Sunday, 2 August 2009

Archive: Lùnasdal 2009 - First Fruit(s)

Perhaps taking the idea more literally than necessary for the season...

What you see here is the whole of our harvest for the season so far, with the addition of some herbs that I've pruned back. A raspberry and an alpine strawberry. Astounding, isn't it?

Although this isn't technically the whole of it, seeing as there was a blueberry ready for the picking too, except Rosie nabbed it before I could stop her. She assured me it was very tasty.

To be fair though, I'm just pleased that I had something to harvest, even if it was something of a token gesture this year - the fact that all of the plants I put in to the flowerbed have survived so far is an achievement in itself, really, given the battle between the slugs and Mungo the Destroyer. I could've waited to celebrate until the other fruits had ripened (the other four blueberries then, seeing as that was all that was left after Rosie decided to pick all the others to show me that they weren't ripe yet), but there are a ton of raspberries around the village that are begging to be picked, and even three - yes three - blackberries that have ripened. That's the earliest I've ever seen them so far. I haven't found any away from the roads yet, though, so I'll wait until the ones are ready in the garden. Berries with added exhaust fumes might be a little too flavourful for my tastebuds...

It was the blackberries that decided it. I was going to celebrate on Thursday intervened.

It's been a tough few weeks with Mr Seren being away for so much of the time, so he took pity on me and offered to take the kids to softplay in the afternoon so I could have a break. Rosie has a cold and fell asleep on the stairs (her favourite spot for an impromptu nap), so Mr Seren ended up taking just Tom, but it gave me the peace and quiet I needed to get my personal devotions done and the celebrations started properly (serenaded by Rosie's snoring, of course) - I started with some offerings and a Good Wish, and put the offerings and some shells I'd painted and decorated with glitter to make them look like strawberries around the outdoor space I've been working on in the garden. After much internal debating I've gone with my instincts and decided the cairn I was intending to build to finish the space off would be better to be done at Samhainn.

I collected the fruit and herbs, sained the house with the water I've saved from Bealltainn, and decorated my shelf shrine with the herbs and some rowan berries I'd collected earlier in the week. I also put a rowan charm up on the shelf that I'd made earlier in the week, too - a bigger and fancier one than I usually do, as you can see. Then I set about making some smaller charms from a small branch that had snapped off the tree in the garden - one for me to carry about, and one to hang in the bedroom. It felt good to be making them with wood from the tree I planted - my first ones. I put them in place with the charm I made last year, which seems to work well.

That's about all I managed before Rosie woke up, so after calming her down (she insisted she'd 'lost' Tom) we set about preparing our feast. The lamb was put in the oven, with the spuds peeled and par-boiled to roast in garlic butter with rosemary, and then Rosie helped me do the cranachan and some yetholm bannocks and prepare the veg (we had peas and carrots, and some romanesco, which is a rather sinister-looking vegetable, but very tasty). Rosie had a good nose around and declared my decorations "Boo'ful!" and then homed in on the fruit...Mungo later stole the remaining bannocks off the sideboard - which I hadn't got around to putting away because they were still cooling and I assumed that even Mungo wouldn't be too keen on ginger, but nooooooooo. So that was less than ideal, but at least there was enough of everything else to leave as offerings before I went to bed. Little sod. Unfortunately that wasn't the only minor disaster to happen at the paws of Mungo...

After games (the kids got a fishing game with a magazine, so we had a competition to see who could catch the most, and we played noughts and crosses, too - we were going to play cards but I realised the only one we have in the house is Mr 'Young Magician of the Year 1982' Seren's trick deck that he uses for magic tricks...) and a bath for the kids I sat down for a wee while to catch a break and relax and contemplate. It was a nice evening so there were lots of kids running around outside and I wanted to make sure things were quiet before I took the dogs out to leave some raspberries for Lug at the vantage point overlooking the sea and Argyll and Bute that I went to last year. So eventually as dusk set in, things quietened down and off I went, Eddie and Mungo in tow, as intended, and my new charm safely in my pocket.

