The First Harvest – Reflections

A rectangular cake nicely browned and studded with blackberries on top.
Blackberry cake

This weekend marks the first harvest festival, Lughnasdh in Gaelic and Celtic traditions, Lammas in Anglo Saxon and Christian traditions. It’s known as Gŵyl Awst here in Wales.

I can’t call myself a Pagan, but I do love marking the ancient seasonal festivals for the sense of natural rhythm and balance they bring to the year. We try and do something for each holiday, even if it’s just making a cake and cooking a nice meal. This year we baked a blackberry cake and ate salads made with seasonal ingredients.

I also use the festivals symbolically to punctuate my year, connect with myself and reflect on where I am. But it’s been such a strange one, I’m really not sure what I’m ‘harvesting’ at this point. My goal at the beginning of the year was to focus on healing. Work was going well and I was happy with my living situation. Even better, the thing that has been emotionally destabilizing for me over the last few years would finally be less present in my life. I was feeling hopeful, even optimistic.

Well, the relatively peaceful year of reflection and healing that I was hoping for hasn’t quite materialised for me, or anyone else. None of us are bringing in the harvest we may have expected as we start to move into the second half of the wheel of the year.

Personally, I feel it’s too soon to start talking about positives in relation to this situation. That would be insensitive when so many people are suffering terribly, with the grief of losing someone to this illness, with the long-term health effects from having had it, or with awful financial difficulties. It would also be a bit foolish. I may have been lucky enough, and privileged enough, not to have been badly affected so far, but that could easily change. My feeling is that it’s going to be very bumpy here in the UK for months, possibly years, to come.

But, at the same time, we are all meaning-making creatures and we have to work with what we’ve got, so I’m going to write about what I’ve learned from the last few months and what I can take from this experience that’s useful, while also wishing very much that it hadn’t happened.

This is what I can say. The crisis has reminded me of what’s important in life: relationships, connections, community. These are the things that matter and have the potential to get us through this horrible time.

It’s also reminded me that there’s no point in putting things off if I don’t have to. I might as well get on and ‘self-actualise’ as much as I can. Perhaps even more importantly, I may as well try and be my authentic self in all aspects of my life. One shift I have noticed in myself and other people is more willingness to share different parts of ourselves, to be more authentic and even vulnerable. Of course there are always people who behave badly, especially online, but I have seen many people being kinder and more compassionate both with each other and to themselves. I think this is good and I hope we can build on it to improve the way that we do things and relate to each other, just as I hope we will continue to introduce pets and small children on video calls. I know I’ve met some fabulous cats and seen some very good drawings over the last few months.

Lockdown has taught me a lot about myself, much of which is useful. It’s also encouraged a growth mindset and pushed me to try new things. I’ve been getting involved in various initiatives at work and trying to support my colleagues as much as I can. I’ve been working on my mental and emotional health and taking a lot of online dance and yoga classes. I plan to keep it up and take more classes in the autumn. I’d like to do a creative writing class and perhaps I’ll start learning Welsh again.

Reading this over, in a strange way, I wonder if I might be working towards my original goal for this year after all … In any case, I hope the rest of the summer will be gentle with you and that you get a break at some point.

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