Summer Solstice 2020: The Fullness

Posted on Jun 19, 2020 in Art, Books, Music, Nature, News, Reflections, Seasonal Messages

COVID-19. One word with so many contradictions: death, innovation, anger, selflessness, anxiety, adaptation, depression, creativity. The fullness of life! To date, at least 8,457,305 infections; 453,882 deaths. We hear the counts every night like reports from a war zone. We know it is not gone. The financial fall-out we haven’t begun to comprehend. The isolation affects all of us differently. For me the last few months have been like living in slower motion.

Focus sharpens in times of illness. We come face to face with mortality. We have time to think. We see and hear in ways we haven’t before. This slowed down time, this slower motion has revealed itself to me like a kaleidoscope, the changes going on around us and within us. We see the turn of the seasons close up. A birds-eye view, this time of concentrated inward reflection in the world. This time of intentional watching has revealed the contrasts and contradictions: Black and Indigenous lives matter! People can work at home and be productive. Children and parents have more time to bond. Those already isolated find they have more ways of accessing the world online. We can cut greenhouse gas emissions, just like that.

We have to be still. We have to listen. We have to be.

I offer three strategies for COVID, think of them as spiritual practices. From my own experience: Walk. Walk more. Give thanks.

Walk or whatever movement you can manage. I had a sprained ankle for the past six weeks, so sometimes that movement has been guarded, sometimes limited to watching the movement of light, wind, and life outside my window.

In the river valley, I’ve found my way around paths I was afraid to follow before. The Dawson-Kinnaird parks are riddled with animal and human trails in hidey-hole places. I’ve taken them, daily, sometimes twice daily, and learned their routes as I’ve followed my feet. When there was still snow on the ground and long before the leaves, I followed the trails, winter into spring, spring into summer, knowing them one layer at a time, when I knew I couldn’t get lost. And now I can’t. (For the full unfurling I’ve witnessed this spring, visit my twitter feed @audreyjwhitson)

Walk more. Make a pilgrimage where you live, another practice I’ve taken up. A pilgrimage in honour of Saint Brighid suggested by a friend of mine in the neighbourhood with Irish heritage, Kate Quinn. I set out on this walk at least once a week early in the morning. During COVID, the streets are quiet. I see the occasional fellow drinking coffee on their deck, smoking a cigarette, searching for bottles in the dumpster or walking like me. Everyone is friendly. I don’t remember a time when I felt so comfortable talking to “the stranger.” We know we’re all in this “unprecedented” time together. I stop at the homes of neighbours I know and pray a blessing over the hedge, “May the cloak of Brighid flow over this house.” Occasionally they see me or I see them through the window, but that is not the point. The point is to be present in the void. The point is to ground myself in my world and to come home feeling more connected than when I left.

Give thanks. The final strategy for COVID is something I’ve learned from another friend in the neighbourhood and have adopted as my own. I’ve kept gratitude journals over the years and prayed lists too. But this is simpler and means more to me. At the end of every day I write down one thing that has made the day extraordinary: some encounter, some event, some exchange. For me that might mean crossing paths with wildlife; experiencing a piece of art in word, image, or sound; a rich conversation with a friend or receiving a comment from a complete stranger. Often something small in the scheme of things.

Savour the fullness in the nothingness of this time.


  1. Betty Jane Hegerat
    June 19, 2020

    Three strategies.
    Savour the fullness.

    Thank you, Audrey

  2. Audrey Brooks
    June 20, 2020

    Dear Audrey,
    It is important for me to read your words today. It is World Refugee and Indigenous peoples day, and I was listening about how many countries are using the Covid 19 issue to close their borders to refugees. Conditions in the refugee camps are terrible, with crowding, lack of water, and violence. there are 700,00 refugees in Bangladesh; 5 million in Latin America; and 80 million worldwide. I feel so helpless about not being able to change this, as others are, I am sure.
    It helps to have your words as a meditation and a time to reflect, to walk in the valley and open my heart in love for all those people. On July 12 I have the 12th annual Genocide Memorial Service, on Zoom at 10:30 a.m, which will be broadcast across Canada for the first time. I can’t do much, but witness, bring hope, and interconnection among all people. Hugs, and blessings, Audrey Brooks

  3. m.j.thibodeau
    June 20, 2020

    Dear Audrey, I am deeply moved by the words I encounter in your sharings. Words began as light and shadow. Beings of energies revealed billions of years ago, words carry the past into the present and into the future. We are words in this silent something with one most frightening word COVID which bring deaths, horrors and sorrows. Within this shadow there is light which speaks of gathering within.

    ~ m.j.t.

  4. Audrey
    June 20, 2020

    Thank you all for sharing your journeys and your witness of this time.

  5. Kate
    June 22, 2020

    Following my recent move, I have new terrain to map out and will walk along my river, keeping in mind hidey-holes. We all peer out from our own hidey-holes. So good to connect. ?

    • Audrey Whitson
      June 22, 2020

      So true. Happy trails!

  6. Carolyn Pogue
    June 23, 2020

    Thank you for this thoughtful reflection, Audrey. How curious and lovely that our feet can be our teachers as well as our transportation to adventure.

  7. LindaL
    July 11, 2020

    I found a lot to think about in your blog. I have found walking to be a saving grace in the time of Covid-19. We are so lucky to live in such beautiful neightbourhoods. The tress, especially the evergreens, are just glorious this year. I hope your ankle is healed now. By the middle of April I was feeling quite unmoored so I started writing down what I did each day to give me a sense of balance and accomplishment. I am going to try your strategy of giving thanks by writing down some wonderful thing that I experience each day. I do see a lot of wonderful things in summer: I saw a gigantic dragon fly the other day. I joked to Colin that it blocked out the sun.
    Sometimes, like your friend Audrey Brooks, I feel overwhelmed with the bad things happening in the world. Yesterday I saw a demonstration of the Oromo people of Ethiopia and I felt like crying. I’m trying to have hope that the Indigenous and Black lives movement will create change – and I’m trying to remember that change can be incremental but still important. Thanks for your thoughtful blog.

    • Audrey
      July 11, 2020

      We are lucky in Edmonton to have the river go through so many neighbourhoods. Thank you, Linda.