• Tag Archives Summer
  • Welcome, Growing Season!

    Beltane                                                                                  Early Growth Moon

    We have turned the corner on winter it seems and now will begin the gradual invasion of a more southerly clime, with heat and humidity climbing like kudzu broken free from the Confederacy.  We are two distinct climates in one here in Minnesota.  The one for which we are best known and with which most of us here identify is the polar influenced late fall, winter and early spring.  Cold, often severe, snow and a long fallow time typify this one.

    The second, one for which we are not known at all, but which we know well, is the briefer Northern summer in which all signs of that polar influence wane then disappear, giving way to temperatures often reaching the 90’s and sometimes into the 100’s–this has happened more lately of course–and dewpoints moist enough to make being outside like wrapping yourself in one of those turkey cooking bags sold around Thanksgiving and sticking yourself in your oven.

    This means, the good part, that we can grow crops that mature in under 120 days or so, leeks stretch that, but I’ve done it consistently.  This is long enough to get most garden vegetables including tomatoes, peppers and others that require frost free conditions when planting. (which shortens the season).

    The bees, long adapted to cold climate, are fine with these temperature swings; it’s the multivalent attack of pesticides, mites, loss of habitat, mite borne viruses or viruses aided by the mite weakened bee and reliance on bees not bred for hygienic behavior (cleaning out diseased larvae before they can infest the colony).

    Our cherry, plum and pear trees all blossomed in Monday’s record heat.  The apples have not, yet, and I’m glad because once their blossoms fall I have to get out the ladder and bag each fruit set.  And, this year I’m getting more aggressive with the damned squirrels, those tree bandits.

    It’s time to get out there and dig several holes in the ground, mash it up, put it in a plastic baggy and send it off to the lab.

  • A Northern Spring

    Beltane                                                              Waxing Last Frost Moon

    This northern spring, a season all its own, as is the northern summer, has turned cold and wet.  Again.  The cold weather vegetables have had a near perfect early growing season.  This combination of occasional heat followed by cold and rainy days marks the uncertainty, the ambiguity of our spring, often a time when the weather is neither this nor that, a variety.

    Later,  in another three to four weeks at most, we will trend hot and hotter, finding ourselves by mid-summer in heat rivaling our southern states.  As the days heat up, the vegetables and the fruits will flower, become pregnant, then fruit, giving us the food we love:  tomatoes, beans, potatoes, apples, pears, cherries and currant.  Perhaps this year, with the transplanting even the gooseberries will yield.

    Then, by mid-to-late August, the evenings will begin to cool, though the days remain warm.  The sky will become an impossible blue, a color found only in the heart and the mind’s eye.  This sky absorbs all earthbound thought and transforms it into the higher concepts of heaven.  This signals the onrush of the harvest season.

    Blessed be.

  • Following the Old Religion

    Lughnasa                                            Full Back To School Moon

    Summer has three endings:  Labor Day which marks the end of summer vacation for many school children; and, for many adults like myself, kicks us into serious mode as all those years of conditioning continue to affect our attitude;  Mabon, or the Fall Equinox, which comes tomorrow, that point when day and night balance each other, neither claiming dominance, though the trend matters and at this equinox, the balance tips toward night as the darkness increases, pulling us toward the longest night, the Winter Solstice on December 22nd and Samhain, or Summer’s End according to the old Celtic calendar which divided the year in half, Beltane-Samhain or the growing season, and Samhain-Beltane or the fallow season.  Samhain comes on October 31st and, like all Celtic holidays lasts a week.

    The growing season has this triple farewell reflected too in the holidays of Lughnasa, the festival of first fruits, Mabon, the peak of the harvest and harvest home, and Samhain, the end of the harvest season and the end of the growing season.  No matter how you notice or celebrate it these real changes in the agricultural year still happen, they still have critical importance for our human community, and they still deserve our attention.  Why?  Because our ages old relationship with agriculture is what separates us from the hunter-gatherers.  Agriculture allows us to live in villages, towns and cities by producing surplus food on farms in much the same way that the honeybee produces surplus honey while still making enough for the colony to survive on throughout the winter.

    Without those who farm, there would be no surplus food.  With no surplus food we would have to revert to subsistence agriculture, growing what we needed every year or hunting and gathering.  This would prove daunting since most of us have forgotten or never been taught how to grow food, how to hunt, how to identify edible plants.

