Transitions and Lughnasadh

Believe it or not, Lughnasadh is almost here.

(I can’t believe it.)

August 1st is less than a week away. First harvest, harvest of the corn (grain). Which, appropriately enough, our only two ears of corn might be ready by then!

Of course, for those less agriculturally inclined, the reflections of the season usually center around what’s metaphorically/spiritually ready to harvest and what needs a bit longer, separating the what from the chaff and the transition from summer into autumn. It can seem a bit crazy, especially in Central Texas, that August 1st can celebrate the descent into autumn. But every year I think it’s crazy, and every year August 1st rolls around, and it feels right. The shadows begin stretching over the lawn just a little bit earlier; we take out the summer tomatoes and plant the fall crop; I can berry jam and apple butter.

Now that I work in a winery I know that August 1st is right in the middle of the grape harvest [for Central Texas, not so in other places]. The whites have already come in, and in quick succession the Petit Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat will be hand-picked, dumped into tubs, shoveled into the destemmer-crusher, piped into then the press, then pumped into tanks to begin fermentation.

No matter how hot it still is, how far away the cooler weather may be–it is harvest.

In my own life, it’s a time of transition. I’ve gone back to work. C had her first day of daycare today (yes, I cried, a lot.) Like I mentioned, the garden is in part dying off and in part being replanted.

And I’ve decided that, by Samhain, my house is going to be a home.

See, we’ve lived in our house for 2.5 years and it’s still..blank. The walls are empty. The front yard is a mess because of previous poor landscape design. Everything looks temporary, transitional. I suppose it’s because once we moved in we had a baby, and then we thought J was going to lose his job and we’d have to move, and then, and then, and then.

But I’m done with and then. Could life change on a dime and we find ourselves packing boxes to move to Place X? Sure. But I’m sick of walking into my house and feeling like it’s just a pit stop. I want the beige walls to be another color, there to be family pictures and artwork, grown-up furniture instead of college/newlywed furniture, and for the front yard to look decent. For people to walk in and feel the energy of a blessed home. You just can’t have that if there’s a little bit of chaos or emptiness wherever you look.

So I’ve given myself (and by extension J, haha!) the deadline of Samhain. The entire season of harvest to tuck into working on the lawn and the house. By October 31st I want our (largely non-existent) trick-or-treaters to walk up a clean path, surrounded by a seasonal front-yard and peer into a homey foyer. Where the energy of the house clearly says, we’re a family that loves each other, and we welcome you to our home.

Appropriate, I think, for a season I’ve always thought of as ‘Harvest Home’.

What are your thoughts about Lughnasadh? If it’s in your tradition, do you connect to it?

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Slow Down Tea

I just ordered a teapot, strainer, book on afternoon tea recipes, and a pack of loose leaf Irish breakfast tea.

No, I’m not suffering a fit of Anglophilia.

(Though watching Sherlock, Misfits, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, the upcoming London Olympics, and all of this rain we’ve been getting might do that to a person.)

(Well, okay, mild Anglophilia.)

I’m trying to explore ritual in my life. For a while I thought that I didn’t have rituals, and therefore, my thought-life was becoming increasingly chaotic. I felt like I was whirling a bit out of control, letting things fly off into the ether and not being able to control it.

Ritual! I thought, that’s the answer.

Then I realized that I do have rituals–for better and for worse.

For instance, on the destructive side, I’m a secret eater. When I get stressed, angry or mad, I go and eat. Secretly. I drive to fast food restaurants and eat. Not binge, not anymore, but I eat stuff that I normally wouldn’t touch. I had a friend tell me that she used to do this with cigarettes. Just a little secret, but the whole process is cloaked in ritual. And if it’s not a certain place, a certain meal, eaten in a certain way…it just doesn’t feel the same.

On the creative side, I have a fairly consistent ritual of a daily Tarot card draw. I center, visualize roots drawing up nutrients into my feet, strengthening my legs, activating my chakras, and extended through to the sky and space above. Then I draw a card. It’s very centering, calming, grounding. I round it off with prayer and words of gratitude. Days that I do this–and it only takes ten minutes–are by far more productive, calm and happy.

I’ve been reflecting on the summer the past few days and what I want to accomplish before autumn is upon us. It’s the middle of July, but Lughnasadh is two weeks away. Mabon six weeks after that. The summer tomatoes are producing their last, and I’m about to put in the fall vegetables. In a few days I’ll start the seed flats of cole crops (!). I can scarcely believe it!

I realized that I’m craving more structure in my life. Since the spring I’ve been pretty lax about…everything. Which is fine. But now I want structure and routine. More–I want it to be so integrated that it becomes rhythm.

