Lammas

Dawn comes a little later, dusk a little earlier. There is a subtle shift in the light. The crickets begin to sing.

We have come to the beginning of August and the festival of Lammas. Lammas is the cross-quarter between Summer Solstice and Fall Equinox, the honoring of the fullness and ending of summer, the beginning of fall, of harvest, and the gathering in of the first fruits of the summer’s abundance.

Traditionally the celebration has focused on the first harvest of the grain and the baking and sharing of the first loaf made from that grain.

During the years when we danced the long dance every quarter and cross-quarter, it became clear that all ritual is about death and transformation. At each point in the wheel of the year there are different symbols, textures, but the underlying process is the same.

At Lammas we celebrate the transformation of the grain. Imagine wheat, golden in the sunlight, going through the process of harvest, threshing, grinding, kneading, baking, until it becomes a loaf that is then broken, eaten, and transformed further into human flesh, blood, spirit.

Grain ears in wheat field

Golden grain ears in wheat field

I do not grow wheat. Nor do I have any longer the big garden that used to keep me busy this time of year gathering and freezing vegetables. I have only a little garden now, with herbs and flowers. But they, too, go through their process of transformation.

Rose petals and lavender, dried, will become sachets for Christmas gifts, to bring their fragrance to the linen closets and bureau drawers of my beloveds. My young grandchildren call them “smelly pillows” and take them to bed to sniff as they go to sleep. Basil, chopped and pounded, becomes pesto, or, dried, is stored away to season winter soups.

But the real abundance of summer—long days, outdoor play with friends and family, high country hikes, sitting in the garden to write, going barefoot—how does one gather and store these less tangible blessings?

I believe the catalyst is gratitude. Remembering that in all ritual it is we ourselves whom we seek to transform, let us gather in the gifts of summer with gratitude, let them become fragments of light that shine in every cell of us, until we become beings of gratitude, delighting not only in the abundance of summer but in all the gifts of our lives.

Then even the longest night of winter, the coldest day, will be blessed with warmth and fullness.

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