August 1, 2017
I hate to think too soon about summer’s conclusion—not while I have beach dates planned—but nature proceeds whether we pay attention or not, the story playing out whether I’m snoozing in the sand or sweltering on the subway. There’s one reason the sun shines, and it’s this: For its energy to pass to the grain.
Last August, my brain spun dismayed dystopias at the prospect of President Trump, and yet here we are, the post-apocalypse more tragically mundane than I’d imagined. I wanted to remember Donald Trump as a whispered legend of authoritarians refused, not a tortuous drip-drip-drip across my media stream. But maybe there’s an upside I’m missing, a bizarre plot twist or longer story arc. Maybe white male supremacy and evangelicist dominion are finally discredited, and once we pass the trial, humans can move on to save the climate. Things pass, next chapter!
I love invisible holidays, the ones that proceed in lock-step with the barely discernible passage of seasons. You probably don’t realize today is the Celtic (and sometimes Christian) holiday Lammas – or “loaf-mass” — the midpoint between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. It’s the day when the sun-god transfers his power to the grain. The power of the sun sinks into the grain as it ripens, and in this way the god is sacrificed for us ordinary mortals whose bodies are nourished by the first bread of the new season. Also called the “first harvest,” Lammas is a moment to register the abundance to come, from politics to the prairie. On the status of our dear USA: I’ve not been shy about identifying with “the resistance,” and I consider its first harvest to be the defeat of healthcare repeal. The steady sowing of calls to senators evidently produced a yield!
To me, Lammas offers a pause to consider that all this sun is doing something. It may be cyclical, repetitive, but that’s because it’s the essence of the tale, the thing that makes the pages turn. Wheat and corn are just emerging, and promise proper reaping to come. The sun still blazes, but what we see less clearly is how the visible light is gradually diminishing as it passes into the cell walls of the grain, making mitochondria, so that when the light finally fades, the grain won’t. The sun will inhabit our very bodies all the way to Winter Solstice and beyond. That’s drama!
We fail to support the plot if we don’t honor the sun’s sacrifice by putting all this energy to use. There are other things that proceed invisibly: the setting aside of prejudices, injustice and blind self-interest, the big picture, actual progress and equality, fair-mindedness, maturity, wisdom, all of which require nourishment to grow. After we’ve eaten our bread and corn and melons and blackberries, we can follow the sun’s lead and pass on the energy so abundantly available by, say, voicing our values, by supporting the causes and electing the representatives who promote them, by making the art and business that reflect them. If the sun faithfully executes its storyline, then why shouldn’t we? If I can call my senators daily over healthcare, then what else can I call them about, so long as I have those numbers handy? We can still show up at rallies and congressional offices, hoist signs and raise our voices. We can also volunteer our time, and educate ourselves about the realities of feeding our children and communities. We can school ourselves in all those mundane, fact-of-life things like health-market stability, infrastructure, the waste-stream, basic economics and banking, the status of bumblebees and glaciers, and the compromises necessary to get things done. An epic story has more than one arc, and twists abound. Now is the time to grow muscles and push the narrative. Once again, it’s time to build a world. So turns the wheel of the year.
I can’t lie, I’m going to follow the story until my last brain cell blinks out. What’s after that is not my business to deduce, but I’ll follow the sun’s lead for now and do my work one more time, insist on making a protagonist of myself, and I’ll ever applaud each time the word becomes flesh. For today, I do have a beach date, so pass me a good book—speculative fiction, please!—and a cold beverage, and once I’ve chased all the stray sand out of my bedroom, I’m back in business with nourishment to burn. Foreshadow me hopeful. Happy Summer!
Here’s a great article for your summer beach reading.