlike the sun, I can’t spend half a year here and half a year there, although that would be ideal. But I can feel the journey of the sun through the year and use that time to reflect, honour and feel my own spiritual journey.
So, despite the fact that the sun has returned to Aotearoa, solstice here is a sad time for me too. Like the UK, there’s heaps on emphasis on family at this time of the year, and I’m so far away from my beloved northern souls. Even in the sun, I feel the winter and the strength of the moon, and the love for my daughter, who I can’t wait to spend time with again (and yes, it’s planned for just after the equinox (autumn/spring- depending on your point of view of the big ball of rock we live on). But, still, this is part of my journey in this life so I’ll have a gathering in the sunshine with my Kiwi friends, my new whanau, and celebrate life here.
So don’t get stressed by the pull of consumerism, or adhering to a cultural/societal rule that gets you all riled up this coming full moon, try simply reflecting on your journey, celebrating our connectedness as mortals, and giving and receiving happiness. And I hope you even manage to have some fun.