Monday, August 3, 2009

August Eve, In the Woods!

In the heat of the summer comes the festival of Lammas, Lughnassad or Teltane - the festival of the first harvest. In the Great Story this is the time when the Father God accepts his duty to sacrifices himself so that all life may continue to be reborn. One story of this time of year is that of John Barleycorn, who as he dies turns into the seed which will be planted so he can grow again the next year. The grain's sacrifice allows nourishing bread to be made.

Another god associated with this time of year is that of Lugh, a celtic diety who's many names refer to his "long arm" or "skilled ways". There is a story that his foster mother, a royal by the name of Tailtiu, was set to the task of clearing a forest so grain could be planted but died of exhaustion in her attempt. Lugh declared a feast in her honor and organized games to be played during the feast. This feast and games are in some way the predecessor of our modern county fairs with rodeos and family picnics with potato sack races.

In exploring how I celebrate this festival I been drawn time and again to this idea of gathering together to play games or be outdoors. One year I organized a picnic at the beach for my Americorps team that included crazy bat races, rain gear relays and water balloon tosses. Like most of my Wheel of the Year celebrations it was not explicitely a Lammas celebration, but the meaning was just the same. This year I organized a camping trip to Central Oregon. It was glorious!

I took two whole days off work and spent three night camping along side beautiful lakes outside of Bend, Oregon. A group of friends came out to meet me and we spent our days swimming, lounging, napping and preparing food together and our evenings eating and drinking around a campfire (and moaning over our sunburned shoulders and thighs!). And of course we cooked things over the campfire. You would never believe how good a can of Dinty Moore stew is when cooked in a wood fire and eaten in the woods. We also made a giant batch of veggie packs, a perennial favorite campfire fare.

Camp Fire Veggie Packs

To bring with you camping:
*A big roll of heavy duty aluminum foil
*Cooking oil of your choice (or strips of bacon, if you do that sort of thing)
*A cutting board and knife sharp enough to cut your veggies
*Vegetables - onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, brussels sprouts, green beans. Whatever is in season and tasty.
*Salt, pepper, garlic powder and/or other seasonings of your choice
To assemble and cook:
*Cut your veggies into relatively uniform size pieces, about 1 inch square. Keep harder veggies a little smaller than softer ones so they cook in about the same time.
*Tear off relatively large square sheets of aluminum foil and lay two on top of each other. Add a little cooking oil to the top square and add a selection of veggies. Mix and match your favorites as you would like - try carrots and mushrooms, or brussels sprouts and onions - or just add a little of everything. You don't want to overload the foil pack with veggies or they will steam and not cook evenly. Imagine the square of foil divided into a 3x3 grid and you don't want your veggies to take up too much more than the center square. Stir the veggies gently to oil them all up and sprinkle with salt, pepper or other seasoning. Alternatively, lay slices of bacon on the foil, add veggies on top and then maybe another slice of bacon. Try this with potatoes or eggplant. Wow.
*Fold the foil over the sides of the pile of veggies and then bring the top and bottom up and crimp it down over itself to seal the packet. It should be pretty securely crimped up.
*Place the sealed up packet of veggies either in the coals surrounding the fire or on a grate over top of a hot coal bed. You don't really want to place the foil over licking flames but instead over hot coals that you rake away from the flames. Leave the packets for 20 minutes or longer, depending on how hot the coals are and how big your veggies are. You can use tongs to pull one pack out, open it up (carefully so the steam doesn't get you) and taste. Crimp it back up and throw it back in if they aren't done to your liking. It's best when they get a little charred around the edges. That's how you know you're camping!

I realized as I was getting ready to leave on Sunday that I hadn't looked at a clock, except incidentally as I drove to and from the swimming beach, in close to 48 hours. I was living according to the natural rhythm of summer camping - wake up when the tent gets too hot, go to the lake when the campsite gets too hot, nap in your tent when the thundestorms hit, cook over the fire as it gets dark and fall asleep when you are tired.

In her book Slow Time, Waverly Fitzgerald writes about how our artificial time of seconds and days and months came into existence and offers activities to help us jump off the hamster wheel and into the river of natural time. It's hard to do in a 40 hour work week when I have to be somewhere at a specific time and get to leave at another specific time but it feels wonderful when I can break away from it.

Like the natural time of waking when the sun comes up and resting when it goes down the festival of August Eve reminds us that a time will come, quite soon, for the year to rest in the darkness of winter. August Eve reminds us that the fields must rest in the darkness of the fallow season and eventually our bodies must rest in the darkness of death. But not quite yet. We still have a glorious harvest season ahead of us including the hot, lazy Dog Days of summer.

How did you celebrate August Eve? When was the last time you broke away from artificial time and swam in the river of natural time? What is reminding you of the upcoming harvest and subsequent winter? What's your favorite thing to cook over a campfire?


The House of Perpetual Indulgence said...


Found your blog through the Living in Season blog (which I only just found yesterday). I'm here in Oregon too.

This Lammas we found our new house. We offered and they countered and we accepted. We will sign Sept 10, but the sellers want to stay an other two weeks and rent back in order to close on their new place. So yeah, we'll be moving in on the Equinox. I couldn't plan it if I tried.

This isn't the first time we've moved to a new place on August 1st interestingly. So for me Lammas seems to be about finding a place to weather the coming winter months (I will avoid a bad joke about "harvest home"... I will).

I very much enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it in the future.

greenspell said...

Love your post on Lammas. This is one of my favorite holidays!

Glad you enjoyed Bend, as well. I live in Bend!