Linda M. Hasselstrom with some Windbreak House hollyhocks in July, 2014.
. . .
Celebrate Autumn with Lughnasad
An End-of-Summer Home Page Message from Linda --- August 1, 2014
Autumn is a poem about the end of summer. Autumn demands winter as insistently and surely as spring demands summer. Beware, though of making your autumn poem a lament. Instead, celebrate the richness and beauty of the season.
Our wise ancestors symbolized their understanding of this season in many ways. Some called it Lughnasad
, the wake of the Sun-King, Lugh, whose light begins to dwindle after the summer solstice. The dying king reminds us of winter, of the end of things, of regret and farewell.
Other pagan festivals celebrated the Goddess in her aspect as the Harvest Mother, fruitful with crops to feed her worshippers, and generous with livestock fattening for winter. These traditions reminded the citizens of harvest and the preservation of abundance for the coming cold.
Modern Americans tend to ignore this holiday, having no particular day of celebration for the end of summer. Instead, we may rush around frantically trying to do all the things we planned to do during summer before sending our children back to school and beginning to wait for next summerís vacation, thus ending the season in chaos and stress.
, celebrated on August 1, is today the least-known of the four great fire festivals of the Celtic year. I believe pausing to become aware of this day is vital to the way we will approach and survive the winter.
Regret and farewell, harvest and preservation: these are the four key words of Autumn. We must take care not to focus so much on our regrets that we neglect to celebrate our harvest.
Perhaps if we look at our regrets and farewells, we can see a brighter promise in them.
For example, I REGRET that my thumbnails will be black for the next month.
But my thumbnails will look filthy because of my herb HARVEST. I have been pinching single leaves from oregano and basil plants, feeling fallís sun hot on my back, being careful not to uproot the plants. I clip each leaf free with a thumbnail or fingernail and drop it into the bowl. One leaf at a time, the bowl fills.
The wind blows the mosquitoes past me; soon I will say FAREWELL to them and I wonít be sorry. I inhale the sharp licorice scent of the basil, to PRESERVE it in my memory, as I take time to look closely at the multicolored hollyhock blossoms swaying above me, their colors filed in memory to recall when the snow drifts among their dried stalks.
To PRESERVE my basil and oregano, Iíll gently wash the leaves, then spread them in a single layer on a screen in my homemade dryer and turn on the light bulbs that furnish the heat. (My dryer was built from plans available from www.dryit.com
) Iíll check the temperature, keeping it under 100 degrees, for a day or two until the leaves are dried crisp, then pack them in recycled jars. On an icy day in winter I will open the jar. As I scoop a tablespoon of leaves into the palm of my hand and crumble them, I will recall the meditative calm with which I plucked each individual leaf. I will smile as I sprinkle those leaves generously into soups and stews, enjoying my HARVEST.
Hearing a friend talk of her evening of dancing with her husband, I REGRET not dancing more, but I donít regret my love for a man who doesnít dance.
Instead, I consider all the things he does do and the joy I HARVEST with him. For example, I will always PRESERVE in my memory that when we are driving somewhere, we often sing together on Creedence Clearwater Revival songs, or Peter, Paul and Mary.
Besides, I have said FAREWELL to embarrassment about dancing alone in my office; whenever I hear Bob Seger or The Boss, I crank up the volume on the radio.
I am beginning to say FAREWELL to the lavender bachelor buttons as I pinch their seed, and to the Maltese Cross as I shake seed into a bag, PRESERVING it to plant for more blooms next summer.
Sitting on the deck in the evening, I look up from my book and watch the jerky flight of the nighthawk; no photo can do justice to the way it mounts the air, lunging higher with each stroke of the slender wings, so I must PRESERVE the memory in my mind.
Jerry is building a new deck, so I PRESERVE the details with my camera. My assistant has HARVESTED the old redwood deck boards to recycle into chicken shelters where her chickens will lay eggs that we will eat, completing a lovely cycle of interdependence.
Each morning, the dickcissel sits in the very top of the cedar tree, calling insistently, ďdick, dick, dick, ciss, ciss, ciss.Ē This is the first year I have seen the little bird here, and because someone has PRESERVED the song in a recording, I will listen to it on bleak days this winter while the bird is vacationing elsewhere.
Linda with hollyhocks in 2014:
". . . an astonishing array of colors . . . from the palest pink to the deeper hue of strawberry ice cream . . ."
"The yellows are mostly pale as sunshine at noon, shading sometimes into lemon . . ."
