Summer Solstice on Top of the World

Summer Solstice on Top of the World June 25, 2018

Greetings from Colorado! Over the last two weeks, I’ve been soul searching while soaking in hot mineral springs, hiking among the aspens and camping alongside fast-moving rivers. I spent my Summer Solstice day on an adventure on top of the world. The sabbat held many inspirational sights, and insightful lessons; it began with a dream come true, and ended with a contract that sends my witching life along a new trajectory.

From Boulder take Highway 285 toward Fairplay – Photo by Heron Michelle

Summer Solstice Dream Come True

Summer Solstice morning we awoke in Boulder in our tiny home on wheels that we call The Beautiful Flying Machine. I checked my email to discover that the book proposal I’d submitted to Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing a while back, has been accepted. I may have screamed out loud in a conflicted mixture of thrilled delight and intimidated terror. GOOD GODS, Y’all! Now, I have a book to write!

In magick, the warning is true: be careful what you ask for, because you just might get more than what you expected, and faster than you intended! At Imbolc I pledged to Hermes and Aphrodite that before this Wheel was turned, I would submit to a publisher the manuscript they’ve been needling me to write for years. Hermes didn’t wait for me to get my act together, the publisher came to me.

Ever since I started the Creative Writing program at the Fine Arts Center in 1990, a publishing contract to write a book was the impossible dream. Exactly 2 years to the day since the Witch on Fire blog went live, my dream came true. That is some kind of magick! Hail Hermes!

The Long Hard Road to Get to the Top – Photo by Heron Michelle

The Long Hard Road

After a flurry of emails accepting offers, and receiving a contract to review, we headed out into the wilderness on a completely impromptu adventure. We left Boulder and headed toward Buena Vista on Highway 285. Using an app called Campendium we picked at random to camp that night at Horseshoe Campground in the San Isabel National Forest, at the foot of Sheep Mountain.

With a spur of the moment decision, we turned off the safety of the highway, and onto the “path less traveled:” five miles of washboard gravel down a county road. It was a teeth-rattling, slow-crawling trek up-stream into them thar hills – far beyond the comforts of wifi or phone service. We didn’t have a reservation, nor any idea if we’d find a place for us once we arrived, but we took a chance.

Jai Ganesha! Our Dashboard shrine with moonstone, quartz and wildflowers. Photo by Heron Michelle

Jai Ganesha! we both chanted aloud.  At one point I thought we might turn back, but we are stubborn and curious folk. My partner rubbed the trunk of our dashboard shrine Ganesha, and we affirmed there would be a safe, fun landing place just for us at the end of this road. The sun clicked past the high peak of afternoon, and we just kept following him into the west.

This bumpy road reminds me a lot of the last 28 years; both witching and writing felt like a long hard road, but what can you do besides keep honing your Craft, seek aid when needed, and trek hopefully into the unknown?

Horseshoe Campground, San Isabel National Forest, Colorado, on Summer Solstice. “The Beautiful Flying Machine,” in our Campsite in the background – Photo by Heron Michelle

Please Slow Down

We arrived that afternoon to find the entire site booked solid starting the next day, but on this day of Jupiter, we could take our pick of lovely campsites. At an elevation 10,600 feet, it was not hard to find a gorgeous view. We chose a spot on the edge of the clearing so we could watch the rising sun the next morning.

The sign at the entryway held a great message: please slow down. I’ve learned that lesson well while touring in Colorado. Here, they know the value of relaxing in the hot springs, unplugging from the bustle, while drinking in all this pristine nature. Sitting on the river bank and breathing deeply is good day’s work around here, and I need more of that.

Wild Irises along the hiking trail – Photo by Heron Michelle

Stop and Meet the Wild Irises

On the longest afternoon of the year, we headed out for a hike along the 3 mile Limber Grove trail that led up from the campsite into the aspens, Englemann spruce, and 1000 year old Limber pines. The sun streamed through the trees as we followed him higher up Sheep Mountain. All hikes in Colorado are rocky hikes, but the determination of the wildflowers never disappoints me. They find a way to return to the light, no matter how harsh the previous winter, nor how precariously they clutch the slopes.

