“Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees”John Muir
In Latin, the word “solstice” mean “sun stands still.” On this longest night of the year, I pause to ponder the solemnity of the darkness and honor the sacredness of nature’s cycles. For as long as I can remember, nature has been my sanctuary, my refuge, my sacred space.
Stepping into the forest is an exquisite exhale. The raw reverberation of nature. The saturation of scent and sound soothes my soul. The collective calls of the forest birds beckon me into their world. Cocooned below the canopy cover, the bulwark of branches bolsters me in its being and beauty. The algid air is pungent and profuse with the earthy fragrance of fungi and decaying organic matter. With each breath, the vaporous veil of volatile compounds emitted from the trees as they transpire steeps into my cells, invigorating my immune system and strengthening my spirit. The forest is a fortress to my well-being.
Originally Zion National Park, located in Southern Utah, was given the name Mukuntuweap, a Paiute word that means “straight canyon.” In the late 1800s, Mormon pioneers bestowed the name Zion on the area, an ancient, Hebrew word meaning “refuge” or “sanctuary.” Recently, I visited this picturesque park and stood solely in the sanctity of its scenery. A storm system settled in overhead, enveloping the enormous escarpments as it surrendered its superfluous contents, creating cascades of rifling water mixed with sanguine sandstone. Through the vacillating veil of storm clouds peered the rock faces, respectfully referred to as the Watchman, Angel’s Landing, the Sentinel, and the Temple of Sinawava, named to honor the Paiute’s Coyote god, or spirit. Awash in awe and replete in reverence, I felt the protective presence of these prodigious peaks, like the cradle of an ancestral mother or the amorous embrace of a beloved. My sense of self fell away as I stood in the presence of something bigger.
My revered relationship with the natural world has substantiated my sense of humility and feelings of a smaller self as I am reminded of my interconnectedness to a larger sphere. I am drawn out of self-interest into the concerns of the social collective and whole community. Exposing myself to awe-inspiring experiences, especially those in nature, big or small, leads me to focus on what is truly important. We have the world at our fingertips, but many of us long for a more passionate, healing, engaged, and sacred connection to others. Be intentional in seeking out your sanctuary. Invite others into the reach of your refuge, experience awe collectively and stand in the bigness of it together. Embody your awe-inspiring moments to grow your joy, your creativity, and your community.