Wayfinding sign in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, photo by Jodi Rhoden
Transformation is a law of nature. The seasons roll, one to the next, in an endless circle; we mark their changes with words and foods and celebrations. Yesterday was the cross-quarter Holy Day of Lammas, the mid-way point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. Lammas is the feast of the blessing of the grain and the first fruits of the harvest. Lammas is a reckoning: it tells us about what we sow and what we reap.
The ever-wonderful Waverly Fitzgerald has this to say about Lammas in her comprehensive archives at School of the Seasons:
“The Celts celebrate this festival from sunset August 1 until sunset August 2 and call it Lughnasad after the God Lugh. It is the wake of Lugh, the Sun-King, whose light begins to dwindle after the summer solstice. The Saxon holiday of Lammas celebrates the harvesting of the grain. The first sheaf of wheat is ceremonially reaped, threshed, milled and baked into a loaf. The grain dies so that the people might live. Eating this bread, the bread of the Gods, gives us life. If all this sounds vaguely Christian, it is. In the sacrament of Communion, bread is blessed, becomes the body of God and is eaten to nourish the faithful. This Christian Mystery echoes the pagan Mystery of the Grain God.”
For me, this week also marked a personal milestone: I celebrated my 40th birthday camping on the shores of Lake Santeetlah, swimming and grilling and boating with loved ones, accompanied by downpours followed by blue skies. Being in those deep woods and deep waters, I had time to reflect on my own seasons: in the decade since turning 30 I have became a mother, started a business, separated from my husband, journeyed the South, found magical friends and magical lovers, wrote a book, fell in love again (with my husband!), buried a best friend, quit smoking, sold my business. My hair has thinned, my skin and my waist have thickened. I have been honored to forge new and deep and beautiful friendships. I have severed some ties that bind. I have worked like my life depended on it, because it did. I have survived. I have healed. I have struggled to get to the heart of the matter, which is always, and always will be: Love.
How to give love, and how to receive?
My friend Jess recently wrote: “how will we ever learn to not look for home around each and every corner? Letting go may be the only way to find more. More homes, more love, more life. Uncurling our tight fingers and giving each a moment to feel the cool air that is moving. While fear may creep in, moving only happens here.”
I believe this is the truth. Letting go of the past is the only path to the present- or as Joseph Campbell put it, “we must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Our attachment to our ego (or to our shame, or to our routine, or to our privilege, or to our own expectations) is what prevents us from sitting in the truth of the moment: that we are loved unconditionally and we are a source of unconditional love. From this love comes all power, all strength, all transformation: all forward motion and all life-affirming growth. I had to let go of the Cake Shop and my identity there to grow into who I needed to become. I had to let go of my marriage to have the love I so desperately longed for. I had to let go of the illusion of love in relationships from my past to make room for real love now.
Astrologically, this shift has been expressed as the transit of Saturn through Scorpio, starting in 2012, followed by Mars (which just moved out of Scorpio on July 29th). Scorpio requires us to face the truth and heal, to get deep in the muck and mire and clear the channels of the “sex, death, and power” energy in our lives. Scorpio will drag you kicking and screaming if you don’t go willingly. But if you do, the rewards are oh so sweet: abundance, joy, friendship, and overflowing love, as symbolized by one of my favorite Tarot cards, the 3 of Cups.
And as above, so below- the personal is political. As we are all made- by hook or by crook- to let go of our preconceived notions of what our life should be in favor of the beauty of what our life is, so does our social and political life call us to let go of all that we thought we were in favor of what we can be. In other words, we who are white must relinquish our white privilege in order to restore our humanity. #Blacklivesmatter is a necessary upheaval: this country was established by genocide, rape, and slavery. We have to face this truth. We have to face the truth that, in order to heal from this painful legacy, we have to absolutely and totally transform ourselves from what we once were. We must let go of the past. We must resign from our unearned privilege, or, when that is not possible, use it to leverage protection and access for those who are more vulnerable. We must risk harm to protect the whole. We must risk the fear of leaping into the unknown. We must be willing to let go of everything we thought we were in order to become the people we were meant to be.
In reflecting on my 40th birthday, and dreaming of what I want to create and welcome in my next decade of life, I was surprised at how happily mundane my dreams have become. Sure, I would love to write another book, go to graduate school, or travel the world. Those things would be wonderful. But when I blow out the candles I instead find myself wishing for much quieter joys. The ability to be present and calm in my body. The clarity to listen deeply to the people I am closest with. The capacity to see and feel and receive the love that others give to me. The bravery to let go of the past. I believe that love is here, right now. I believe that the best is yet to come. I believe that we can heal our hearts and we can heal our world. All we have to do is leave behind everything we ever thought we were.