Friday, August 6, 2010

August Eve, The Subtle Turning

When I first started celebrating the seasonal holidays of the Wheel of the Year some were easy and comfortable while I found some others harder to get a handle on. Winter Solstice and Halloween were two that seemed easiest because I use variations on childhood celebrations as my current celebrations. February First and August Eve have been two of the hardest for me to find resonance with. These are subtle holidays. They don’t have the glitzy trappings or big star appeal. They aren’t at major, even-the-muggles-notice-them seasonal markers. They are the gateways into the transitional seasons. Like I said, they’re subtle.

There was a time in my life where I asked everyone I knew what their most and least favorite months were. My theory is that people liked the months they were born in most but the evidence did not support the theory though the subject certainly merits more research. I found that people disproportionately dislike February and liked the summer months. Summer is fun, they would say. Swimming and sunny days and no school! February is dreary and cold and you just want spring to come. I never had much of a beef with February but have always disliked August.

Celebrating February First as a holiday has transformed my indifference about February into full blown excitement. February is when spring starts! It is when trees start budding and the green parts of crocuses and daffodils start showing up. The days start getting longer! Yes, these are subtle signs of spring that come well before the showy signs in April. I think celebrating August Eve is doing the same thing with August. In the past I’ve always felt worn down by August. It’s hot, the days are getting shorter, the grass is getting browner. It’s the time right before my birthday and it has been pretty awful some years. But last year to some extent, and this year even more so, it’s much better. It’s the sublte turning into autumn, my favorite season. Awesome!

To celebrate August Eve I try to do something physical or competetive to commemorate the manly and physical energies of the God at this season. One story associated with the holiday is that of Lugh Lamfada and his foster mother Tailtiu which clearly illustrates the connection between games and this seasonal festival.

Tailtiu was the royal Lady of the Fir Bolg. After the defeat of her people by the Tuatha De Dannan, she was obliged by them to clear a vast forest for the purpose of planting grain. She died of exhaustion in the attempt. The legend states that she was buried beneath a great mound named for her, at the spot where the first feast of Lughnasadh was held in Ireland, the hill of Tailte. At this gathering were held games and contests of skill as well as a great feast made up of the first fruits of the summer harvest.... (For the rest of the story and commentary see this page by Kathleen Dupree)

This year my physical activity celebration was a rafting trip on the North Umpqua, a beautiful river in Southern Oregon. The river is a popular rafting river and the section we rafted was difficult enough that I was glad I was with friends who have worked as river guides. There was one memorable moment when I screamed “We’re all going to die!” and five seconds later we were on flat water. “Oh, I might have over reacted.”

Feeling the river working it’s way through the mountains under my paddle was such an amazing experience. Setting up the raft, carrying it, paddling and putting all the gear away was hard work. We cooked hot dogs and veggie kabobs over the open fire and I slept soundly under the fir trees and summer stars that night. One of the highlights of the trip happened just as we were pulling the raft into our take out. We had been watching an osprey overhead for a minute or two when it folded its wings and dropped into the river only to emerge with a good sized trout in it’s talons.

Maybe it was the cool early summer, or maybe it’s the grand adventure to ring in the month or maybe it’s just a maturity as I reach my 30th birthday next month but I’m actually looking forward to August this year. I’ll look for the subtle signs of autumn’s approach in shortening days, turning leaves and changing sunlight. I'll enjoy the harvests as they come, one after a nother. The hay harvest was already well underway as I drove down to Roseburg and back. The first tomato should come out of my garden any day!

What did you do to celebrate your physicality this summer? What seasonal holidays or celebrations have changed your outlook on a particular time of year? When was the last time you spent a day on the river?

AUGUST, thou monarch of the mellow noon,
That with thy sceptre smit'st the teeming plain
And gladd'nest all the world with golden grain,
How oft have I, beneath thy harvest moon,
Harkened the cushat's soft insistent croon,
As to the night she told her soul in pain,
Or heard the corn-crake to his mate complain,
When all things slept, beneath the sun aswoon!
The world with sun and sheen is overfed
And the faint heart, its need once done away,
Soon waxes weary of the summer-day
And the sun blazing in the blue o'erhead,
"Would God that it were night!" is apt to say
And "Would the summer-heats were oversped!"
-John Payne

The beautiful photos are by Kenneth Moyle and heritagefutures. Thank you so much! Please go check out their Flickr streams.

1 comment:

fillingcalix said...

Wow! 30th! That is HUGE! So glad we'll be able to share it with you. And remember you can celebrate for any 30 days you choose!