Here again at the turn of the wheel, as summer turns quietly toward fall, I consider the many kinds of harvest.
There is some murmuring online about the difference between the names Lunasa, or Lughnasadh, and Lammas, both names for this time of the year. The first is an old Celtic cross-quarter day, named for Lugh and celebrated by the practicing and showing off of skills. The second is English in origin, in Anglo-Saxon chronicles called Hlaefmass, or Loafmass, and was a celebration of the first harvest of the grain. Loaves of bread were brought to the church altars and blessed as the sacred food they were.
I veer between both understandings of the sabbat. In times past, this one was always the hardest for me to grasp. The change is subtle and there is no great event to notice. It is simply the passing away of summer, the first intimations of the dying year. I usually feel it sometime in late July, as the first coolness in the early morning or evening, a hint of autumn coming, here in middle California. And just about now the garden is bountiful, such as these lovely beets. It is a bit hard to keep up with since I am intent on saving some of it for the coming cold season. I have been slicing and freezing and pickling and tincturing and steeping the many kinds of plant matter that are coming my way. Later today I will go out and gather the bestubbed salvia apiana branches, to save the seed for friends who have asked for some to try and grow this endangered California species.
I move between kitchen and garden, computer and page, camera and inks, to practice the different skills that give me such pleasure. And from time to time, I steal away for a visit with a friend. A visit to the seaside in late July brought me such pleasure, to breathe the salty air and to, literally, get my feet wet. I can never resist collecting a few treasures. This time the rocks I brought home affforded me a calming meditation, to arrange them as if they were telling a story, a rock tale of sharp edges being smoothed by waves, revealing the layers of time. And I even found a hag stone, a holey stone.
An evening walk at July new moon time yielded another treasure. I had looked back over my shoulder and knew the magic show was about to begin, but in only moments, the sky lit up. Without having reached the place of open sky I was heading for, I caught it instead between the trees. And looking at it later, saw it as a kind of portal. The magic was strong that night; I made my usual circuit of the two bridges, all the while speaking aloud a walking spell for a dear one in distress, with each step asking for protection from the sky and wind and Divines who might be listening in to my chant. I am deep in the writing of a closely-held family story these days, immersing myself in the past to shine a light on events that have resonated down through the generations. It is not easy work, but I have made a promise, many times over, to tell it, and now that time has come. It is still too tender to share with the world. But I am calling on all my skills: of writing, of remembering, of alchemizing what I know with what I don’t know but can imagine, with secrets kept and those revealed, with understanding and confusion. And I take openings where I can find them, even in a bright sunset, for my foremothers also loved beauty and stopped to see it, yearning for the sea or for love or for a child.
August is not an easy month for flowers so I indulged myself with a bought bouquet of yellow roses to bring in Lunasa. My mother liked to call me a yellow rose of Texas, and this bouquet made me fairly swoon. I put these bright roses right in water, to cool that fiery energy. California is on fire again. Summer is being especially hard on some of us this year. However you celebrate, whatever your harvest, may it bring you joy and peace, safety and shelter, insight and understanding.