Shining at the StarHouse

Boulder’s nature-infused foothills temple celebrates the summer solstice

By Jess Mordacq Jul 1 2021

The afternoon of Sunday, June 20, was appropriately sunny in Boulder. The summer solstice was in full blaze, with sun rays that occasionally disappeared behind clouds, and glowed skin when they didn’t. 

On the longest day of the year, the StarHouse, as it does for the highlight seasonal milestones of the year – full moon, new moon, equinoxes and solstices – held an event to celebrate the transition.

For almost 30 years, David and Lila Tresemer have fostered the StarHouse landscape together, encouraging spiritual harmony between Boulderites and nature, especially during their events honoring the sun, seasons and moon cycles. 

“It’s the polarity of sacred masculine,” says Lila Tresemer, StarHouse co-founder with her husband David, about the summer solstice to me a few weeks before the event.

That sentiment appeared doubly apt on this day as the solstice fell on Father’s Day, something the StarHouse honored in this event. “The winter solstice is more about coming into the womb, the feeling of the dark in a nurturing way,” Lila said. 

David Tresemer and Jim Paschis, the primary groundsman caring for the StarHouse’s land since 1996, shared with me what fatherhood meant to them, both in terms of their respective families and in raising the StarHouse. 

Shining into StarHouse

StarHouse entryway
The StarHouse’s entrance at 3476 Sunshine Canyon Drive. Photo; Jessica Mordacq

A single white star on an address sign signals StarHouse’s turn off Sunshine Canyon Road. My first time visiting, I wonder if I’m on the right path. I turn into the dirt road leading up to the property. 

On the left side of the road, large ground lights the size of oil drums were set up, turned off during peak afternoon sunlight.

I knew the StarHouse hosts retreats, weddings and eventing events and assumed the markers were to light the way for those guests. Had I not come across them, I’d have been even more unsure.

Two men in wide-brimmed hats at the top of the hill direct cars to the gravel parking lot overlooking the wide valley that falls off to StarHouse’s west and which opens to views of the flats extending east of Boulder. As I look over the valley, the air is clear and the breeze is better, for some reason. 

A view of the valley and plum trees. Photo; Jessica Mordacq

A winding wood chip path surrounded by long grass leads to a small plum tree grove, planted by miners digging for gold in the early 1900s near the Grandfather Tree. Though the miners worked and resided around where StarHouse sits today, the tree marked the center of their homestead. 

The miners’ plum trees, grasses and herbs continue growing under the hot sun, surrounding the Grandfather Tree along with their now-decrepit wooden cabin, where they slept. Miners built the cabin there in 1904, almost 50 years after the Grandfather Tree first sprouted. 

Today, the Grandfather Tree is rooted 18 feet from the StarHouse temple, a measurement consistent with the temple’s diameter and its distance to other key sites surrounding StarHouse.

StarHouse’s 150-year-old Grandfather tree and a miner’s cabin from 1904. Photo; Jessica Mordacq

Volunteer Max Keathinge invites me over to the Grandfather Tree with David and Jim. We wrap wire with sage branches to craft crowns for the afternoon’s Father of the Year ceremony as Max prompts the two patriarchs, David and Jim, in our circle to share a few words about the day.

Though David and Lila Tresemer have no kids together, he has fathered three of his own children. Together, the Tresemers have helped parent Lila’s nieces and nephews, five grandchildren, and the StarHouse legacy. David and Lila have cared for and cultivated StarHouse’s natural sanctuary in all its growing stages since David bought the property in 1986. 

A wooden swing hangs from the Grandfather Tree with nylon cables, installed by Jim for his daughter to enjoy 44 years ago while he cared for the land. 

Protected from the afternoon sun by the Grandfather Tree’s branches, David and Jim discuss the importance of grounding their families and helping them to mature. The long grass surrounding the logs we sit on has done the same, rooting firmly and growing. The StarHouse team incorporates wildflowers and other property plants into events, while highlighting their importance and uses. 

As people walk by the tree who the original group recognize as regular visitors to StarHouse events, a few stop to join in crown-making. A young boy hesitantly begins swinging from the Grandfather Tree’s branches.

At 1 p.m., Scott and Shanti Medina call us to start the Father of the Year crowning. The couple sings “Let it Shine” with a guitar and quiet vocals, gathering attendees onto woven blankets on the temple’s west side. 

They follow with call and response chanting to Ganesh, the Hindu goddess of beginnings, who is depicted with the head of an elephant. Those gathered gently sway back and forth while using our hands as extensions of sensory organs to swat away obstacles with our elephant trunks and listen to problems with large ears.

Inside the StarHouse, Magician Erica Sodos manipulates two wilting flowers into growing up straight again. Photo; Jessica Mordacq

We all take off our shoes before finally entering the StarHouse, a building with a wooden ceiling, walls and floors. Built with whole tree trunks for posts and beams, the StarHouse structure exudes as much calming natural energy as the rest of the property surrounding it.

After Erica Sodos executed several magic tricks for the families in attendance, Timothy Dobson led dances of universal peace during the solstice ceremony play. 

Lila said one of their main goals with StarHouse is for those visiting to have a relationship with the elements and trees around them, whether they’re honoring celestial events or not. 

“Part of our mission is to inspire people to have that dedicated relationship with their backyard,” Lila says. “We need to become stewards of the planet again.”

The point of high light is an opportunity to recognize that we wouldn’t have a planet without the sun,” says Lila about the summer solstice. “It’s a playful way to bring people and children together for the season.”

Ultimately, that’s what I experienced.

Witnessing the connection of the families who attended made me miss my dad, who lives in a different state.

But the hot sun, the long grass swinging in the light breeze and the open sky over the valley I call my home reminded me it’s all so much bigger than that.