The summer solstice sneaks up on me. I’m too distracted with my many projects and concerns, seeing the restaurant through it’s busiest graduation week in a long time, still trying to decypher the puzzle of managing the debts, wondering where my future will take me, looking forward to when I’ll consistently feel secure, confident, free. My long winter’s hibernation has carried through the end of spring.
I’m getting ready for another tour, this year with less certainty about when and where and how I might be able to afford the time and expense. No matter, I buy new panniers, on sale through REI. First new panniers since … the 90s? Wow. New shoes, a more recent replacement for the ones I bought four tours ago. That’s 14,000 miles, however, and the old ones are shredded. I found some extra wide SIDI “MEGA” Dominators (their actual name) which surprisingly fit my 6E feet.
After a busy Friday, I drive over in the Alsea Highway in the wee hours. Perfectly timed to see the solstice sunrise on the Alsea Bay. I sleep most of the following day, lulled by the nearby song of the surf. I attend the Midsummer Masquerade in Yachats, where locals share music and culture in a fundraiser to prevent logging on the “viewshed”. Warmth of community follows me as I lay down to sleep once more, traveling into dream space, where I find many stories and symbols. If only I could discern their message, are these merely random thoughts in my REM state mind? Or cryptic directions from the collective unconscious, which Jung proposed to carry profound import and purpose. My waking skeptic believes none of this, preferring the mechanistic view of life and nature.
Where does an atheist find hope? I’ve often pondered, occasionally been asked. In the space between despair and fantasy, the creative potential of humanity shines. I eschew the simplistic explanations and denials of religion, as well as the easy road of cynicism. Instead, I choose to place my hope in our collective intelligence, in the ability to make our world better, to care for one another, to end conflict, make peace, become stewards for the communities of life to carry forward for generations. I suppose “humanism” is what this is called. My hope is in humanity.
This hope becomes the wind at my back as I ride the familiar miles on 101 south of Yachats, over headlands and bluffs to the lighthouse. A brief glance at the iconic light, then I turn to face the wind, welcoming the challenge of my ride back North. The early summer winds are strong, gusting to 30mph, transforming the same hills into mountains. Yet I am steadfast, feeling the strength in my legs again, my pounding heart, deeply breathing in the briny coastal air. I’m out of fuel, ate too early a breakfast, carried no lunch on the ride. My last few miles are driven by pangs of hunger and the promise of delectables at the new Yachats Farm Store.
In the afternoon, I drive up the river to Nate’s homestead, where we talk and bounce around ideas of rocket stoves and permaculture farmstead and sustainable food systems. The Yachats River Valley is a microclimate, 10 miles in from the coast, just past the fog zone, thus temperate and mild, year round. I share in taco night with the family, later read Curious George to little Sawyer, connecting with the rhythms of family and future.
Back out at the coast, I’m lulled to sleep again by the constant surf. Sunsets, sunrises, endless cycles of night and day, life, death, birth, renewal. I’m again reminded of the blessing of being human, on this garden planet called Earth.
Happy Solstice, everyone!