I know, I know. You read the title of this article and raised your eyebrows. Fall is the time for thankfulness – the harvest, family gatherings, remembering all the blessings of the year. I’d like to challenge that paradigm. The harvest, fruits and veggies and food, aren’t the only gifts that nature gives us (and they don’t happen only in the autumn, either). Midsummer is the time when nature is at her height: growing, blooming, singing.
I am thankful for the warm sun on my skin. I feel so lucky to hear the whooshing of leaves in the wind. The sweetness of mulberries, the tang of early strawberries, air heavy with the scents of late-blooming flowers; these things fill my heart. Sometimes on these summer evenings I weep with the beauty of it all.
I like to gather flower petals to use as an offering in the summer. Lilies are blooming and shedding their petals all over the Midwest right now. You can also use fresh water or birdseed or anything else you feel the spirits of nature would appreciate.
For this ritual, it’s helpful if you can go to your favorite outdoor spot, or at least one nearby that you enjoy. Somewhere familiar, that you’ve visited before and had good experiences with, is best. You may not have actively addressed the spirits of that place before, but if you’re familiar with the area, generally the spirits are familiar with you.
Find a space and posture that connects you with the spirits around you. When I was younger, I did a lot of rituals in trees. Feeling the wind sway you and the leaves roar around you is a unique and powerful experience. These days I mostly stay on the ground, sitting or kneeling in the dirt or the grass.
Take a moment to really feel this place. What is the texture of the ground? Is it cracked, dry clay, or maybe a gritty, sandy soil? What plants are growing in it? Are they long and spindly, or do they hug close to the ground? What kinds of insects do you see? Is this a place thick with bugs, or is it lacking in tiny life? Observe the area just a few feet around you before you start looking into the distance.
Allow all your observations to begin forming a picture in your head. Reach for a feeling of the personality of this place, the personality of each of the individual things around you. Sit with these personalities, learning about and experiencing them.
Begin to think about the things and personalities that you are enjoying, that you’re feeling grateful for. Is it the beauty of nearby flowers making your heart feel joyful? Is it the smell of the air, the feel of the sunshine? Find one thing to concentrate on that is helping you enjoy this moment, even if there’s some things making it unpleasant.
Spirits of the lilies, thank you for all of your gifts.
For your sweet scent, I thank you.
For your bright orange color that warms my heart, I thank you.
For your green leaves that spread out like arches,
providing shade and homes for the living things around you,
I thank you.
May you continue to grow and prosper and bring happiness to this place.
It doesn’t have to be complicated or overly poetic. Just a heartfelt expression of thanks is all that’s needed. It’s the little things, often repeated, that bring us into a relationship with the world around us.