Summer Solstice at Disney…Sort Of…

EpcotIt is the day after the Summer Solstice…and its still a very odd feeling. Up an hour earlier than I normally am – and I still don’t beat the rising Sun to the punch. That’s right – I am not in Texas now.  In fact, I am one time zone ahead of what I am used to. I am in Florida. Last year around this time, I was up in the northern tier of the Rockies and close to the Canada border. This year, I am visiting Mickey Mouse and company, along with a side trip to Cape Canaveral to see the Space Shuttle there. So far, the trip has proved to be interesting on a lot of levels.

Time Zones and New Spirits of the Land

The change in time zones has been a little rougher than I expected. Last year, I dropped back a time zone in Montana, so getting up for the rising sun was no problem at all. But moving forward a time zone has been really rough. In the three days I have been in Florida, I have yet to be up with the rising sun. Changing time zones can be easy – changing one’s internal clock can be rough. Twice, I have spent an evening on the back porch doing a daily meditation, and trying to connect with the Spirits of the Land – and neither time have I felt that successful connection. In some ways, it feels as if the Spirits here are either willfully ignoring human beings or have long gone. I know they have not gone, but it is certainly apparent that a connectivity with human beings is something that will need to be cultivated over a longer period of time than the remaining three days I will be here.

Large Concentrated Population and Consumerism

Everyone is aware of the transient population of tourists in the Orlando area – particularly now that Summer is upon us, and the schools have let out for the Summer. Our first stop here was a Walmart Supercenter for a fast grocery run and it was massive insanity. People – EVERYWHERE! And not one of them was cognizant of where they were in relation to other people. They were zoned in on themselves. The number of times I was nearly run over in the parking lot was minor compared to the number of times I dodged shopping carts inside the store. The vehicle traffic here is extremely insane as well.  Many, many people turning into lanes without looking, nearly going bumper to bumper with the car in front of them because they were not paying attention. Much of this traffic makes me nearly as nervous as when I drive in downtown Dallas traffic during rush-hour. But the large, concentrated mass of people is nothing compared to the rampant consumerism that I have witnessed throughout the trip.

Now, I am not trying to complain about the cost of a trip to Disney – I knew that going in. I knew that food prices inside and outside the theme parks would be elevated to a severe degree. Souvenirs are a part of the overall experience as well – even I have bought some (two enamel pins of Mickey’s head in England and Germany flag patterns). But its the sheer volume of other stuff that surprises me. In the various stores, nearly anything that can possible have a Disney image attached to it is there. I understand and comprehend the ideas of Capitalism, but its the people snapping up the items that had me scratching my head. Like I said, I bought two enamel pins – $10 each. The lady in front of me had dozens of t-shirts, several coffee mugs, more pins than I could count, and a pair of those iconic Mickey Mouse ears. I could not help but see her total – $375. I am all in favor of purchasing something to commemorate my trip here to Orlando and the Disney theme parks – a place that I am unlikely to have a desire to come back to again – but a few items would be enough for me. Now, perhaps I am judging unfairly here. Perhaps each of those items are for family members who did not get to make the trip – I still have difficulty justifying nearly four-hundred dollars in purchases such as that. Again, perhaps that’s just me…

I saw a lot more that “gimme-gimme” attitude throughout the Park today as well. A few children bugging and whining at their parents for this toy or that really cool thing. But I also saw that on a lot of the adults there too. People seeing something that looked “cool” or “interesting” and snapping it up without a second thought and heading towards the checkout stand. Later, outside the various stores, I would see the same adults walk through crowded areas without a second thought over who they walked in front of, or bumped directly into – even in walking areas that were as wide as forty feet or more. I watched many of these same people push their way into crowded lines, and reacting to the other people as if it were they who were the affronted party. People, seeking their own gratification, oblivious of how their own actions were affecting others around them.

Summer Solstice Observations

Perhaps it was very fitting that I spent my Summer Solstice day in the Animal Kingdom section of the Disney theme parks. There were many displays and little vignettes explaining the connections between animals, plants, resources, and the wasteful mannerisms of humans. There were explanations of how conservation and living with the land could be beneficial to all within the ecosystems that we inhabit. It certainly was not planned out this way in a deliberate fashion. For all of the consumerism that is affiliated with the Disney theme parks, there was a major emphasis in both Animal Kingdom and Epcot on conserving, recycling, and being good stewards of this Planet.  In one vignette today, Simba, Timon and Pumba – characters from the Lion King movies – helped educate young children about how certain actions can affect others. Timon and Pumba had dammed up the end of the water hole, so as to make a larger water hole and build a resort around it. Simba showed them what happens when the water is dammed up – how the animals affected further downstream are impacted because of their careless actions. Simba went further to showcase how mankind does similar things to the environment with disastrous effects. This causes the two to re-think their strategy and undam the waterhole, allowing the river to flow again for the animals down-stream. As we were watching this, I keep muttering to myself about showing the connections, finding how the web is weaved. Such an interesting connection in its own right – here at a time of the Summer Solstice. While I was unable to be up with the rising sun for Summer Solstice, I was aware of many connections to how humans can connect to their environment. And its the realization of those connections – in a theme park of all places – that has been rattling around in my brain for the past two days….and will likely rattle some more.

Its is nearly time for me to head off to bed – but I do certainly hope that whatever it was that you did during this time, it was enjoyable and informative. Many happy returns for you, on this Summer Solstice!!


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