Where to start, though? In an ideal world I’d love to be the type of person who wakes up at dawn, practices yoga and meditates, has a tea ritual in the afternoon, a writing ritual during nap time, evening meditation before bed…I mean, that all sounds awesome. Not to mention religious and spiritual rituals such as prayer, devotions and other seasonal activities. I mean, whew. That’s a lot of ritual.

And with everything else that must be done in life? It’s just…not feasible.

Of course, none of it has to be super involved. It can be as simple as lighting a candle, drawing a card, reciting a brief mantra.

But I wanted something to set apart. So I decided to go back to the beginning–back to when I was a little girl and had a fascination with tea, tea pots, and all things Irish, English and floral Victorian.

(I was a romantic child, obviously!)

My mom still has all of my porcelain tea pots–a very floral collection, largely featuring chintz–and I don’t really want those in a house with my toddler. So I traded in the violets and roses for a sturdy stoneware blue. I have my Celtic knot porcelain tea cups, a package of loose leaf tea on the way, and a loaf of good sourdough perfect for toast.

The funny thing is that though I want more ritual, I also want to slow down. When I said ‘whirling’ above, I meant it–it’s been a busy, chaotic season in our life. I want this ritual to help slow. it. down. To create space to think, to observe, to relax, to collect myself. The beverage version of yoga.

So, from now until Lughnasadh I’ll be having tea, between 3 and 4, every day. With milk and sugar. Maybe cheese, toast or an egg, maybe a book or my journal. But possibly just me and a warm, sweet cup of tea.

Lughnasadh/Lammas 2011

I have no pictures or a jaunty little recap of Lughnasadh, the actual day, this year. On August 1st and 2nd I thought all day: Hey! Today’s Lughnasadh! I should do something!

I didn’t.

Well, I did. I stepped out in my garden and instead of harvesting my promising corn, huge globes of melons and shiny purple eggplants I…tore them up. The heat, the drought and perhaps some inexplicable bad luck had stunted their growth. I had one melon, a ripe sphere of promise, gestating on a vine. When I went outside Lughnasadh morning it had fallen to the ground and was being devoured by thirsty ants. I felt an irrational surge of anger that was quickly replaced by pity. At least I could go inside and grab a glass of water. These guys don’t have that luxury.

Mostly I hurt for the earth in my region. I go outside and the heat is relentless. The leaves of Thor tree are yellowing and thirsty branches dangle down, unable to hold themselves up. Grass–straw, really–crunches beneath my feet.  The only plant that seems to thrive is the one I’m trying to kill: poison ivy, cropping up all over my front yard.

I’ve told this tale many times since April. It’s still the truth around my region, but I don’t want to become mired in hopelessness. I want to move forward.

I can tell that fall is coming by one certain sign: the stirring my soul. Sounds cheesy, no? It probably is. Every year, around August, I just get this…feeling. It’s hard to describe, but it’s an assurance that the summer is ending. Before I admitted to myself I was Pagan, autumn was the time of the year that I would secretly dart in and out of the Metaphysics/New Age section of bookstores, trying to discover what that feeling meant.

As I watered my fall tomatoes on Lughnasadh morning I happened to look east. The rising sun gilded the fence posts and golden-yellow shafts of sun dappled the straw-brown grass. And I thought: That’s autumn light.

Since then the funk I was in slowly began to recede. Though it’s still hot as hell, I began collecting egg cartons to start my autumn veggies. I plan to do that over the next week. Thoughts of maple syrup, sweet potatoes, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, sandalwood, chrysanthemums, ghosts, spirits, Tarot, Mabon, Samhain, rain, colcannon, Pumpkin Spice Lattés, etc., began to fill my head. I can almost begin to feel the first morning that I will go outside to water and my skin will prickle with the chill.

I guess the feeling is…well, witchiness. I’ve heard, time and time again, that autumn is the season of the witch. For me, this is true. It’s the season that something deep within me unfurls and flourishes. My spirit wants to grow, to do, to reach, to learn. So I follow its lead.

To me, Lughnasadh marks the beginning of the end of the fallow season. The season of rest and hibernation will soon be replaced by a flurry of work, spiritual and mundane, and I will look back on this time and think: Man…whatever happened to summer?

Project Update

Hey all! I wanted to share a quick update about The Meat Project.

First, I’m pushing back the ‘due date’ to Lughnasadh. I think it will be a good way to celebrate the ‘harvest’ of a summer’s worth of work. Also, to be honest, I need more time. Due to sickness and travel I haven’t been able to work on it as consistently as I’d like. So August 1st it is!

Also, for those of you’d who would like to check out some of the sources I’m using I have an interesting book that I’m just now getting into.  The title is Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie. It’s pro-meat and anti-industrial, which makes a lot of sense to me. It’s also pretty thick in the research department.

Well, off I go to keep working. Hope you’re all having a good Tuesday!