Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The First Cutting

Disclaimer: Those who are looking for scholarly essays on the witch's holidays based on ancient, historical resources are encouraged to look elsewhere. There are thoughts and memories only. No gnosis. No, not even that.

Some folks in the witching world are celebrating Lugh's Day [as I call it] or Lughnassad or Lammas. At least one group of pagans has gone off to the local park for a picnic and a swim over the weekend. Some other folk got together and had games and such dedicated to Lugh. I didn't. One druid of my acquaintance broadly insists that August 1 is the first day of autumn. Not here.

My second teacher celebrated the Solstices and Equinoxes as the major holidays and hardly gave a passing nod to the other four. Not quite a newbie some years ago, I was amazed to discover during my brief exposure to a witch temple of sorts that I was out of step when it came to holidays. I don't much care now. I still hold the Solstices and Equinoxes as the major days and consider them to be the astronomical marking of each new season. It was only through a flurry of stints in public witch circles that I began to grudgingly acknowledge Sam Hain, Bridhe's Birthday, Belta[i]ne, and Lugh's Day.

Oh, I don't have anything against Lugh. I'm sure he was a grand fellow and very skilled at all that he undertook. I like Bridhe well enough. And Hallowe'en costumes are pretty cool as is fertility rites superimposed upon the driving of cattle through fire to get rid of their fleas and stuff. And I am sorry that the English weather by all accounts is rather crappy. Damn the potato famine too. Yet, I don't live in England or anywheres near there and I am no druid.

I am the grandchild of two dead farmers. My grands bought their farm in their retirement years and worked hard to gain a living out of the cows and the land. My grandmother had quite the green thumb. Anything she planted grew. She planted by the moon.
She kept a faithful record of daily temperatures for many years. My grandfather was a dour man who kept making me promise him never to become a farmer. He wore a green cap and had two tractors and a red truck. Grandma understood what I was becoming. Grandpa consoled my fancy for candy and other sweets while fighting his own madness and his tobacco habit. He managed to quit smoking.

In addition to the cows, two dogs, chickens, geese, and barn cats, my grands raised hay. They had hay fields, including one which got infested with pumpkins along the southern edge after my grandfather had dumped pumpkin seeds on a manure pile there. My grands would watch the weather carefully and when there was three days lined up without rain, they would go out toward the end of July or early August and take the first cutting. After cutting, the hay laid down for three days-- and provided the weather co-operated by being dry-- then it was baled and thrown into the creaky ol' black hay wagon, then taken to the barn where it was then transported to the top room.

It was hard sweaty work for two older people, one of them prone to severe untreated depressions. My grandmother could run circles around both my grandfather and the hired kid from down the road when it came to working. A couple of years before he died though, my grandpa had two heart attacks in succession. The second was worse than the first, as is typical. Damage was severe. The cardio doc wanted my grandfather to not lift, not work the farm, not drive the tractors. By April, grandpa was doing all of that and more daily. When he died, it was cancer that took him. His heart remained loyal 'til the end.

My own heart is not into this artificiality of picnics and games. The
artificiality of celebrating Lugh's Day or Lughnassad or Lammas hurt. I stopped doing it. The First Cutting is what has meaning for me, the grandchild of two dead farmers. The first cutting of my memory was the first yield, the first harvesting of the hay. The first cutting prepares the way for the second cutting.

And so in my life, I gather the first fruits of my own endeavors this year and I wonder. I take the dog over to the creek and we watch first and second year bullfrogs dart into the water, swim under rocks, pop out to lay on top of one, sit quietly by a frog hole, test out their voices. The dog wades right in. I hold myself back in wonder and in awe. A slinky blue dragonfly hovers over the weeds growing in a clump by the shoreline. A few birds trill loudly to each other from trees farther away. The natural flow and ebbing of life's tides; the cycles of grow, green, brown, die, begin again; it just keeps going.

I used to be a go-getter. I am no longer. Now I am content to sit by a creek watching and waiting. I gather my thoughts to myself like stray children and I wonder-- will the rain hold off for three days for me this year? Or will my own hay field grow moldy and damp under the onslaught of the summer rains?


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