Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Fox Moon

At 5:20 am this morning the full moon of the First Harvest illuminated Black Mountain from just above its peak. (I was a bit premature on Tuesday, only 92% full.) A few faint stars were visible, but its soft brilliance dominated the bluing sky. The moon and its constancy phasing wax and then wane full in the middle buttresses our lives like the earth on which we stand and its orbit around Sol, our true god.

Do we consider these phenomenal presences in our lives, pay true attention to them? Usually not. They’re too common, too literally mundane. They are like the flaws in our homes, the ones we’ve seen so long that they no longer register. That slight crack in the ceiling. The water dripping slowly in the sink. That step with a slight cant. Or our bodies. How well do you know the back of your hand? Really?

Yes, we see them. Here comes the sun. The moon is up. Mother earth. But do we see them as we want to be seen? In full. With love. With forgiveness. With hope. With careful observation. Often not.

Ptolemy’s Solar System

Anthropocentrism. Not difficult to understand. A specialized form of speciesism. We’ve learned as millennia have passed that our original assumptions were not true. Earth is neither the center of the universe nor even the center of the solar system. Third rock from the sun. We’re not the only intelligent species: dolphins, elephants, whales, corvids, the primates, for example. Some of whom may be more intelligent than we are.

We have confused our rise to apex predator as equivalent to being an apex species. No. There is no apex species. It’s not possible to have one in our interdependent world. We need predators, but we also need one-celled organisms. We need plants. We need insects and lichen and ferrets and bats. We need the whole blooming buzzing confusion (apologies to William James) that is our world.

Think of it. Strip the earth bare save for humanity. Like say a nuclear winter might or a great volcanic eruption like Krakatoa. How long could we last? Weeks. Months. If we resort to cannibalism.

Humans live embedded in a world made no less for them than for the mosquito or the meadowlark. We need a place on which to stand. A source of food. Energy. We need mystery in our lives, but we don’t have to invent it. The moon rises like an occult lantern shuttered, then unveiled by an unseen hand, only to be rehidden at the end of each lunar month.

The moon of the first harvest. Full now, lighting the night for those who want to work the fields a bit longer. This one this moon this full moon, the same as last month’s full moon save only for its position in our mutual orbit around Sol, punctuates our need for her. Sol has shared the energy created in the nuclear fusion reactor of her heart the whole growing season, especially since Beltane.

Earth, Joachim Beuckelaer

The plants have gathered it in, taken the nutrients from the top six inches of the soil, and in perpetuating their own species, provided food for ours. In the same way fish eat algae, or eat other fish who eat algae. Cows eat grass. We eat the fish and the cow. The chicken eats plants, but also insects, worms. We eat the chicken.

Water, Joachim Beuckelaer

All of them need the water that cycles through soil, through the lakes and streams and rivers, through the oceans. That cycles up into the clouds and returns fresh and potable to the earth. But consider this. The earth makes no water. Our water either came from the original formation of the solar system or from asteroids crashing into our planet later, perhaps some of both. In either case the water we take so much for granted is ancient, beyond ancient, primal. All of it. It goes up and comes down. It flows. It rests for a while in lakes and ponds and in our bodies.

Earth. Water. Fire. Air. The middle ages did not err in seeing these four as constitutive elements of our world. And by our I mean those of us who live, who move, who grow, who die.