Monday, June 24, 2013

Midsummer Fun!

The summer solstice fell upon us this past weekend, and midsummer celebrations could be found all over the Northern Hemisphere of the globe.  The summer solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year, and Midsummer is the celebration to mark the special moment in the annual cycle.

Midsummer celebrations fall back to Neolithic times, recognized by several names such as Litha (Pagan) and St. John’s day(Christian - This is John the Baptist’s b-day celebration)  , and the celebrations embrace many practices and traditions still followed.  Healing herbs such as lavender, calendula, St. John ’s wort and many others are picked at this time. These herbs are gathered in bunches and hung in doorways to dry.  Water is used to cleanse away negativity.  Small bunches of the medicinal herbs are gathered and placed in a container of water and left outside overnight.  Then, faces are washed with the flower water the next morning to cleanse the spirit. Bonfires are lit around midnight to dispel evil spirits thought to come about as the days get shorter.  These rituals alter and change depending on what part of the world one is in, but they all celebrate the rhythm of nature, and they all combine the common elements of fresh summer food to feast upon, dancing and celebrations, bright flowers in peak bloom, and a gathering to mark the ever-changing of the seasons.



Le feu de la Saint-Jean are the bonfires lit in France on Midsummer at the FĂȘte de la Saint-Jean. This is a Catholic festival celebration.  Spain also lights bonfires of old stuff to get away from their past. They jump over these fires to rid themselves of bad spirits.  The bonfires are accompanied by fireworks displayed by the beaches.  In Sweden maypoles are raised and flowers are picked to create wreaths while girls dance and sing dressed in fairy-tale like costumes. And, Poland, perhaps gets the award for the most beautiful celebration!  Over 11,000 paper lanterns float up into the sky to mark the shortest night of the year.


For our own Midsummer celebration in the South, we celebrated in true Southern Tradition.  We had a feast of fresh summer fare; Roasted asparagus, red potatoes and tomatoes came together to create a lovely pizza with a summer sun-ripened strawberry pie for desert. We enjoyed a little summer fun splashing out by the pool, and we picked some of the lavender that was ready to be picked.  The night was ended, not with a huge bonfire, but with our own festival of lights.  Hundreds of fireflies lit up the summer Southern skies like little stars beckoning the huge super moon to top the horizon.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Knitting/Crocheting in the South

Heartagram cable-knit scarf

Child's fish hat

Growing up learning how to make things was important in my family.  At a very early age, I was taught to sew, cross-stitch, quilt, paint, tat (Not tattooing but the making of fine lace), knit, crochet, and so on.  I enjoyed the creativity of it all.  As a child, I learned how rewarding it could be to successfully be able to make something, rather than go buy it.  If we ran out of ideas, a thing of rare occasion, but if we did happen to run out of ideas, we would visit craft fairs and such for inspiration, and soon, we would be well on our way to learning how to make something new.

Fairy Tale finger puppets
Halloween finger puppets
I was in middle school, around the age of 13 or 14, when I first realized that no one my age knew how to do these things, nor did they want to know.  When a classmate rather snottily asked me where I found time to do all that crafty stuff, that her life was way too busy for such nonsense, then I understood that being able to make things and taking the time to actually do that was a rare thing in this day and time. 

Cozy Ruffled Afghan

Around high school, I discovered through my friends that they wanted to participate in the items I was making, so I began to show whoever whatever they wanted to learn.  In college, I made a little extra money by fixing torn/ripped seams of clothing owned by other girls that lived in my dorm.  My thread-filled knowledge turned into a hot commodity.  Now, I have inadvertently created a knitting/crocheting circle.  Over time, I have taught or inspired most of my girlfriends to pick up yarn in their spare time, and somehow, they have all, like me, stuck with it.

Child's penguin hat
Our knitting adventures are so common, I am always shocked when someone approaches me after they have purchased something or they are about to purchase something from my etsy shop SoftWarmandCosy to ask me where I find the time to be so creative.  Almost once a week, someone stops me to talk about knitting or crocheting.  Their eyes glaze over as they tell me about a grandmother or an aunt who used to crochet blankets, or how they would watch their elder relative sit and crochet when they were small children.  Then, they shake themselves out of their little daydream with the admission that they simply could never get the hang of it. 

This always makes me glad that my own mother and grandmothers had the forethought to share with me their knowledge of how to make handcrafted works.  Being creative was held as highly important a necessity as reading books.  I am also happy to be able to share it with my friends, and I love that I now have the opportunity to make hand-knitted items for my friends who could never get the hang of it.

Baby Blanket

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Rockin' Southern Meditation

How many times a day do you read or hear someone say, “you should try meditation”.  Once a practice for the mystical gurus only, now it has become part of most of our everyday lives. Even down here in the South.  There are a great variety of meditation methods you can choose from.  The uses for a meditation practice are so wide-spread that the definition of meditation encompasses many different ideas. The two most common uses for meditation are stress relief and spiritual connection. In fact, meditation really is in whatever form simply about connected with a deeper part of one’s consciousness.  The reason may be different, but connection is what meditation is all about.  

There was once a time when the topic of meditation was not heard of in the South, or perhaps, it was not well thought of in the South.  Due to a lack of understanding of the benefits of a regular meditation practice, the idea of it was dismissed. Unless you count sitting in a rocker on the front porch sipping sweet tea and counting your blessings as “meditation”. Now, times have changed and more information has become widespread for everyone.  Even in my small backwoods part of the world, the topic of meditation is becoming one that is much discussed and even practiced.  I first noticed the change in my weekly yoga class. Once the ending meditation, (where everyone rests in shavasana) was simply referred to as a five-minute relaxation period to “forget all of the worries of the day.” Now, after years of building a good yoga class, our teacher is able to move her students through a guided meditation that almost always goes way past the typical five minutes of relaxation.  Because her students are more receptive to the idea they are able to absorb more of the benefits.

I recently learned that several of the local colleges include meditation classes as part of their psychology, sociology and health classes.   These classes teach students various ways and forms of meditation to help them in their lives, and they are given ample time, thirty minutes to an hour of each class to practice these techniques and reap the benefits of what they have learned.

In short, the message has spread and been heard.  The art of meditation has spread in its many forms.  It has always been available, but now it’s familiar enough for the naturally superstitious Southern lot to try.  As an avid meditation practitioner, I am overjoyed that I now encounter others who are also benefiting from this simple activity.  Connecting with one's inner self can seem daunting, but it can also help filter out the stresses of the modern world.