Cathy Holt
4 min readJun 21, 2023

--

Summer Solstice and the Joys of Letting Go

Have you ever cleared out a storage unit? I never had one up until about a year and a half ago, when I first decided to try a longer stay in Colombia. This storage unit allowed me a “Plan B” in case I decided not to live there. Furniture, clothing, lamps, tools, books, photo albums, CDs, artwork, camping gear, files, old notebooks, kitchenware…I was hanging onto everything I thought I’d ever need, and much that I clearly did NOT need. (Audiocassettes, anyone??)

“Died and gone to heaven”

After a full year of enjoying Colombia, I realized that I would not need most of those things ever again. In fact, my story since my first visit to Barichara has been that “I must have died and gone to heaven” — a phrase I used to account for maracuyá juice (and ice cream!), the beautiful kind and friendly Colombian people, the amazing supportive community, syntropic agroforestry, the walkability of this small town, not needing a car, the Bioparque, breathtaking Chicamocha Canyon views, the affordability of good restaurants, and on and on.

So it follows that if I’ve already died, why would I need all that stuff? Having had the experience of clearing out my mother’s house and storage unit after her death, I didn’t want to leave a big chore for my friends or family members.

Reviewing my life

In a way, it’s been like the classic “life review” described in the near-death experiences of people who come back to tell about it. I went through all those heavy old photo albums, selecting the most beloved photos and scanning them, and discarding the rest. That was like seeing old friends again, reliving memories. There was my high school yearbook, full of photos of girls with ridiculous hairstyles! It was hard for me to discard old journals and notebooks full of summaries of interesting books and workshops, old files with great material on organic gardening and permaculture and nonviolent communication, and handouts from personal growth workshops I’d taken. Some of these remain in a kind friend’s attic. I got to see the themes that have been constant in my life, as well as wonder at how much energy I spent on demonstrations against nuclear power, wars, more wars, fossil fuels, racism. Did all that really accomplish anything?

Books were hard for me to let go of. In the past, I invited friends to “sign out” books for semi-permanent loan. This time, realizing the expense of mailing books to myself, I really did release nearly all of them. Memories of my mother, who wanted to “say goodbye” to each book she gave away, came back to me.

The Giveaway

Since I didn’t want to spend a lot of time or end up with a truckload of stuff to transport to a thrift store, my strategy was to give it all away. It made me happy when friends took my things; one friend about my size took a whole lot of clothing. My dear friend Sherry was tickled pink to get my cordless power drill; her grandson is destined to receive my camping gear. Friends commented on what a good “salesperson” I was, as I convinced them to take my stuff.

In a book I’ve been reading and discussing with friends, Restoring the Kinship Worldview, I found this statement: “True security comes not from owning things, but from building relationships.” Many indigenous societies held giveaways. The theme of transitioning from the cash economy to the gift economy resonates for me, and I have the luxury of not needing to charge money just to make ends meet.

I did mention to friends that any voluntary donations would go to the Biogas Digester fund, and I received some generous contributions.

The giveaway was scheduled for a weekend; on Sunday morning, so much heavy furniture was still there, that I started to worry I might have to rent a truck after all. But I got some friends to post photos of the furniture on their social media, made a few phone calls, and … Like magic the angels came and by the end of the day, it had all disappeared! One young woman who showed up was a self-confessed “packrat;” I must confess that I enabled her!

My 2008 green Prius was the biggest single item I gave away. That was the best car I ever had! It went to a young African American man to whom I’d loaned it for over a year. He is a poet, a group facilitator, and now also drives for Uber, so he really needed the car. This was my personal version of a small, token bit of reparations.

Now, I will save over $1500 every year in storage unit fees, as well as no more auto insurance payments or repairs, hurray! Best of all is the delicious feeling of freedom and lightness.

Summer Solstice

The longest day of the year, for the northern hemisphere, is now here. According to an astrologist or two that I follow, the next few weeks will be auspicious for manifesting the things we imagine into physical reality; learning, communication, writing, teaching, and committed partnerships in alignment with our life purpose are favored. It could be a good time for leadership, healing, mentoring and creativity as we focus on home, family, and emotional health.

The summer solstice is a day for honoring the Sun in all his glory, who gives away his abundance unstintingly in support of life. May you experience the joys of living lightly and in alignment with purpose!

--

--

Cathy Holt

Cathy has been living in Colombia for 2 years. She’s passionate about regenerating landscapes with water retention, agro-forestry, and biogas digestors.