Today is Lughnasadh, and I find myself returning to the strange mixture of work and rest, grief and celebration that always marks this time of year for me. It is the acknowledgement of fear and loss during the most fruitful time of the year that marks this as a holy season. It is this mingling of love and sorrow, hope and grief that transforms the cycles of production and consumption into something more: a sacred harvest. When we forget the hard work of our ancestors, when we distance ourselves from the sweat, blood and tears that connect us to the living reality of those who have come before us, when we anesthetize ourselves to the grief we feel at the struggles they faced and the sacrifices they made — that is when we risk becoming mere consumers. Grief serves a sacred purpose, for we cannot grieve what we have not loved. Grief is one of the fruits of love, even as joy and prosperity are the fruits of labor.
Different stories will inspire different people. For some, cooking and crafting is their way of fostering a relationship with the natural world, while others might be inspired by the greater call to serve the community on a global scale through conservation. If our efforts are effective and the stories we tell are inspiring, does it really matter whether we approach the work with the courageous heart of a fighter, or the gentle heart of a farmer? My post on invasive species provoked some really wonderful discussion from readers last week, reminding me once again just how diverse our attitudes towards the natural world can be. Even when we all agree on what practical actions we need to take, our motivations and reasons can be very different!
A few days ago, our landlord and his son asked us to clear our tiny front porch area while they worked on stripping and repainting the ceiling. Usually we have a small table set out front with a few candles and the odds-and-ends the kids bring back with them from the woods. We don't always do a great job of maintaining this outdoor altar, especially during the cold months of snow and ice... But today, I needed some spiritual down-time to ground in the textures and scents of the earth and replenish my soul a bit. Our landlord's home improvement project seemed a perfect excuse to revisit our outdoor altar with fresh eyes.