A blessed Lughnasadh/Lammas to all.
After a brutal spate of heat (that many are still suffering), I woke to a cool wet morning. The creek has been alarmingly low these past weeks. The deer tiptoe across and barely get their hooves wet. It rained for a couple of hours last night, but hardly enough to make a difference. Still, after witnessing the dust covering the leaves, seeing them glisten and sparkle does my heart good. I can practically hear the parched earth drinking.
This is the season, in the Northern Hemisphere, of the first harvest. For the Irish, it was the celebration of the Sun God, Lugh. At this time Lugh is the living Spirit of the grain (also known as John Barleycorn), and as such he is cut down and sacrificed so that he may sustain others in the form of bread, and yet we know that even in the harvest are contained the seeds of the next planting, growing, and harvesting . . . again and again and again. And so life continues. And yes, of course, there are echoes of Christianity and many other faiths as well, as there should be, and as I believe there is intended to be. For what is more important than a reminder of life’s cycles — of living, dying, and being ‘reborn’ again?
There is so much comfort and wisdom in this if we can surrender to it.
We aren’t in autumn yet, but now is the time to prepare, not just physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
When I was writing my latest novel, Even So, I tried to capture a sense of what this feels like to me in the following passage:
She put down her pen and said a prayer of thanks. She opened her eyes and once again looked out the window, thinking how autumn was a lesson in the beauty of letting go, releasing, allowing the good air to take you where it would, and letting the good earth hold you when you got there. In that moment, the leaves shone copper, bronze, and brass. When the wild music of the wind blew, the leaves flurried and swirled in their unrestrained, irrepressible dance, free at last and joyfully surrendered. Lucky leaves, she thought, then, no…blessed.
I’ve experienced a tiny bit of inconvenience after spinal surgery required to remove a benign growth. Successful surgery, the surgeon tells me, but it left me with nerve damage (I pray it heals). It hurts, a lot, almost always. I’m learning to live with that and feel that in this discomfort and reduction of physical self — I need a cane sometimes — I have been given a practice run at the letting go and acceptance we must all, sooner or later, deal with. Some days I’m better at it than others. Just ask my Best Beloved. It’s not a big deal, nothing like what some people suffer, but still, it’s a foreshadowing of more ‘inconveniences’ to come, and more opportunities to trust as the Tree of Life shakes me loose.
The question becomes, at this stage of life, what will my harvest be? What will I leave behind to sustain others? My books? Well, authors quickly disappear as publishers chasing money and their place on fashion’s crest look for shiny new faces, and books slip under the tide of new titles. Only a tiny percentage of books survive the reading public’s attention for a decade. My first, The Stubborn Season, was published over 20 years ago, and although it’s still in print, and is about the rise of fascism in Canada (and love and loss and mental health) and seems relevant still, I have no idea if anyone reads it.
Of the nine books I’ve written, I say in all humility that I believe a few lives have been positively changed, and I am grateful for the thoughts provoked and the conversations generated, particularly around addiction and The Empty Room. These things have ripples. So what do I know? Perhaps there is a good seed to harvest in there, one that might not only nourish but sprout some new life down the line somewhere.
But let’s put aside writing since so few do it (sensible folk all). There are as many ways to plant and tend and harvest as there are human beings. Doctors and lawyers, mothers and fathers, teachers and farmers, and maybe (maybe) even politicians. However, a quiet life, lived away from any sort of public presence has the potential for as much, if not more, of a fruitful harvest than any other. I count among these those who live a monastic life, spent in mindfulness and devotion, to the quiet attention to the small things of life, tending to the Sacred.
I’m not sure any of us know what our harvest will be. We might be surprised. But I think the thing is to be reminded, on days like this, that there will be one. There will be a day when we, too, shall be harvested, called to let go and trust the process.
So my wish/prayer for Lughnasadh is that we all live this day grateful for the harvest, for all we’ve been given, and in the knowledge that one day we, too, will be cut down as is right; that we find ways to nourish ourselves and others, and that we have faith new seeds will be born, ready to be planted and take root, as part of the fruit of this harvest.
You might also bake some bread!