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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Summer Solstice/Litha 2011

This post is a little late; I apologize. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t post about the solstice.

When I woke up Tuesday to NPR telling me it was the Summer Solstice I was actually kind of surprised. Somewhere between Saturday and Monday I had lost time and thought I had another day to plan! But, no! I felt rushed because I was in the middle of writing a ritual.  I really, really wanted to do it, but it wasn’t close to being finished.

So, when C went down for her first nap mid-morning I scurried about gathering the tools that I wanted, rehearsing the half-hashed-out ritual in my head. I planted my butt outside, calmed down and performed what I set out to do.

And it wasn’t half bad. I felt the energy palpably raise, the breeze rustled the dry leaves, the sun gently warmed my back as it hit its peak in the sky. Dogs barked in the distance; squirrels nibbled on acorns. As a bonus, later that day I felt that what I had done worked.

All in all, a successful ritual. I learned quiet a few useful things, too, one being that contrary to my previous belief my neighbors can see me when I stand up in our backyard. Whoops.

For the rest of the day I spent as much time in the sun as I could. I talked to C about the solstice. When J got home we drank sangria, and I sunbathed until the ants bit me back inside.

Even better, at one a.m. I woke to lightning flashing and thunder rumbling.

Rain. The perfect way to end the solstice.

Solstice Kitty! She's my writing mascot.

Quick Solstice Sangria: red wine, orange juice, apple-pear soda. Presto!

Our grass has turned to dry straw.

Dead leaves, dry ground.

The ants go marching one by one...

Hurrah! Hurrah!

Inch by inch, row by row/ Please bless these seeds I sow/ Please keep them safe below/ 'Till the rain comes tumbling down

Grain for grain, sun and rain/ Find my way in nature's chain/ Till my body and my brain/ Tell the music of the land

Lyrics provided by The Garden Song by David Mallett

Sparkling: 2009 Bodegas Alma Negra Sparkling Rosé Malbec

It’s been awhile since the last wine post, and as I looked through some past photos I found one to share.

I picked this wine up for Beltane. It is one of the more interesting sparkling wines I’ve had.

Producer: Bodega Alma Negra

Geographical Location: Valle de Uco, Agrelo, La consulta, Vistaflores and Rivadavia (Argentina)

Varietal(s): Malbec

Color: Gold, hint of pink

Bubbles: Small, long-lasting (sign of a well done sparkling wine)

Smell: Berry, anise, candy citrus

Taste: Both J and I were perplexed by this wine. At first sip, straight out of the fridge (very cold) it tasted of anise/licorice and a very hard to describe berry-ish flavor. As it warmed slightly it was pure berries and cream, very delicious. We both enjoyed it.

Comments:  Paid about $15. Good value.

Food: Crème Brûlée, tres leches with berries, brie and other soft cheeses

Wine Wednesday

Until six p.m. yesterday evening, Wednesday was shaping up to be a Not Very Good Day. You know those days where all the little things go wrong? Jars wouldn’t open. Car seat buckles wouldn’t un-buckle. BabyGirl refused her naps and then vomited profusely all over our rug. The store didn’t have the right ingredients for the casserole I was making a sick friend.

I cried.

By the time we arrived home for the evening I knew what I wanted: a large glass of very good, cold white wine. I wanted to sit on the Earth and feel the grass, feel the sun, feel the breeze. So I did, and my husband and BabyGirl joined me. We sat outside and enjoyed the evening. J and I laughed at BabyGirl, talked about our day, read and just enjoyed being together.

Wine Wednesdays. A new tradition, perhaps?

Here’s the wine:

Producer: Marimar

Geographical Location: Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California

Varietal(s): Chardonnay

Color: Butter yellow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wine so yellow!

Smell: Smoky, lemon, pear, burnt sugar

Taste: peach-candy, baked pear, rich, buttery but also a nice herb-green taste

Comments: Wow! This was a great, tasty wine. I usually don’t like Chardonnays, but Marimar Chardonnays are one of the only exceptions. Buttery and large flavors but the structure of the wine is completely balanced, with a nice acidic (in a good way) finish. Next time, I’d decant this wine first.

Food: herby salmon, creamy chicken, lemon-cream pasta sauces, hollandaise sauce, grilled fish and chicken