Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A year ago today

On a whim, I decided to look back in my blog posts and see what was happening in my life a year ago at this time:
  • We had just bought our property in Oregon.
  • I was in the midst of a great battle against moths. Cleaning, painting, new shelving, and completely reclaiming my pantry ensued.
  • William was just starting football camp and was coming home tired and crabby each day.
  • Our family trip to San Francisco to see Wicked was looming on the horizon.
That all sounds pretty good. So, this year:
  • We still haven't managed to go up to check on the property yet this year.
  • I am in the midst of a great battle against clutter. Hopefully all that other stuff - cleaning, painting, and so on, will ensue.
  • William has been doing football weight training and one day a week practices for a month now and is older and better able to pace himself. All this may change when "Hell Week" starts next week. Stay tuned.
  • No plays this year. My efforts to see Wicked again were all thwarted. We didn't have the time or money (but mostly not the time) to go to Ashland. Oh, wait. I saw Chicago in London in May. Uhm, never mind. You can stop feeling sorry for me. HA! - that's funny!
Not all that different last year to this, eh? It's interesting to see how much our activities revolve around. It's a seasonal thing. If I was a good little pagan, all organized and celebratory, I would have acknowledged that this is the time of Lammas. (It was yesterday, or today, something like that - I think the ancient Celts would have just picked the day with the best weather for travel or the full moon or something, not being particularly attached to the use of the Roman calendar system.) I should have baked a cake or thumped a drum or woven a corn dolly or something. But I'm more of a practical pagan. Not to mention that whole disorganized bit. I tend to think of holidays about a week in advance, have great intentions to do something holiday-ish and then stumble upon a calendar later and exclaim "Oh, is today the solstice!?"

Let's just say, it wouldn't be a good idea to put me in charge of anything like church or a temple. I'd never get anything organized. Because of this, I tend to honor the seasons in a more general way, not on one day, but by moving through the changing chores of each part of the year with as much awareness and thanks as I can manage. Spring is honored by planting a garden. Summer by having a good ol' barbeque. Autumn by chopping wood and putting up food. Winter by trying to appreciate the quiet, fallow time and working on "inside" things both physically and psychologically.

Lammas, also called Lughnasadh, is a somewhat forgotten, second cousin type of holiday. In the Celtic Wheel of the Year, it's the first of three harvest festivals, focusing on the harvest of grains. It was the first inkling for them whether it would be an easy winter or a sparse one. The second harvest festival, Mabon, falls on the atumnal equinox. That's when late grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, anything and everything else is put up for the coming cold part of the year. Last but not least, Samhain, or as most folks refer to it, Halloween, is when the productive season comes to an definitive end, frost is imminent, the livestock that can not be supported over the winter are slaughtered, the past is honored, and the new year won't begin until the sun returns on the winter solstice.

It's always sort of confused me, why three harvest festivals? What's the point - other then spacing out a holiday every six weeks or so for the fun of it. I mean, in the olden days you couldn't really break the boredom with a trip to the movie theatre. And you were probably too busy getting ready for the coming winter to go anywhere anyway. You worked hard. You deserved a few extra holidays. But, I digress.

What I meant to say is that it's always been sort of confusing, until this year, when the symbolism, on a contemporary level, all fell into place for me. If you think of the word "harvest" from a wider perspective, in modern times what we harvest is rarely limited to bushels of peaches, cans of green beans, hanging hams, or bags of wheat. Instead we harvest events, goals, plans, relationships. Most people think of this as something to assess in the form of New Year's Resolutions, where they mainly focus on the planting of new goals, instead of the harvesting of those things already planted in our lives in the years past.

Which brings me back around to my need, at this time of year, and in a particularly powerful way this year, to deal with harvest issues. You can't plant a new garden in the spring if you don't harvest and clean up the old one in the fall. I can't do new things in my life if I don't harvest and clean up the old things. And here's why the three harvest days suddenly make more sense to me. Read along and think of the things you might have planted this year, the things you might need to harvest or complete in your life.

Lammas is the first harvest day. It's telling me that summer doesn't last forever. The garden is still growing, the nights are still warm, but I can smell it, a golden scent of dry grass underneath the green. It's reminding me that time is running out for this year's garden. Now's the time to finish tasks I really care about before it's too late. Plan ahead for the harvest of those things which have grown well, so I don't waste bountiful "fruit and vegetables". Assess what isn't going to come to fruition and make plans to accept it and tear it out of the garden. Summer isn't over, but this holiday is a heads up, telling me to plan ahead for the inevitable end of this year's growing season. It's time to acknowledge this year's blessings and a time to start the process of gathering in.

By Mabon, I should be busy, busy, busy. Can it, freeze it, dry it, eat it, share it with friends. Clean up the garden beds, thank them for providing for me, and get everything that doesn't have a purpose into the compost pile before it's too late and it just sits around all winter frozen and in the way, or mucky and composting in the wrong places. In other words - clean it, paint it, chuck it, burn it, decide where it goes - get it finished or get rid of it. Physically, this is when the bulk of the hard work should be wrapped up and it's time for a celebration. (Canadians have this one right - it's always confused me to have Thanksgiving so late, at the end of November, so long after the harvest is put up.)

Samhain is when the year has finished. And it's time to make the really tough decisions, the ones that require more emotional work, the ones I've been putting off until last. I need to be honest about what I can support in my life over the coming fallow season and what I want to be responsible for,what I want to plant, come the new year. If it's not done by now, it's not gonna get done. It's a time to honor my dead and by this I mean not only my ancestors and beloved dead, but the death of the year past, the death of any goals, wishes, desires, hopes that it's time to lay to rest.

Someone on an e-list I'm on posted a story about a tree in today's mail. The gist of the story was - what if the tree decided not to let go of it's beautiful foliage in the fall? What if it hung onto it's golden autumn glory, so attached to it that it didn't let the leaves fall? What if it was afraid of what it would do once it had lost all it's leaves and was left bare and without purpose? Well, it would be an ugly sight, come spring. All brown and soggy. Nowhere safe for the new buds to set forth new green leaves. No leaves on the ground would have sheltered the roots from the winter's cold, or fed the tree with new nutrients when the sun warmed the earth once more. The old leaves would no longer be a blessing, they would be a burden. They might even be the beginning of the demise of the once healthy tree.

All this online philosophizing is mainly for my own benefit. To cheer myself on, convince myself of the need to persevere, keep my enthusiasm up for the hard work. But I suspect that many of you can identify with a sense of harvest at this time of year, and with the difficulty of letting go of things that belong to the season past. I've been working the last few days on my own organizing. Not as quickly as I'd like, but each time I force myself to get back to it, it gets easier, and less difficult. It helps to remind myself of the bigger picture, that I'm clearing my life for new growth and new blooms in the year to come.

If any of you are also working your way through your "garden chores", let me know. I need the encouragement, and I bet you do too.


Blogger JulieZS said...

I love your online philosophizing Laume, keep at it, you're on to something, especially about the three harvests. I've been back in the garden this week since it isn't 100F+ anymore. Finally planted my tomatoes in the vegie garden. They barely made it through the heatwave out on the deck.

3:08 PM  

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