    This is the great hidden reality for many, if not most, urban dwellers, who make up, since 2008, over half of the world’s population, a projected 5 billion people by 2030.  Without  a healthy eco-system, one that can support intense tillage, that is, sustainable tillage, the world’s urban dwellers will be bereft of something they cannot do without:  food.  Add to that the pressure on the world’s fresh water supply and two fundamental sustainers:  food and water are at peril.

    Granted following the holidays of the Great Wheel will not work magic–sorry to all my Wiccan friends–but it would remind us all, 8 times a year, of the source of our sustenance.  That would help.  Naming our days after these holidays (I do it in the upper left of each post) keeps that reminder fresh.  Our sustainers, mother earth and father sun, do not require us, do not need anything from us, yet they will support us if we live within their limits.  These holidays began when our ancestors realized the need to remind themselves of the delicate, fragile harmony required for human life to flourish.

    Over the course of the years and centuries and millennia since, hubris has lead us further and further away from the old religion; we have replaced it with  idols, fetishes, really.  We will, at some point, pay the price for our blasphemy as we upset that harmony, creating an environment that will no longer sustain human life.  Only if we step back from our profligacy can we ensure our survival.

    Knowing the rhythms of the natural world, of the agriculture that feeds us, of the systems that keep water fresh and available, is our only chance to avoid apocalypse.  Will we do it?  I don’t know.

  • Rigel. Again.

    Lughnasa                                             New (Back to School) Moon

    The partisans of summer have begun to moan its passing here in the north country.  Those of us who love the fall and the winter have only begun to savor the cooler nights, the lower humidity and the reduction in thunderstorms.  The harvest has begun, though much lies ahead.

    Rigel, again.  So, I got up early this morning, took my peavy and my swede saw, and trudged, a bit bleary eyed, back to the fence and the fallen down tree.  The peavy was no help, as I suspected it might not be, because there was no way to achieve leverage with it.  The tree balanced on the fence above the ground.  Nothing for it then but to use the swede saw.  After some huffing and puffing, the trunk broke in two and fell away from the fence on both sides.  I put the electric fence back in place, then walked the entire perimeter to be sure I hadn’t missed anything.  All this before my morning tea.

    Got inside, the tea on its way and cereal in the bowl when I noticed a flash out of my eye and saw Vega looking down into the perennial garden.  I got up to find Rigel just on the other side of the gate.  She had pulled herself over it.  Sigh.  This time Kate and I decided what we needed to do and since Kate was on her way to pick up meds and money for my trip she went to her favorite store, Home Depot.

    We let Rigel out to eat and I watched her.  She started to pull herself over again.  I went and said, NO.  She moved away from the gate, ate some food, went off in the yard to romp with Vega.  Not five minutes later I saw a blur on the deck.  She had launched herself over the gate from a full run.  Geez.  Kate, the front door.  I’m going after her.  Rigel went into the front yard, ignoring me.  Kate came out and called her.  Rigel ran, not toward Kate, but toward the front door to the house.

    She is now in her crate as we seal off yet one more escape route.  She tests our ingenuity.  Regularly.

  • An Entrance to Faery

    Summer                              Waning Strawberry Moon

    My cards were good.  I won some hands.  But.  Boy, did I screw up when I took a chance on a hand where winning would have offered double points, but losing, as I did, with below a minimum, quadrupled the penalty.  Ouch!  Sigh.

    The night was glorious.  A warm summer night, a clear sky, the kind of night when everyone is a child, just waiting for the other kids to come out, to play one last game, perhaps wave a sprinkler around or sit down and talk.

    A night much like the one I experienced in New Harmony, Indiana when I walked down a lane past the only open air Episcopalian church in the country, designed by Phillip Johnson.  This astonishing church is on one side of a lane that runs back into a woods.  Just across the lane, behind a wonderful small restaurant, The Red Geranium, is a grove of conifers planted on small drumlins.  Inside a modest maze created by these trees lies, improbably, the grave of one of the 20th centuries finest theologians, Paul Tillich.

    It was just after dusk, night had come softly, but definitely.  The lane only ran for no more than half-mile on past the church and Tillich’s grave.  As I wandered back, moving away from the main street and toward the woods that lay at the end of the lane, I began to notice the fireflies.

    Right where the lane met the woods, fireflies congregated, blinking off and on, creating an arc of bioluminescence.  Then others began to blink, further back in the woods.  There were thousands of them and as the ones further in began to blink they created the effect of a tunnel of light, blinking on and off.

    (this pic is similar, not the night I describe)

    Walking toward this between two holy places, the possibility that this was an opening to faerie seemed very plausible, even likely.

    I stood there for over a half an hour, neither entering the woods, nor leaving the lane, captured as I was by the sense of a veil between the worlds opened where I was.

