September 22, 2016

Autumnal Equinox

If you're not familiar with Couchsurfing, it's kind of like the free version of Airbnb... but its mission is a little different - with the focus being less on finding a place to sleep and more on community! When you stay with a CS host you receive a local's insight (unless your host simply wants to help you out but doesn't have the time to chat or show you around) - you can stay up late discussing cultural differences, learn about their life, or have them show you to the best Belgium Waffles shop. I used Couchsurfing when I backpacked France, and in Chicago prior to that. I unfortunately haven't been able to truly host on my own, but I was always as involved as possible when an ex and his roommates hosted guests at the infamous Wet House in college.

Even if you don't surf or host, you can still be a part of your local Couchsurfing community if it's active... and while it's died down in Northwest Arkansas, when I first moved to Fayetteville, there were monthly potlucks, often with a theme, that each member took turns hosting. I loved having that sense of community and I feel like I'm missing out on that these days...

Point being, one of our get togethers I recall was for the Summer Solstice, when we had a Swede-style Midsommar potluck. We celebrated the longest day of the year by eating Scandinavian dishes at an outdoor art installation, "Under the Stars" - wearing bright clothes and talking about life.

You might recall from a science class back in the day that there are Summer and Winter Solstices (longest and shortest days of the year, respectively) and Spring and Autumn Equinoxes - where the length of day and night are about the same. They mark the beginning of each season and are reversed in the southern hemisphere.

Though not celebrated as heavily as its opposite, Autumnal Equinoxes have their own traditions too, according to which culture you're looking at. Japanese Buddhists visit their ancestral gravesites, meditate, and visit living relatives. Wiccans build altars of the second harvest produce, feast with friends, and count their blessings, much like Thanksgiving. Druids might gather to watch a sunrise over Stonehenge.

In a sense, we in the U.S. celebrate too, just more season long, with our pumpkin patches, county fairs, and eventually Thanksgiving. I would like to be a bit more mindful this year (and the following seasons/years to come) and begin to celebrate these beginning of seasons on their given day in particular. But I'm not sure how! I have lots of ideas, mostly involving seasonal food (go figure) and I even like the "altar" idea though I'm not sure if it's truly me. I would like to represent the balance of nature (in the balance of night and day on this special date). I would've loved to host a small dinner party but I'm supposed to be working until at least 7:30 pm.

I haven't committed to a tradition for myself yet, but I encourage you to create one if you don't already have one! In the meantime I'm reflecting on my own harvests. No, I may not be able to keep even select succulents alive (though one day I will grow some [any! please oh please!] kind of produce of my own) - but I can reflect on my inner harvest of accomplishments and epiphanies, reap what I've sown.

I'm not always sure what it is I've sown, but it must be nutritious because life's been pretty good to me lately, all in all. There will never be an absence of downs but I am so, so thankful for the people in my life - gathering a mature, thoughtful, empowering friend base. Settling in to the nooks and crannies of a rewarding career, finally seeing some of my own impact on the families I've led. So much love forced onto me  These have all been achieved (except perhaps Kafka, which is a given constant) since this year's Spring Equinox.

I'm a pretty happy little camper. I may not be the best at savoring life but I'm getting there.

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