Sunday, June 29, 2014

Purging and Sharing - The Power of Ceremony

Sometimes, picture really are worth 1,000 words. And with that being said, I use little words in this post, letting instead my friend Grace Contreras's beautiful photos tell the story of our Summer Solstice Purging Ceremony.

According to dictionary, there are several definitions for the English word purge, but in this context, the definition "remove something undesirable: to get rid of something undesirable, impure, or imperfect" seems to be the best fitting one!

And Summer Solstice seemed a perfect time to come together, a group of friends, and purge together, by fire, all that was undesirable, pure and imperfect from our lives. Of course, this is symbolic purging, but what are ceremonies, really, but symbolism? Meaningful symbolism, and coming together as friends to share and talk about what we needed to release from our lives, then tossing it paper scrap by paper scrap into the fire; toasting our commitments to letting go; laughing as an element of humor was thrown in (literally); and all under the cover of the longest day of the year - it was a special, powerful time. 

Ceremonial Sage and Lavender, staples of Pow Wow fires of my youth...the scent of memory, to me.
I've long been intrigued with Summer and Winter Solstice Ceremonies, as my own country does not so much honor Midsummer and Midwinter through holiday, festival, etc. The Summer Solstice, while midsummer for many of my European friends, is actually the beginning of summer in the US!

I wanted to celebrate the Midsummer somehow, and a ceremony of letting go - purging - that was shared with people close to me seemed the perfect way. I'm so grateful for Grace's wonderful photos (which you are seeing here in this post!) and for the company of everyone who attended. 

My son, who was present as well, took this photo! :-)
We did not follow any rules or have any set 'plan' other than bringing a dish to share and something to written on paper to add to the fire. Sharing, or reading aloud what was on the paper, was optional.

We had a bountiful buffet!  The jewel of the night was...

...exquisite Italian wine, straight from the countryside vineyards of Italy! A souvenir from holiday in Italy, shared among friends. Wonderful!

Also shared was a particularly appropriate poem by poet Kahlil Gibran...

As people shared what they wanted to release and let go of, there was a sense of compassion, understanding, and acceptance. A favorite saying of mine is by Ram Dass, "We are all just walking each other home." Doesn't that seem so true at times?  Different struggles, different experiences, but the need to let go of baggage from our pasts binding us together in friendship and ceremony.

 As the fire dwindled down, we celebrated the beauty of not only being able to release that which no longer served us, but to give voice to our intention to let it go with the support of good friends who shared our journey. Our old selves, who clung to the identities wrapped up in those words on paper, were smoldering to ash in the fire pit. Empowered, we set forth toward new goals, new adventures, new journeys!

Regardless of one's heritage and/or spirituality, a 'release ceremony' is an amazing experience. As the longest day slowly dwindled into night, I felt so relaxed and so 'freed' from past mistakes, misunderstandings, misinformation, misuse of loyalties and friendship. So much of what was just simply fell away. What was gone was simply that - gone - and the ashes that remained of it, still cooling in the firepit, would be buried by my son out in the woods the following day.

Ceremony  marks change. Allow it.
Ceremony marks celebration. Move towards it.
Ceremony marks release. Let it go with a half smile and open arms.
Ceremony is rebirth. Step forward, renewed.

Okay, maybe I did use more than a little bit of words, but as I revisit this event through posting photos, the more I remember how powerful it was! Again, I'm so grateful to my friends (and my son) who participated in this ceremony with me, and to Grace Contreras for sharing her photographic talents and allowing me to share her photos on my blog!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Walking Tour of Greenwood's Beautiful Festival of Flowers Topiaries!

Every year, around the end of May, something magical happens in the town where we live. We'll be riding through downtown on our way to the library or school or to the Farmer's Market, and suddenly my son or I will shout, "A topiary!" 

It's one of our favorite signs that summer is just around the bend, and the first topiary sighting is always a delight. As more are placed throughout the town in preparation for our annual Festival of Flowers, it's very exciting. Every community has some annual event that makes it unique, such as the amazing sand sculptures in Lappeenranta, Finland or the Plymouth Ice Festival in Plymouth, Michigan, where I used to live. Here it Greenwood, it's the Festival of Flowers Topiaries. Thousands of people visit our town each year to view these living wonders, and local residents as well enjoy seeing the topiaries on display.

The collection has grown and grown (no pun intended) and I share with you now photos from our  2014 Walking Tour of Greenwood's Beautiful Festival of Flowers Topiaries!

A monkey with two monkeys!

The accompanying floral displays are as lovely as the topiaries!

This Bird of Paradise is just so awesome!


My son loves the jeep!
Each topiary has a sponsor! We love cooling off in the Velux shelter!

The Lander University Bearcat! Eric gives a thumbs-up to my Alma Mater...

...and a thumbs down to the Clemson Tiger!!

Beautiful sunny day for being outside, enjoying nature in the city!

Cafe windows are decorated for the occasion!

Taking a break in the shade!

Of course, this gets a thumbs up!!! Go Carolina Gamecocks!

Back in his dinosaur days, this was the favorite one!

Our town is growing and growing! Our new Korean restaurant! Kimchi, anyone?

Charming store windows make the tour even more enjoyable!

Beautiful green nature in the middle of town.

All in honor of this amazing event!!

Local readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the topiary display this year! If you have not visited yet, they will be on display for a while longer. 
For my readers that are not local, I hope you enjoy this little slice of our town in June! 
It really is 'A Blooming Good Time!'