Happy Lughnasa/Harvest 2011
August 1, 2011The harvest season is definitely upon us! I spent the weekend canning pickles and peaches, drying herbs, and making wonderful vegetarian meals from the garden. Despite the intense heat we've been experiencing in the Midwest, this is an exhilarating time of year, a time to be grateful for nature's bounty. Just a few weeks ago, we were fighting that seemingly-endless battle against weeds. Now the garden has filled in sufficiently that our efforts go towards preserving the harvest. We only have to evict the occasional lambsquarter or wild amaranth, and we have time to sit on the deck watching the sun set over "Lammas Hill," our name for the little rise to the west. (For those of you can calculate that the sun set at exactly the same point three months ago, it is also "Beltane Hill," but somehow we started calling it Lammas Hill, and the name stuck.)
About a year ago, someone asked me how much money I save by having a big garden, by picking windfall apples to press for cider, by making my own yogurt from a nearby dairy's milk, by finding local farmers to buy meats from. I wasn't expecting the question, and I blundered around with my answer. Ever since, I've been having those "I shoulda said" moments. What I have finally figured out is that I should have said this: "It isn't about the money."
I probably do save money over what it would cost to eat organic whole foods bought in groceries and restaurants, although certainly it would be cheaper (in all ways) to eat junk food. If I count in the savings from not spending money on commercial entertainment (what could be more entertaining than a sunset and a cooler made of Piesporter with Saint-Germaine, both flavored with elderflowers!), I could claim we are definitely in the black on the garden. But really, it's not about thrift, not entirely, although what I like to call "the errant Scottish gene" (from my grandfather John Gordon's distant ancestors) emits satisfaction vibes when I think I'm saving money, as I'm pretty sure I do.
No: my garden is basically about pleasure. Not in the sense of effortlessness; heck no! It's a lot of work, and there are always new frustrations. This year: the woodchuck that has taken up residence near the garden. We joke that we see him pushing a shopping cart past the salad bar every evening. We are trying to convince him to move elsewhere, but he's not listening. Oh, yeah, and the squash bugs. Oh, yeah, and the mysterious lack of blooms on my 30 huge healthy pepper plants. Oh, yeah, and....
But yesterday as I picked another dozen cucumbers and pulled heavy white Ailsa Craig onions in the waning daylight, a bluebird perched on the pea fence beside me. We both were still for a moment, looking at each other, then the bluebird trilled a bit and flew away. Gardening connects me to nature in the most vital way. Even though I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the work it entails, there is such primal satisfaction to eating food whose "food miles" should be calculated rather in "food feet," that even my errant Scottish gene is satisfied with the bargain.
Three upcoming books! Then one more!
The last several months have been extraordinarily busy ones, because for the first time ever, I've got four books coming out within about six months. Two are revised versions of earlier books: "Meditation: The Complete Guide," which I co-wrote with Teri Viereck, will be out Nov 11 from New World Library; and "Magical Gardens" will be out in spring from Llewellyn Worldwide, with a new introduction kindly provided by the estimable John Drumgoole, whose Organic Center in Austin, TX, is one of the nation's treasures. It's been great to revisit these titles and to update them for a contemporary reading audience. Revision, proofreading, and promotional planning has been intense.
But perhaps even more intense has been preparing two new books for publication. One has been in the works for many years: "Mary: A Novel in Verse" includes poems published almost 20 years ago in "Creation Spirituality." I've been thinking of the meaning of the story of "the BVM," as we called the Blessed Virgin Mary when we were kids. Hers seems to me to be a very human story of sustaining hope in the midst of apparent disappointment and even tragedy. I'm delighted that the book will be coming out in December in Ireland, from Salmon Poetry, as part of the press's 30th year celebration.
Although I have written short stories before, I have not previously defined myself as a fiction writer, but for the last 18 months I have been immersed in creating a satirical novel called "Alaska By Heart: Recipes for Independence, by Sarah Pagen." It's a short novel with a lot of recipes (try "Whale Wellington" and "Hare on Buns") and includes lots of lyrics to the songs written by the main character's children, who have a country-northern band called the Trapper Family Singers (hits include "The Old Rugged Moose" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Sights"). The Alaskan publishing house of McRoy & Blackburn will publish the book in mid-fall, and I'll add ordering links on my website as soon as they are available. The sheer enjoyment of living in this invented world has convinced me that it's time to get back to take the pause-button off the novel about St. Augustine's mistress that I have half-finished. But first, I must shepherd these books into print!
I'm planning to revive a habit from a decade ago: taking a spring-break driving trip to do readings and lectures. In March, I plan to head towards D.C. for the Split This Rock activist poetry conference, and I figure to make stops along the way and back. If you know of bookstores, college or centers interested in an event, or if you'd like to sponsor a home reading, let me know and I'll work to include it on the schedule. I'm thinking of an additional California expedition for spring--so again, contact me if you know of possibilities.
Have a great harvest season, and may what you gather in sustain you through the wintertime--Patricia