And it’s a great day to be alive . . . I know the sun’s still shining when I close my eyes. It’s some hard times in the neighborhood, but why can’t every day be just this good.
Great Day To Be Alive, Travis Tritt
Standing in my okra today, my heart swelled at the thought of what we have all gone through this year. Before I knew it, I was on my knees in the tall grass, the cucumber flowers and dragonfly wings in gratitude. Getting SFW on her knees is no small task, y’all. One singular okra flower broke me on August 1st, our blessed first harvest. Let’s get a little mud on the tires, shall we?
Folks who know me also know that all I’ve ever wanted is a little piece of land, the time to write books and a plowed spot for some homegrown vegetation. Silly ass me went and threw that wish up to the stars last Samhain, the crystallized moment that set all this mayhem into action, and got just what I asked for: my job appears to be ending (regardless of my popularity as a teacher and my desperate need for insurance), we were literally pushed out of our home and this little slice of heaven showed up . . . under the condition that it be paid for within the year. Have I mentioned that my job seems to be zoning itself out? Hmmm. Very funny loophole, universe.
But, riddle me this, Batchildren: is that not a harvest? I reckon it is. The other night, surrounded by my “magic” students (aka spirituality students), the Southern Fried hubby and the loudest cicada any of us have ever bent an ear toward, it hit me. I’m not afraid. I know what you’re thinking, the cheese done slid off my cracker, and mayhap y’all would be right. I’ve either lost my cotton-pickin’ mind, forgotten to be afraid of starvation and a lack of heart medication . . . or . . .
Just trusting in the final harvest. I’ve seen corn grow like this before. And there’s always cornbread in the end.
My blood runs thick with both Cherokee and Irish heritage–a combination that ensures a hot temper, a concrete sense of family and clanship and the irrefutable inheritance of magic. In Cherokee, Selu (The Great Corn Mother) holds her arms around us as sustenance for four, blistering hot dog days. Our Thunder Gods were honored by igniting our fires with lightening-struck wood around which our harvest dance thumped our hopes, our dreams, our honor of a promise made by the sky and evidenced in the sway of ancient corn fields. In Ireland, it was the Sabbat honoring Lugh and was celebrated with fire, local bilberries and wine in honor of the first cutting of the wheat. Our Gaelic ancestors would visit holy wells and lay offering and handfastings preceded grand offerings of sacred meat, dance and song. What they shared–thousands of miles away from each other–was a sincere respect for sacred process. What had been sown, then made manifest, was celebrated. What had not was solemnly considered as a lesson in “what not to do,” or even, “that over which we have no control.” I wonder, how did they tell the difference?
Was the deciding factor (Imma gonna use the “f” word) faith? (Stay with me, this is going to be a bumpy ride.)
So, you get a little “overly” and throw both watermelon seed and pumpkin seed in the hothouse. Spring comes around and those damnable little nuggets look like twins, they do, so you hope for the best and sling both down. Now, in the deep South, pumpkins DO NOT GO DOWN IN MARCH, lemme tell you . . . leads to early withering, blight in blinding spring rain and all kinds of mayhem whereas watermelon seed gets a little loose and tends to put out, if you will. Yupper. Even as that was an innocent mishap, we’re not dealing in Christian terms–this means, innocent or not, yor’ pumpkins ain’t gonna make it. Now, this falls under the harvest category of both “what not to do” and then hops into the pot of “things beyond your control.” See the relationship? Not yet? Hokay. I might have to rip some Western civilization out of your bones for this one.
So, you love somebody. Now, that somebody is truly hell on wheels, full-tilt-boogie nuts and variously drives you to distraction. Twasn’t ever gonna work, but you get all warm inside when they sing your favorite eighties song, wrap their sweet arms ’round your neck and make you low-fat chocolate cake. Even as you know that this soul will tip the balance in your life, never be satisfied with the slice of pie you hand them and will always take that moment and throttle you about the head with it when you least expect it, you go on and break bread, share time and kiss their face.
Pumpkins in March, anyone?
I propose that we have gotten a little out of touch with sacred process in that we expect, over and over, something good to come from something out of balance. And while we’re on the subject, who ever said that sacred process wouldn’t kill the same plant, over and over and over, on account of it’s never going to be sustainable on your land or at that time. Sacred process will have its way. And you are going to waste a king’s share of time, sweat, tears and money trying to grow a coconut tree in Alabama clay?
But for that, I am thankful.
Wait, what? Oh yeah. I am thankful. Because the universe, my Big Momma and Alabama know what is best for my lot. It grows green and true and fruitful, never tastes bitter and leaves the soil more balanced for its presence. So . . . what’s Lughnasadh got to do with it?
Well . . .
Over here in Seba land, we have seen sacred process in its most divine form: weeding out vegetation, no matter its beauty, when and if it knocks the alkalinity off to the left. I contend that this process is a perfect marriage between “what not to do” and “that over which we have no control.” You see, they are the same thing. We might push on, carve the perfect spot for our beloved non-native plant, google all the right potions for its healthy growth and just love, love, love that plant. In the end?
Sacred process. That over which we have no control. Turns out, the Great Mother knows best, after all.
And so, I am here at the first harvest facing the loss of health insurance, the provisions with which to feed my family and a healthy debt to the government over a degree that my institutions values less than its (downright fabulous) maintenance women–all of whom know my name, my birthday and invite me to their weddings. (Holler out to Mahesha! You rock that hair, girl!)
Turns out, I nursed the wrong plant. Again.
Am I afraid? Damn, skippy. Am I angry? Oh, hell yeah. Will I force my presence upon an institution that does not value the blood I have shed upon its steps?
As a used-to-be friend of mine used to say, fuck that noise. Sacred process. I don’t grow there, anymore. Never was a good fit, on account of I value students more than money, learning more than pedagogy and a clear conscience more than insurance.
It’s called faith. And if that doesn’t get it, try this:
Lughnasadh and Green Corn walk into a bar.
Lughie says, “I’ll have a beer.”
Green Corn says, “I’ll have corn whiskey.”
Bartender says, “What’s the difference? You’re leaving with each other.”
Exactly. Sacred process. Same fire, song, dance and sacrifice . . . turns out.
(And I have a theory about the Irish and the Cherokee in Alabama. Involves hay bales and sweaty, Southern sex, but we’ll leave that for another time.)
And so, we are at the first harvest. The Great Corn Mother wraps Her arms around our land and swaddles us there, all ripe and bursting with hope, and rocks us in her arms and wipes our tears. Tells us to work harder, follow the wind, learn our lessons and trust in sacred process.
Maybe this time, we’ll learn.
Until then, let us have our cornbread and peppers, tomatoes and friendships, failures and successes. But laws, let us have them on the land on which they call home. For they are, always and forever, our first harvest.
How I rock the holiday: