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Looking Back, Dreaming Forward

       Lughnasad has come and gone. The altar was decorated with blackberry vines and wildflowers; fruits (apple, pear and avocado) were placed in a bowl of beans and grain to acknowledge the early harvest. My family gathered at table to celebrate the yield of local farms and fields. A vegetarian feast was prepared: light vegetable soup, zucchini and tomato tart, salad, and for dessert, blackberry buckle, made from berries my youngest son and I picked by the side of the bike path that runs along the river. There is bliss to be found in the smallest acts. I hope your Lughnasad was blessed with abundance and such quiet happinesses as you enjoy.

            Today there is a stillness in the air, a certain sense of waiting, as though nature has taken a rest, leaving everything to watch over itself, if just for this short while. The breeze that is tugging at my kitchen curtains carries within it the fresh breath of fall before it is seasoned with bonfires and mulled cider, candle wax and long-simmered stews.

            Against the overcast sky the green of the trees glows in shades of jade and emerald. They have no thought of changing color, not yet. But they know, oh, they do, that soon nature will be inviting them to drape themselves in ball gowns of exquisite shades: crimson, gold, russet. They will toss auburn and brunette heads as they sway to the wind's music. It is on days like today, the trees green, the breeze cool, that we truly realize summer has had its turning.

            Farm stands are filled with fruits and vegetables of every hue and flavor, tobacco and pumpkin fields are nearing harvest, and corn and hay are beginning to be brought in for livestock's winter feed. The days are hazy and humid; thunderstorms are expected later today. ‘There [is] a feeling in the air of change and departure,’ as Kenneth Grahame once wrote:

 

‘…Mole turned his talk to the harvest that was being

gathered in, the towering wagons and their straining

teams, the growing ricks, and the large moon rising over

bare acres dotted with sheaves. He talked of the reddening

apples around, of the browning nuts, of jams and preserves

and the distilling of cordials…’

 

            We have the knowledge that the cicada’s song will soon end. The air will turn chill; we will reach a day wherein daytime and night are the same length. We will observe the rites: decorate the mantle with offerings of thanks and plenty, harvest the gifts of our gardens (mine will be herbs to dry for use through late fall and winter, cut from my back-step window-box garden); visit a local pick-your-own apple orchard and ride into the tidy rows in a wagon pulled by a tractor; we will offer our thanks to Idunn as we fill our bags.

            Later the table will be spread with apple-squash soup, cider-braised sausages, bread and cheese. Apple crisp will be eaten before the fireplace as we tell the ages-old story of the Oak King and the Holly King, and the sacrifice made so the people can live and be well through the cold months. We will perform the ritual, thanking the gods for their blessings, recognizing the death of the God and accepting the weight of His sacrifice, but reveling in the knowledge of His rebirth at Yule.

            Enjoy these last weeks of summer. Watch how the change begins, slowly, at first, with a leaf here and there, a night of cool temperatures, then more rapidly as nature answers a call within itself, as geese call their directions overhead, as monarch butterflies begin their long journey south, as seemingly overnight, the trees deck themselves for the Mabon ball. Under darker skies the river will turn steely, the nights begin to darken earlier. Watch, marvel, and allow yourself to answer nature's call within your own heart.

In the other gardens 

And all up the vale, 

From the autumn bonfires 

See the smoke trail!

 

             

Pleasant summer over 

And all the summer flowers, 

The red fire blazes, 

The grey smoke towers.

 

    Sing a song of seasons! 

Something bright in all! 

Flowers in the summer, 

Fires in the fall!

 

~Autumn Fires, Robert Louis Stevenson

 

 

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I am a writer and poet living in western Massachusetts. I have a degree in English Lit, with a focus on the nineteenth century, and am working toward a degree in Women's Studies as well. My work has previously appeared in The Pagan Activist, The Pagan Review, GrannyMoon's Morning Feast, and The Montague Reporter. I am currently working on a series of children's books, a novel trilogy, and a poetry manuscript (I simply can't do one thing at a time!). I also have several random fantasy-based short story projects that I attack once in a while.   I am a Dianic Pagan and practice Kitchen Wicca, and am also a Reiki Master. For a glimpse into my own little corner of reality, you can stop in and visit me at Ellie.

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