“And when the morning light comes streaming in, I’m gonna get up and do it again. Amen.” Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Nothing was wrong but I wasn’t right. Here I go again, screwing the metaphysical pooch.
It all should have been so blissfully perfect. Mabon/Alban Elued was celebrated at my little home this weekend in an intimate and earthy spirit. I spent the afternoon making a harvest pear tart (my Pagan husband is ironically allergic to apples) and spinning blackberries into an elixir for mimosas. Sunday, marking the end of the Festival of the Vine, was lovely: clear and marked by an early sunset over an outside table laden with homemade rosemary bread, fig and brie, sunflower tea, sausage and grapes, roasted peppers, and homemade mint ice cream. Almost everything had been homegrown (sans the grapes) and we all took delight in feasting on our actual harvest that evening. It made the Harvest real for us; we emersed ourselves in the moment of that golden sun going down.
Afterward, my students/family waxed poetic Pagan by giving presentations of homemade Harvest symbols of Greenman, Burning Man, Cherokee Firestick and Kern Baby. A friend of mine shared her Greek path and understanding of the holiday over the sound of crickets and we all learned a little something, whether we meant to or not. It was Alban Elued at its finest: family, friends, food, sharing and storytelling. And wine. Copious amounts of wine. Paganism has its perks.
All of this is fine and good. Makes for a lovely Mabon holiday card, yes? Yet, if the moment we celebrated, which is a Harvest one, is about reaping what you sow –and then giving that back–then I believe that our paths should be this rigorous all year. Stay with me here: I think all of us would like to reap our peppers and tomatoes, sow them, eat them, and plow their vines back into our garden. I have not yet met a soul who wants to reap tomato blight brought on by inconsistent watering or any other misstep they may have taken within a calendar year. No, we are all too often more concerned with marking those moments of spiritual success while denying, or perhaps only forgetting, those that made us feel ineffectual, or just plain dumb.
Ah, but here’s where my grandma would have my ass. She never suffered a fool, especially one who refused his own “doings.” These were times of great learning, the kind that sunk deep into the root of me and changed the way my leaves grew. If the roast game out dry, then it was stew time. If my willow broke from too much swinging ’round on her branches, I was to bury it in her shade. And if my little butt told a “story” or “acted a stone-cold fool” in town, it (said butt) was to reflect a bit before making it right. Now. Just how am I, as a craftswoman, supposed to learn anything from hiding my blighted tomatoes in the ditch? And since everything is always everything, how am I to be a craftswoman if I don’t reflect upon my less-than-stellar acts within a calendar year?
Of course, Grandma believed in forgiveness, both for others and for self. She just had a rigorous plan for the act itself, and it involved the taking of the offensive party to the woodshed. Lots of good things can come of this, sans the sore tail, the most obvious being a less grievous soul for all involved. More importantly, though, was the lesson therein. I can still feel her worked, brown hands clenching my cheeks together, punctuating every syllable: “You ain’t gonna get forgiveness, Taterhead, lessen you ask for it.” Meaning it would be the lesson I had to learn as a big girl. Still working on that one.
Isn’t it funny? We don’t usually appreciate a good ass-whoopin’ when we get it. Since she’s been gone a few years, guess I have to do it myself. (Nothing like a little ancestral discipline from the Beyond.)
Let’s see here, what I’ve learned this year:
1. When tomato plants are three inches high, begin with organic mold treatment. Continue throughout life cycle. Water consistently. Pray. Do not kick plants.
2. Always label thine own plants when seeding, thereby reducing the chance of putting pumpkins down in March when you thought they were watermelon. (This did not work out well.)
3. Don’t say anything you can’t take back. “F you” and “Bite My Ass” and even my personal fave “Suck My Halloween Dick” are excluded, especially as they are universally used as basic “You Hurt My Feelings Bad or Pissed Me Off Beyond Belief” moments and are not personal in nature. Other insults such as “You Never Were My Friend” or “I Wish I Had Never Met You” are relationship enders. Be sure.
4. THINK long and hard before casting. Energy takes the path of least resistance. Think about it. No one wants their energy on the sticky floor of a 7 Eleven. Or walking out the door on someone’s flip-flop.
5. If you fail at something, put your big girl panties on and do it again. And again. And damn it again. There’s no crying in baseball.
Even though I have written about this before, it bears repeating: there is no finality in harvest. The whole point is the cycle, energy turning back into itself, starting again, pulling itself back up like so many green shoots through crystallized snow and ice and righteously, belligerently doing it again. Now, Nature takes a good hard look at herself, let me tell you. She notices the weak places, cleans them out, adjusts her path, and occasionally takes her folk to the woodshed. Blessed be. Certainly, then, I am not above a little house cleaning, my own self — and this is where my thoughts went to that evening while cleaning up the apple cores and wine glasses. What is my personal harvest? What have I put down in the earth? Sent up to the sky? I must own these sharp moments, for in them are the lessons that will either fertilize the earth of my soul or mold it, my call. And no one wants a blighted soul.
I suppose I’ve rambled myself into a corner, again. I suppose I do not see Harvest as simply a rest-in-your-bounty sort of season. Sure, I celebrate the success of those audacious banana peppers in the yard, and yes, I thank the Earth Mother for her bounty. Simply put: it is hers. I was just being a good steward of the Earth. What I am steadfastly determined to examine is: what was mine? It must be owned, either way. So, if there was a bit of blight from inconsistent watering of my spirituality, how might I turn that around? Not by hiding it in the bushes like so much dog shit, that’s for damn sure. Rather, I think I will craft a wreath out of the vine, hang it high so that my soul remembers, let its energy pass through and clean my heart. For there will be a Spring, there will be a lesson, and there is no crying in baseball, right Grandma? And forgiveness only comes when you ask. Especially when the person who you are asking is yourself.