A sobering Lughnasa
August 2, 2012Lughnasa is here, the harvest festival of my ancestors. And this year, it has been a sobering holiday.
Our harvest at Brigit Rest is coming in, thanks to a deep well and constant irrigation. This week we found a patch of cucumbers that had been hiding oversized fruit, so I've been making various kinds of ripe cucumber pickles. Every day we eat from the garden. The cherry tomatoes have been especially delicious this year and seem to be on the plate at almost every meal--they even go into scrambled eggs in the morning.
But we are among the lucky ones. All around us, for months, we have watched crops withering in the blasting heat. We have broken dozens of daily temperature. Perhaps worse, we had no rain for almost two months. Many farmers friends have plowed up their cornfields, hoping to get a late crop of soybeans in so that the year is not a complete loss. Dairy farmers are selling fertile cows into the meat markets, because they have used up all the spring hay (one does not usually feed hay in summer!) and there is no grass in the pasture. It has been frightening to watch. And the Driftless Area of Wisconsin is at the top of the drought zone--things are far worse to the south. We were blessed with some rain about ten days ago that greened up the fields considerably and, in some cases, saved the corn. But throughout the farming areas of the Midwest, West and South, the crops are gone.
This past week, one of the most prominent "climate skeptics" announced that he now was convinced that humans are to blame for the changes in climate. Even worse was the melting of the Greenland ice fields over a few short weeks. Unimaginable: 94% of Greenland's ice disappeared in three weeks. Have we already reached the tipping point, the point of no return?
Like most Americans, I am tied into the network of fossil-fuel use even though I would prefer not to be. We live in a 40-year-old house that was built at a time when conservation was not a top priority. We work several hours from our home (both of us have tried, unsuccessfully, to find closer work). We have families in distant parts of the nation that we try to visit annually, increasing our carbon footprint. We are not innocents. But how to change? Do I tell my 87-year-old mother in Alaska that, sorry, I won't see her again? Do we settle for photos of Michael's grandchildren rather than visiting them to see how they've grown? Do we quit work and live off our canned goods? Rural life is more energy-consuming than urban; there is no bus that goes by our farm. Sometimes I feel trapped, even though I love and appreciate the life I have been given to lead. Trapped, because it is so hard to imagine making changes sufficient to avoid climate disaster.
Even now, as I write on my laptop computer looking out over the hills of home, I know I am using fossil fuel to power this machine. I have spent the last few weeks feeling increasingly aware of my own part in the unfolding disaster around me. I have no answers. But I am filled with questions and concerns this Lughnasa season.
"Sanctuary" goes off to publisher
Over the last year, I have been working on a new book of poems that reflects some of the questions I mention above. My time in Ireland has taught me about traditions that help people understand their links to the land and to the earth. And my time at Brigit Rest has confirmed my sense that being connected to one's geographical region is an important spiritual discipline. So this book, which will be published early next year by Salmon Poetry in Ireland, has two sections, each of which uses as a framework one of the Catholic liturgical traditions, but using them to explore nature religion. The first part, "Book of Hours," consists of poems about Ireland framed as a "breviary" which honors the passage of the hours as a means of focussing the spirit. The first part, "Lauds," is full of praise for the dawning earth; the second, "Vespers," offers an opportunity for reflection and self-analysis; and the final section, "Vigils," shows the possibilities of unity with nature. The second half, "Land Mass," is a sequence of poems set at Brigit Rest and following the pattern of the Mass from Introit (greeting) to dismissal. I am very happy with the final manuscript and will announce the publication date as soon as it's known. Meanwhile, I will also put in a few poems from the book at the end of this newsletter.
Do you know girls who want to know the goddess?
When the esteemed Creatrix Publishers went out of business a few years ago, the publishers Cat and Carol were kind enough to let us authors acquire the remaining copies of our works. Thus I have some boxes of "Wild Girls: The Path of the Young Goddess" in our shed. I would love to see these books used for their intended purpose, which is to encourage girls to study goddess lore and to develop a spiritual practice. The intended age-range is 9-15, and the book is organized around 12 goddesses who can be used for monthly meetings (or in other ways as well). These goddesses are all divinities who were "girl goddesses" like Kuan-Yin and Artemis, images of the divine in young female form. If you would like to organize a girls' group, or know of such a group that would benefit from using "Wild Girls" as a study guide, we can ship you a box of books (24) for $3 each plus postage (original selling price, $17.95). Write to BrigitBooks@gmail.com.
Brigit Anthology in the works
Next on our work agenda is the anthology of poems, prose and fiction dedicated to Brigit, which will be published Feb. 1 by Goddess-Ink Press. Wonderful work has been submitted and, within six weeks, the manuscript will be turned over to the publishers. Again, more on this to come!
May you all have a fruitful and happy Lughnasa...with prayers for the earth...Patricia
BOOK OF HOURS
Monks read the “office” for each hour,
the name derived from Latin ops,
“power,” and related to opus, “work.”
(Let us pray: for a time when power
remembers its relationship to work.)
But lay folk read a shorter version,
called “books of hours,” celebrating
dawn and dusk and midnight.
(Let us pray: for a time when time’s
passage again gives cause for celebration.)
Such “books” were not, as the word
suggests, written on leaves of “beech,”
but on vellum or parchment or paper.
(Let us pray: for a time when we recall
the basis of wisdom in the earth.)
And the “hours” were once “seasons”
before the meaning changed to artificial
measurements of passing time.
(Let us pray: for a time when nature,
not clocks, measures out our lives.)
What is today’s holy office? Where
is our book of hours? How can we claim
again the spirit’s dignity? How can we not?
HOW TO CONFESS
Distinguish from: regret.
Distinguish from: remorse.
Distinguish from: shame.
Look for: excuses.
Look for: denial.
Look for: blame.
Examine: how you speak.
Examine: how you act.
Examine: where you aim.
Think of: who you hurt.
Think of: what you harmed.
Think: what you inflamed.
Find: the ear of god.
Find: a hollow shell.
Find: if they’re the same.
Speak: what did you do?
Speak: what was the harm?
Speak. Acknowledge. Claim.
EARTHMAKER JUDGES THE WORLD
Near the top of a Wisconsin hill, a spring erupts
from the point where an underground lake
rests beneath a shale cap and a lower strata
of bedrock dolomite, dense with useful flint.
There sat Earthmaker, Wajaguzera, looking out
over his creation. He could see miles to the north,
to the braided river carved from glacial water,
and south to the region of lead and buffalo; east
to the sacred Four Lakes, which his people marked
with sculptures of migrating bear and deer and birds,
and west, to the great river that drains the continent.
He sat, he saw, he was pleased. At one hand sat
Hinųgaja, his first-born daughter, and on the other,
Wihągaja, the second-born, and among them they judged
that all was good. So they misted the hills with blue smoke,
from which their old name, Xešojera, “smokey mountains.”
We call them Blue Mounds now, and few who see
their dark heights know these stories. And without such knowledge,
how do we honor earth, its specific endless beauty? Today,
Blue Mounds means a swimming pool, picnic tables, ski trails.
But Earthmaker’s blue tobacco smoke still wreathes the hills,
and his daughters sit beside him, and they see us, and they judge.