I took time to stop and say hello to all of them, and tell them how much I appreciated their lovely colors and tenacity.  It’s an almost silly thing, but it makes a difference to me that I pay my respects to the beautiful lives along the trail – out loud. We chirped to birds, and introduced ourselves to so many chipmunks I lost count.

Twisted giant 1000 year old Limber Pine tree and fallen friend in San Isabel National Forest – Photo by Heron Michelle

The beauty in decay

Another thing I’m always mindful of at Summer Solstice, is that the height of summer ease and abundance hangs in the balance with winter’s dearth and difficulty. The long shadows cast by the height of this harsh sun, point toward the decline of all cycles.

Beauty of the Dead and Dying – dead 1000 year old Limber Pine trees in San Isabel National Forest – Photo by Heron Michelle

We passed many bones of trees long fallen along the trail. Our hike arrived here as I traced my fingers around the swirling, gnarled wood of this Limber pine stump. He is likely a 1000 years old, dead yet still standing guard by his fallen friend. I laid my hands on the wood, and sent him my love, connecting through time to see, entranced by his textures and the energetic pulse I still felt through him.

My partner pulled me back to the moment, reminding me the sun was quickly setting and we needed to head back along the way we came. I resisted at first…wishing to finish the 3 mile circuit, rise completely from the trees to bid the sun adieu. I was too impatient to see the same views twice, but he knows more of these ways than I do, having hiked the Himalayan mountains before, and insisted that we turn back sooner rather than later.

I’m glad I followed his lead. Here is where I learned the best lesson…

A Different Perspective reveals Sacred Spaces

Down we trek, following the trail back down Sheep Mountain. I lead the way, remembering each patch of flowers, and fallen tree as we pass once more. When we turn a bend, a small clearing is revealed to the right of the trail that I’d never noticed on the way up. I was so fixed upon the upward hike, racing to catch the setting sun, matching the pace set by my partner, we’d both missed this cairn of stones set with such care by the hikers who’d come before us.

When it finally caught my eye, I stopped dead in my tracks, gasping with delight. The clearing felt sacred, made so by the care and contributions made by so many. How long has this artful stack of stones stood here? How could we miss it the first time? I’d been racing up the mountain intending to mark the solstice with some rite or offering at “the top” and completely missed what I’d been led to find.

Until I was forced to turn back…

Cairn of Stones mounded by hikers along the trail in Pike National Forest, setting summer solstice sun – Photo by Heron Michelle

We stayed in the clearing for a while, each of us adding a stone, a pine cone, a flower. I said a prayer, offered my gratitude for the opportunities unlocked on that pinnacle day. I sought guidance for the highest good to come of this new contract, and the work set before me. I snapped this picture as the setting solstice sun split through the spruce to crown the cairn.

Long Shadows

As the sun set behind us, we made our way back down to camp with enough twilight to cook a delicious feast on our butane stove. In the clear, cool night, we enjoyed the waxing moon and stars illuminating the beaver dams along horseshoe creek that flowed below.

I was “on top of the world” both literally and figuratively. I reviewed and accepted the contract to write the book that is asked of me…about a witch’s energetic dance with the moon, a mirror of the sun, and the personal power we can achieve through wholeness and balance as we navigate those tides within ourselves.

Long Shadows cast down the trail, as the Solstice sun sets behind us. Peace. Photo by Heron Michelle

The thing that intimidates me most about writing a book – especially a book on witchcraft – are the long shadows that such a material thing as a printed book will cast. I do not take that responsibility lightly, nor will it do to let such a chance go to my head.

The Summer Solstice Moral of the Story:

Take the occasional chance, because sometimes bumpy roads lead to beautiful places. If you are too busy racing to the top you can miss the important moments along the trail. Slow down. Enjoy both the lovely flowers of life and the bones of death as equally beautiful, because they are all faces of Divine world. Most importantly, sometimes you have to double back in order to get where you are supposed to be. The way back is never the same trail.

I sent back that signed contract to Llewellyn this morning, so it’s official. Looks like I have a lot of work ahead of me, so I may post here less often for a while. I’d appreciate any supportive energies you can send my way in the meantime.

By Imbolc 2019, this manuscript will be done. So mote that be!

~Heron

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