Lughnasadh. Lammas. Midway between solstice and equinox; time of the early harvest. John Barleycorn’s sacrifice. What have I harvested, and what let go this summer?
Last night we sat outside as usual, listened to the night land waking up, nocturnal small creaks and rustles, exhalations, creepings. One last blackbird, a bat, a gibbous moon, and the same lamenting buzzard who mews all day, all evening.
Here at the end of the garden the rosa rugosa keeps scenting the air, opening into pink and white celebrations: each time one dies another takes its place, all summer long. perhaps this’ll be the year, after a long gap, when I’ll collect the fat ruby spheres, make a syrup.
Closer, by the kitchen window, the hollyhock has nearly reached the eaves. Last year, it topped the eaves and bent back down groundwards. It’s had, is still putting forth, an exuberance of pale creamy-pink blossoms, starred at their hearts with a crimson pentagram.
The seeds for these hollyhocks were gathered from some hollyhocks growing wild near our swimming place by a little road-bridge over the river Lot in southwest France, where E, F and H and I were staying in a 14th century cottage in a mediaeval hilltop village in 2011. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to germinate them in a number of spots in ordinary soil; turns out they need this tiny, shallow, narrow gravel strip that forms a primitive damp-course here at the foot of the wall, where they thrive on neglect and take their chances with the weather.
Beyond them, for the first time of blooming, is a single crimson blood-red spike: I stole the seeds for this from an empty 17th century manoir in Brittany about 6 years ago. I scattered these with the creamy ones in 2015. Their time has come; and I can’t help feeling there are lessons in blossoming in one’s one time even when the conditions look inauspicious, and in this thriving if left to oneself.
This morning the robin hops through the open door. Yesterday it was a young wren; earlier a juvenile flycatcher. In the outside waterbowl, in this heat, bees carefully step upside down on the stoneware sides to sip at the water’s meniscus, abdomens quivering.
Here too, lining up, are the descendants of the sparrow family who all live in the big japonica, and whose young I watched, during that time of – what? Exile, ecstasy and grief? a few years and a lifetime ago, keeping me sane as they discovered the joys of a waterbath, tail-first. This is family.
These moments light the fires of lughnasadh in my heart, which is broken open and filled, closes, is broken open and filled, over and over.