Day 9: Solstice

Monday, 21st June 2021

Today is one of the hardest days in a very long time. Perhaps it is as simple as this: I've come here to break my patterns of codependency. I've come here to find and claim freedom and awakening. This is why all things around Y are flaring up, today of all days.

– Journal entry

Whereas it was a cold and rainy day outside, something was burning inside me. I struggled to read on and work through Darlene Lancer’s book chapters 4 and 5. The most inconveniently intense, almost violent resurgence of emotions pulled me into a vortex of ache and shadow. Freedom? What the actual fuck? And yet there was also clarity that this was the path, and I was precisely where I needed to be. The only way out is the way through.

Food for body and mind, truth for heart and soul.

In the afternoon I had to drag myself to attend our weekly Mindful Researchers “gardeners” meeting, this time only with Francesco to check in around our most urgent items. I felt almost unable to interact, and we kept the meeting short. I asked Francesco to refrain from trying to give me any advice, knowing that advice was paradoxically the last thing I needed at this point. His compassionate understanding was a precious gift.

A knowing voice deep within compelled me to get to trees and water before the shortest night of this solar cycle approached the Northern hemisphere. Go to Hamburg, revisit your old tree friends, and walk along the Elbe river. You will walk alone.

I sought a parking space in Baron-Voght-Straße and eventually found a spot in a side street named Quellental. This area was known to me from a walk in April 2016 during my first and only other time in this city, on the occasion of a physics conference at DESY Hamburg. I revisited Jenischpark, remembered some of the majestic oak trees and explored new paths. Ravens came closer – of course! – and I chose to follow their call, only to discover that they were leading me to dead ends alongside the Flottbek creek with no reliable crossing in sight. Alright, you win, you little devils.

I could swear that a raven had just been sitting on that barren tree …

Back on trodden paths, a single raven awaited me on a barren tree by a bridge that led across the creek. I approached, raven gave way, I crossed, and raven landed behind me on the bridge, as if to tell me that there was no turning back. Time to proceed to the river. I found my way out of Jenischpark and onto Teufelsbrücker Platz – just like in 2016.

I strolled along the Elbe river on familiar paths that yet looked very different now. Bushes had grown alongside the river, and where once was a beautiful sunset, today grey rainclouds veiled the sky, sun, moon and stars. As I walked towards Blankenese and pondered life, the universe, and everything, it occurred to me to make a voice recording – just like in 2016.

In retrospect, the recording sounds astoundingly clear: balanced reflections on recent months, expressions of gratitude, clarity on the path ahead, and visions of the future – indeed just like in 2016.

Pick your Theatre of Tragedy songtitle caption: “Tanz der Schatten” or “Black as the Devil Painteth“?

On the way back to Teufelsbrücker Platz, with my earlier depression replaced by newfound clarity and trust, I saw a bird on the sidewalk that had apparently fallen out of the nest. I watched it for a while, wishing it well. I knew the little one was fine without me and realized that this might just be another metaphor. In this moment I knew where I needed to go for the rest of this journey. It was going to be a solo journey.

Back in the car I wrote to check in with Y and received the expected response, as if to confirm my choice: she was not ready to meet. Once again I felt strangely untroubled and sensed a larger kind of rightness of this, perhaps a kind of tough grace; yet once again there was also a certain ache in my heart, and I wondered whether it was mine, hers, or ours.


First, we have to stop identifying grace with a happy outcome. The imaginal is not unresponsive to our deepest desires, but neither is it easily swayed by sentimentality or our own limited sense of what is “right and just.” Its mercy always reflects the big picture, and just as there is tough love, so also is there tough grace.

From “Eye of The Heart: A Spiritual Journey into the Imaginal Realm” by Cynthia Bourgeault

The biggest challenge of the day was driving home through the rain at night, on highway lanes “under construction” with nearly invisible street markings that vanish under the reflections of street lights. Fortunately, judging from the equally apprehensive driving style of most peers, I was not alone in this predicament. I trust we all made it home safe and sound.

With the feather next to my bed and a mind filled with sleepy visions of Viking lands, I surrendered once again to the irresistible embrace of Morpheus.

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