The last day of July is Lughnasadh Eve, one of the four cross-quarter points between the Solstices and Equinoxes, along with Halloween (Samhain), Groundhog’s Day (Imbolc), and May Day (Beltane)–their traditional Celtic names are in parentheses. Unlike the others, which have found their way through webs of lore and story to more modern and playful traditions, Lughnasadh (sometimes also called Lammas) no longer lingers in the modern psyche.
Lughnasadh is the celebration of the time of the sun’s heat, the mid-harvest, when the summer crops are plentiful and abundant, when berries and corn, tomatoes and zucchini, fill our bellies and our dreams, offering us coolness and nourishment. What we longed for in the stinging winds of February now surrounds us, almost numbing us into a cloying sense of enoughness.
I haven’t preserved much food for several years now, because the beginning of August is always the race to prepare for the beginning of school. But on social media, I am enjoying photos of friends canning applesauce, freezing corn, making pickle relishes, living into the traditions of their ancestors and creating a hopeful future from the abundance of the present. If you use your imagination, you can feel that sense of deep anticipation in the frigid dark of December when you go to the freezer and pull out a bag of golden kernels of corn, how you will bring the sunshine of this moment into the cold of the future.
My house is ancient, and we have a single air conditioner in the living room that keeps us cool on the hottest days. This summer, we put a second free-standing air conditioner on the second floor to make sleeping more bearable. Still, this pre-menopausal body is struggling against the heat, not letting me sleep. I sneak downstairs, open the door to the balcony, and try to sleep in the recliner with the cool night breezes that seem to pass by the upstairs windows. Funny how my February dreams of summer never seem to include the sense of overwhelming heat, the burden of humidity. Conversely, my summer self seems to forget the beauty of shadow, the silence of snowfall, the twinkling of winter starlight, in my memories of the unbearable cold. I’m so human.
Perhaps that is the main lesson of living by seasons, of making internal notes to carry us from point to point on the compass rose of the year: Remembering that we’re humans in a big, big world. These shifts may be semi-arbitrary in the ways that we mark them, but they remind us that we’re here in these human bodies to experience what matters. We are en-mattered, living by sensation, of cold and heat, of bellies full and empty, of muscle and sinew, breath and bone. Of sight and hearing, touch and taste and smell. Of pleasure and pain, ache and longing, desire and love.
Lughnasadh in particular was once a celebration of the bread. The first wheat had been harvested. People made elaborate designs with wheat to bring good luck and mark the year–the original corn dollies. Bread was made to celebrate, loaves fashioned, butter churned, and berries made into jam. The seeds were planted, the harvest was ready, and the work of saving the harvest began.
What will you make of the harvest in this coming season? How will you shape the loaves of your year? This year, we’ve hunkered down, masked up, read and learned about antiracist work. We’ve called Congresspeople, expressed our desires for justice, stood up, marched, learned some more. How do we make this real, save this harvest for the future, that it may feed those who come after us? We must not leave it in the fields to rot and die. The truth this season tells us is that there is abundance, enough for everyone. We must participate in its harvest and preservation, and make sure that everyone gets their share.
Yesterday, I caught bits and pieces of the funeral of John Lewis, and I plan to go back in the coming days and listen again, to plant the seeds of his words and deeds into my own psyche as deeply as I can, to take the yeast he has offered, and to work to shape loaves that are just and hopeful. Let us work to preserve the harvest of his work and legacy, so that his golden light may shine far into the future.
As he said in his final words: “Walk with the wind.”
Walk with the wind, soulkin, sun on your shoulders.
The life and work and legacy of John Lewis. Perhaps we have been called to these times, to follow his legacy, to take his work into the future, to make the United States what we dream it can be, a nation where all people–no matter their race or creed, their sexuality or physical or mental ability, their gender or national origin, their class or status or education–can be free and equal.
“Morning prayer: “Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.” —John Lewis
Instead of trying to practice nonviolence,
let us try to practice the connections
that make violence both inappropriate
—Sharif M. Abdullah
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”
“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” —Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.”
“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.”
—Abraham H. Maslow
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
—Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit
I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. —Tony Campolo
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” —John Lewis
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.” —John Lewis
“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” —John Lewis