This is part two of this past Sunday's message to the students of Reflections. For part one, go here.
It is amazing how when we think about the season of fall, we, especially in the Northeast, often think of all the splendor of the trees. It is a little odd since at some level the trees are experiencing a form of death with their leaves changing colors before they fall off ... and become compost. But in their decline they have that last bit of glorious color. I think of it as a reflection of the promise of spring; that the colors of fall are a reminder that spring is still ahead. So yeah, this is where things start their journeys toward repose, but do not lose hope.
And so the splendor of the second harvest is that little reminder that it is still safe to hope … it is not over. Then of course there comes the final harvest, which can be read in many ways. For those of us approaching the later phases of our life, not knowing how much time is left, it says “You know you need to start getting things done.” But it also traditionally means, “You need to start putting things away and restocking -- start preparing for winter.” For as sure as spring, summer and fall comes around, winter is not far behind.
And so the three harvests, not only to allow us to reap, but they also teach us. And I know I have said it many times, that if you want to understand spirituality, look at nature. All the lessons are there.
And we celebrate fall’s foliage by understanding what the harvests are about at all stages. That it is an urging to prepare but it is also a promise of what is to come.
The Wealthy Ones
In many cultures, when they have the harvest – not always at the same times of the year as ours -- there is the usual practice of taking the bounty and piling it up somewhere and just looking at it. Like all the apples from the orchard piled up. Or all the corn piled up or all the wheat gathered together. Just piling it up …because we need to be reminded of how well we have been treated by the earth. We need to remember how much we have received from all the work we put in. And it didn’t matter if your farm did poorly and another farm did well. Often that same table or spot was used to display all the fruits of the collective labor. It was like a statement of “We have reaped!”
Sometimes, it is hard for us to imagine what is on our harvest table. When we only look at that one underperforming patch, or something newly planted that did not grow quite right. Or something that is maybe on a two-year cycle and it is not ready yet. Sometimes we need to be reminded of all we truly have. And this is especially true now in our current economic climate. We need to be reminded of all we have in our western society where we take so many things for granted. We need to remember that all of us, every single person in this room, if we were transported to another country, a second or third world country, we would be the wealthy ones. Not that our difficulties are not real, but that difficulty is not all there is and we need to be reminded of that.
There is a beautiful song by Starhawk called Demeter’s Song. Demeter is the Greek Goddess of Agriculture. Especially for those of us living in this time, we do not get how phenomenal it was for humans to discover agriculture. Just imagine if you had to keep moving in order to find food. That you could never settle anywhere because once you ate up the food available, it was gone. And then you would have to just keep wandering in the pursuit of food, never being able to put down roots.
So can you imagine the faith, the leap of faith, it was for someone to actually put something in the ground and then wait for it to root, sprout, blossom and later produce what could be eaten. The gift of agriculture was a fundamental gift of life, and the gods of agriculture was looked upon as not only the givers of food but also the givers of laws and civilization. The entire human species changed when they were “given” agriculture. So Demeter was a pretty big deal to the ancient Greeks. And every culture that had an agricultural deity, that god was pretty central.
[I sing Demeter’s Song]
We are the wealthy ones. We have been given so much. The promise of Demeter has not ended. The promise has not been taken back. We can learn to live in a more sustainable manner. We can learn to live in harmony with others on this planet. But we need to remember always what we have already been given because we are the wealthy ones -- maybe not in coin, but in community, in education, in comfort and in safety. In spirit and in flesh, we are the wealthy ones.
There was a way I was taught, and it is also in the The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice by Wendy Palmer, if you ask for something as if do not already have it, you cannot receive it. You can only receive more of what you already have. So whenever you ask for something, you always ask, “May I have more” of whatever it is. Because that means that you acknowledge what you have already been given.
For example, I often joke about my lack of patience. Apparently I had to admit that I have a great deal of patience, because now I always ask for more patience, …. and more balance … and more rest/recovery. We need to acknowledge what we have received. We need to be able see ourselves, even in our stories about our loss, sacrifice, and devastation, that we are still the wealthy ones.
[We paused to sing the chorus together.]
And that is Demeter’s message to us. That her ability to give to us depends on our ability to receive and acknowledge what has already been given. And that is the message from the rich foliage of fall. “I have already given you the spring and the summer, and now I give you the harvest”.