I’ve noticed lately the influences of the approaching cross-quarter “season” of Lughnasadh. The sun has fallen lower in the sky (it’s down to a declination of around 18 degrees now, 5 degrees lower than at summer solstice); the air is cooler, even when the temperature is high, which is to say, 91 degrees F a couple of weeks ago felt much more intense than 91 does now; there’s an increasing accumulation of crinkling dead-fall on the ground; apples are now much more mature in the orchard; the foxes showed up recently (I could hear them calling in the night); there is a difficult to articulate sense that time has moved on from its initial summer exuberance and the energies of summer are now coalescing inwardly much more, to produce a harvest, to prepare for winter, and for other, more mystical happenings which are beneath normal perception or verbal encapsulation.
It really began with a thunderstorm last weekend, during which a number of scattered, rumbling waves of flashing clouds flowed overhead all through the night of July 22. It was also around that time I first heard the foxes calling in the night. I actually vaguely sensed that Lughnasadh might be just emerging, but only now does it seem definitely so. The dragon flies which come in droves every year are now spiraling in the evening sun, shining like copper and gold depending upon which kind they are. There are more this year than usual and it is quite a show they put on in the slanting rays of evening. I love to stand in the yard while they maneuver around me. I noticed last night for the first time how truly silent they are. You would expect their wings to buzz like those of a bee or a fly, but they are silent. It makes them all the more magical to me. The wings of one type, I believe the Meadowhawks, are black and lacy, much like eye-lashes. The other variety (not identified yet) have copper-colored wings that are also lacy and give the appearance of a gentle blur against the dark green of the pines and oaks.
While I was watering the oleanders last weekend, along the southern edge of the orchard, an enormous Meadowhawk was circling around. It flew very close by on several occasions, which felt like a blessing to me. They possess a wonderful vibration which I find harmonious and soothing. This particular Meadowhawk was about the size of our Rufous hummingbirds, one of which I also saw last weekend. In contrast to the silent swiftness of the Meadowhawk, the Rufous make a definite roar of wing battering air when they fly. They are every bit the tiny, mighty warriors that the Navaho know them to be.
Lately I’ve been doing various experiments towards building a sundial near the house. I’ve been working on the horizontal variety. It’s very interesting to do this, though for me it has proven rather challenging as I get mixed results with what should be very straightforward geometry. At any rate, I’m more interested in the insubstantial, subjective experience of the process of contemplating and physically working on a sundial. I get a very nice sense of self-sufficiency, of unplugging from the frenetic and draining energy of the electric frenzy of what now passes for civilization. I feel joined in a strong physical way with the ancients who built stone circles as clocks and astronomical calculators to weave daily life into the eternity in which it swims. And I am making progress as the project evolves through various stages and generations.
Sundials, traditionally, have had mottos, or aphorisms which serve the purpose of a contemplation around the passage, or the immensity, of time and one’s place in it and one’s use of it. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Tempus fugit. (Time flies.)
- Carpe diem (Seize the day.)
- Utere, non numera. (Use the hours, don’t count them.)
- Lente hora, celeriter anni. (An hour passes slowly, but the years go by quickly.)
- Vita in motu (Life is in motion.)
- Vivere momento. (Remember to live.)
These thoughts seem suitable to the emergence of Lughnasadh (July 31/August 1) and impending autumn. It may seem early to talk about autumn, but the progress of time is a wheel that rolls, seemingly faster and faster with each passing year, and each season comes around quickly. In fact, Lughnasadh, and its equivalents (the cross-quarter “seasons” — check these fascinating “maps” of the “wheel of the year”), are each placed midway between the onset of one season and the arrival of the next. Lughnasadh is midway between the start of summer and the start of fall, thus it represents that summer’s lion has passed from its energetic, vernal splendor and is moving now towards its autumnal fruition and soon-to-come winter’s austerity. Each season contains elements of the preceding and the subsequent, the latter of which become more evident about midway between any two seasons.
If one observes one’s thoughts, and the events in one’s life, patterns emerge which indicate influences more fundamental than seasons, but which quicken the cycle of the seasons as well as one’s individual physical, mental and emotional spheres. The habituated mind tends to anticipate the shifting seasons and begins to note the emerging signs in the physical environs. But the more fundamental influences moving within the ethereal realms carry one through cycles that purify, reveal, and illumine the greater principles and purposes of life. These forces provide opportunities for real and lasting growth, and not just being stuck in the endless repeating cycle which is implied by the image of a wheel. The chance to get up and take the reins of that cart which we drive through this lifetime, with all its cargo, is an opportunity latent in the eternal cycle of birth, life, agedness, death, and rebirth, which the seasons dramatize for us. A fiery torch of breath, representing one’s life’s allotted vital energy, is carried inwardly through the seasons, and symbolized outwardly by the ancient ceremonies of their coming and going; the flame imbues each and every moment with vitality and illuminates the hidden treasures of each instant of time, which if embraced and fulfilled in the moment of time, permit the richness of life to be fully lived.
Some previous posts about Lughnasadh.