Lammas Day is the first harvest festival of the year. It marks the wheat harvest and is usually celebrated around the 1st of August.
We didn’t manage to bake the traditional bread, but I made a vat of ratatouille because I thought, well, it kind of represents a harvest. One of my friends is giving us their bread-maker though, so that seems seasonally appropriate.
I’m not sure what I’m ‘harvesting’, in a personal sense, this year. I had an emotional crisis last winter which is still affecting me. That’s been horrible, but I’ve learned a lot from it. Work is going well and we have decent housing for the next year, so I guess we’re also harvesting some stability in our lives for the first time in quite a few years.
I turned forty-one at the weekend.
I found hitting forty much harder than I expected. It’s not that I’m scared of getting older (yet, anyway!), but my fortieth brought up all this existential angst about life and meaning and my value and place in the world. The experience taught me that it’s a good idea to be aware of your subconscious beliefs about birthdays and not to treat any particular birthday as some kind of referendum on your life.
This week we celebrated Imbolc, the Celtic festival that marks the mid-point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It’s also known as Brigid or Candlemas, and the beginning of spring.
We cleaned the flat, bought some daffodils for the kitchen table and made a nice meal. We lit our Imbolc candle (yellow) and each chose something to release. I decided that what I need to let go of is my belief that I can just not feel my feelings and, probably more importantly, my belief that this is a sensible and realistic goal.
I don’t start any new life projects in January. January is cold and dark. It is for eating, sleeping and snuggling under blankets. But by the time Imbolc comes around, I’m feeling ready to set some goals. Last year was all about improving our financial situation and living environment. I got a new job and we moved to a bigger flat in an area that suits us better. I was exhausted, though, and with therapy as well, that was about as much as I could manage.
This year, I’d like to be more focused on personal self-development. This is not about self-improvement. It’s about creating a life that’s meaningful and in which I’m getting my needs met. There is a spreadsheet, because entering stuff into spreadsheets makes me happy, but briefly, it breaks down into four “projects”:
This is the first story that I can remember my father telling me about the ghosts. He was driving home late one night from a duty call when the headlights of his car illuminated two children standing by the side of the road. They appeared to be a boy and a girl, around six and eight years old. My father pulled over quickly and stopped the car. He got out and walked back for another look, but there was no sign of the children. He told me that he’d asked around afterwards and heard that other people had seen the same two children on that stretch of road at night.
The children in the road were soon joined by other ghosts. There was the man my father saw running across the motorway, only to vanish when he reached the central reservation. He saw that man at least twice. There were the strange feelings he would get on family trips to old churches, cemeteries and stately homes: “There’s something in that corner, over by the stairs”. Some cemeteries were “quiet”, others, less so. One of the experiences I remember most vividly occurred on a holiday in Scotland when I was around fifteen. We visited a ruined castle. As we wandered around the empty rooms, my father turned pale and said that he had to sit down. Later, he told us that he’d been overwhelmed by feelings of grief and loss and had an impression of children crying for their father.
To be experienced, explored, investigated, questioned and played with:
- Visit my mother.
- Shop for food.
- Pick up voicemails from work.
- Look at my bank account online.
- Look at the tax website.
- Phone the energy company
- Attempt to cook.
After my partner had spent about an hour calming me down, she asked me to make this list so that I can look at it the day before my next therapy session.