  • Summer. It’s About Time.

    Summer Solstice                                      Waxing Strawberry Moon


    The longest day of the year.  Light triumphant, streaming, steaming.  The darkness held at bay.

    Summer Solstice

    This is an astronomical phenomenon transformed and translated into a spiritual one.  We humans have over millennia taken solstice and equinox alike as moments out of time, a sacred caesura when we could review our life, our path as the Great Wheel turns and turns and turns once again.

    The Celts first divided their year into two:  Beltane, the beginning of summer, and Samhain, literally summer’s end.  As their faith tradition developed, they added in both solstices and equinoxes.  Since Beltane and Samhain occurred between the spring equinox and the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice respectively, they became known as cross-quarter holidays.  Imbolc and Lughnasa filled in the other two cross-quarter spots.

    It is the eight holidays, the four astronomical ones and the four cross-quarter, that make up the Great Wheel.  In the most straight forward sense the Great Wheel emphasizes cyclical time as opposed to linear or chronological time.  This seems odd to those of us raised in the chronological tradition influenced by Jewish and Christian thought in which there is an end time.  With an end to time the obvious influence on our perception of time is that we progress through the days until they become years, which become millennia until the Day of the Lord or that great risin’ up mornin’ when the dead live and time comes to a stop.

    That this is an interpretation rather than a fact rarely crosses the mind of people raised on birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations of one year as it comes followed by the next.  Our historical disciplines from history itself to the history of ideas, art history, even geology and the theory of evolution all reinforce the essentially religious notion of time as a river flowing in one direction, emptying eventually into an unknown sea which will contain and end the river.

    Immanuel Kant, in attempting to reconcile the dueling metaphysics of two apparently contradictory philosophical schools (rationalists and empiricists), hit on the notion of time and space as a priori’s, in a sense mental hardwiring that allows us to perceive, but is not inherent in the nature of reality.  That is, we bring space and time to the table when we begin ordering our chaotic sense impressions.  My interest in the Great Wheel and in the traditional faith of my genetic ancestors came in part from a long standing fascination with the question of time.  We are never in yesterday or tomorrow, we are always in now.  What is time?  What is its nature and its correct interpretation relative to the question of chronological versus cyclical time?

    I have not settled these questions, not even in my own mind, and they continue to be live topics in philosophy.  Learning to pay attention to the Great Wheel, to the now, and to the specific place where I live has pushed me toward the cyclical view, as has gardening and now the keeping of bees.  It is, today, the Summer Solstice.  Again.  As it was the last time the earth visited this location in space (ah, yes, space.  another conversation which we’ll bracket for now) and as it will be the next time.  This is a literally cyclical view of time based on the earth’s orbit around the sun, one which returns us, over and over to much the same spot.

    Next summer when the solstice arrives the asiatic lilies will be ready to bloom, Americans will be getting ready to celebrate the fourth of July and kids will be out of school.  The mosquitoes will have hatched, the loons returned and basketball will finally be over.  These kind of phenological observations depend on the repetitive, cyclical character of natural events.  There is a real sense in which this time does not move forward at all, rather it exists in a state of eternal return, one solstice will find itself happening again a year later.  Is there any progress, from the perspective of the solstice, from one to the next?  Not in my opinion.

    I don’t deny the intellectual value of arranging knowledge in what appears to be a rational sequence. It aids learning and explanation, but it may well be a mistake to think that sequence exists outside our mental need for it.  It may just be that time is, in some sense, an illusion, a useful one to be sure, but an illusion none the less.

    Even if it is, we still will have the Summer Solstice and its celebration of light.  We will still have the Winter Solstice and its celebration of the dark.  We can see each year not as one damned thing after another, but as a movement from the light into the dark and back out again.  We can see the year as a period of fallowness and cold (here in the temperate latitudes) followed by a period of fertility and abundance.  This is the Great Wheel and it currently makes the most sense to me.  That’s the light I have today anyhow.  Let’s talk next year at this time.

  • The Summer Solstice

    76  bar rising 30.00   6mph SSE  dew-point 66   Summer

                                Jacksonville, Mississippi

                                     Full Flower Moon

    Beltane 2008 has passed into history.  Look under the Great Wheel tab this afternoon or evening for a Summer Solstice posting.

    The plan today is to head west.   A bit of time at Vicksburg Battle Field (civil war), then on into Louisiana.  I’m thinking I’ll end up somewhere around Shrevesport, but we’ll see.

    Now.  Breakfast at the Waffle House.