I've photographed the hollyhocks to PRESERVE their phenomenal growth this year. They have been the most spectacular of my modest flower display, since I usually grow only native perennials. But because our house sits on top of a prairie hill, I planted hollyhocks on all four sides of the house and this year many stand eight feet tall. They began to bloom from the top and slowly the blooms have opened all the way down the sturdy stems, disappearing into the huge green leaves at the base. Under those leaves, in the cool shade, baby rabbits hide until the dogs come out for their noon and evening walks.
The blooms are in an astonishing array of colors, from the palest pink to the deeper hue of strawberry ice cream to carmine and dark crimson and a maroon that is nearly black, with some pale lilac and others deep purple. The yellows are mostly pale as sunshine at noon, shading sometimes into lemon or a rich gold. Ivory and pure white with haloed golden centers stand beside peach blooms that blend into copper, apricot and salmon.
Watering hollyhocks late afternoon, almost 100 degrees, I stand among the stalks tall as I am and let the cold water run from the hose over my arms until the flesh of my hands feels icy, especially compared to the heat on the my back. My memory will PRESERVE that contrast, that heat and cold.
Inside, the smell of HARVEST tickles my nose with scents of drying mint, oregano and basil in the cool basement as the thermometer climbs to 105 degrees outside.
Dressing to go to town, I recall that I have said FAREWELL to ironing several times, and I repeat my resolution. Iím happy to remind myself to give up ironing; some farewells need repetition. If my clothes are a little wrinkled, well, so am I.
Iíll try again this season to say FAREWELL to hurry. Maybe one of these years Iíll succeed; I am doing better.
Because itís important that REGRET not dominate the season, I look at my own list of Things I Planned To Do This Summer. Itís heartening to check off some items as accomplished: the tomato harvest should be good, barring hail. I do REGRET not finishing the manuscript I call The Grasslands Book, but I have a promise of publication of another book and plans for getting back to the grasslands, so I say FAREWELL to feeling I have failed.
Against those regrets, I balance all the good work I have done for other writers this year; several are publishing books resulting from our work together. My HARVEST: joy and satisfaction at having helped them achieve these goals.
And itís not yet too late to accomplish some of my summer goals. I REGRET calls I should have made and letters I should have sent, but in several cases I decide itís not too late. Iíll begin scheduling visits with relatives and friends, and pull out the letters I've meant to answer.
Several years ago, I discovered lammas.org.uk
, about Lammas eco-village in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Concerned about the worldís increasing dependence on dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, a number of people created a low-impact, low emissions settlement, the first in Britain to receive planning permission. In 2012, Lammas was already producing three quarters of its inhabitants' food, water and energy needs from its own land. The village is a model for possible future ways of living as energy costs rocket and concerns about climate change grow, and similar villages exist in other parts of Wales and the U.K.; these small countries have been quick to realize the limits of their resources while America is still lolling around in ignorance, ignoring the warning signs and reveling in waste.
Lammas is completely "off grid" with no water, gas or electricity supplied by outside sources. One family created a six-acre place with a house, a big barn, and four land-based businesses; they grow half their own food, do their own water and sewage processing, have no electricity bill and the entire cost was 65,000 English pounds; the pound is worth about $1.70 in U.S. dollars.
The village was about to celebrate its second birthday since winning planning permission when the building inspectors showed up to protest some of the details: grass roofs, outside composting toilets, and ladders instead of staircases. Apparently, those issues were resolved and the community continues to thrive.
This village, it seems to me, symbolizes a larger meaning for us as we celebrate autumn and Lughnasad/Lammas. Creative people have devised wonderful systems for protecting people from their own ignorance as well as from natural and manmade disasters. But in order to prepare for the changes our society will need to make as we run out of the fuels that have sustained our rapid development, we will have to compromise, and to relearn old ways of natural building and to develop new ways of living sustainably.
We may REGRET that we must say FAREWELL to some of the luxuries we have enjoyed, but change might be necessary in order to learn to HARVEST the earthís resources more wisely in order to PRESERVE our lives.
We might be wise to pay attention to these pioneers of the future, and turn REGRET for our previously wasteful ways into action to change them.
Linda M. Hasselstrom
For Lughnasad/Lammas, August 1, 2014
Hermosa, South Dakota
# # #
These Home Page Essays Are Archived ---
Linda posts a new message on her Home Page a number of times each year. We've archived the essays (click here)
so you can read the ones you missed and re-read the ones you enjoyed. Some of them include recipes or poems or writing suggestions. All of them have photos.
back to top