It was close outside and I wondered if there was going to be thunder later on - you could feel the pressure building - but the air was very still as I got to the spot and got out the raspberries. There's a large grass verge there so I'd let Mungo off the lead so he could have a run around - Eddie's obsessed with walking in circles so I rarely have him on the lead unless it's necessary, but I don't trust Mungo enough to do that unless I know there won't be any cars he'll want to try and herd (he was born on a farm - you'd think he'd know the difference between giant hunks of metal and sheep, but nooooo). In spite of the fact that it was his second walk of the evening, he had a lot of energy to bounce off so I let him at it, and he happily nosed around in the bushes while Eddie danced excitedly in circles, waiting for something to happen.

I made my offerings, stood back and took in the scenery. There were a few clouds in the sky - horses' tails, how apt, I thought...The lighthouse over on Bute was flashing intermittently, catching my eye. The air was still, humid but clean and cleansing as I took a deep breath or two. All was peaceful and calm. I was thinking about how I was starting to get it, now; I've always had a hard time connecting with this festival, but I was really feeling something this time, building on my modest successes from last year and the year before and actually starting to feel some connection with Lug himself. I felt like I was being acknowledged, heard. Something was starting to fall into place - my attempts at growing some fruit, tending to them, building up to their harvesting and so on had really helped me understand things a bit more. It's not about the start or end of the season, so much as it's about continuity. With my efforts at tending to the garden it's helped to smooth everything out into a good flow - not just one festival, then another, then another, but a thread carrying on from one to the next. And this year, I've even got something to show for it, however modest the results.

And then, just as I'm starting to feel quite pleased with myself, and I'm thinking that another piece has clicked into place, something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye - there's a fox trotting across the road some distance away. Which would've been fantastic if it weren't for the fact that Mungo saw the fox too and was haring off to say hello to his newest best friend before I could catch him. In Mungo's world everyone's his best friend, and everyone wants to play, and all I can think as I'm running as fast I can and trying to call him back is that the fox is going to hand Mungo's arse to him on a plate if the stupid sod catches up and gets close enough. Thankfully the fox was far away enough to make a clean getaway and Mungo decided that rooting around in the undergrowth wasn't as much fun as he thought it would be and came back quickly. True to form, Eddie followed and ran around in small circles - not quite sure what was going on, but being excited for everyone anyway.

So if all that was supposed to be a sign, I've no idea what it portends. Maybe it was supposed to be an acknowledgment. I felt bad for the fox getting such a scare, but I was glad that nobody was hurt at least. We saw another fox (this one we see around a lot, the other I've never seen before) as we made our way home (both Mungo and Eddie firmly on their leads, this time), and she stopped briefly to look at who was coming before scurrying off on her way. She's been a constant companion these past few weeks, along with the owls and bats, hooting and dancing around as I've walked the dogs of an evening. One night I started off being serenaded by two owls (unusual, because there's only ever been one before), saw a shooting star shoot straight ahead of me, followed our fox friend pretty much the rest of the way along our route - with her leading us from a safe distance, dipping in and out of hedges - but not before finishing off with two bats flying around together. Other times I've been woken up by a chorus of crows making a godawful racket at 4am (but not before dreaming of ravens as the noise seeped into my subconscious...). There was the frog I had to shoo across the road (I didn't want it to get squished, and it seemed intent on following us, which meant heading for the busier roads), and then the giant spider I came across in the park - which frightened the life out of me at first, but not as much as the raucous squawks of something in a tree over the other side of the park that started up as I stopped to take a closer look (I like spiders and consider them to be a good sign, but this one was seriously huge and pulsated - even Mungo was unsure whether or not a quick sniff was a good idea). I thought the squawking was kids taking the piss at first, but there was nothing and nobody there. I ended up walking around to see if there was something dying on the road by the park, it was that loud and insistent. But then I realised that maybe it was just being territorial and perhaps I should take a hint...

So there have been signs agogo recently. Maybe it's just the time of year. Maybe it's all the crap that's been going on lately. Maybe I'm just expecting to see them, so I can try to make sense of everything going on at the moment, so it all has meaning. Or maybe I'm just completely missing the point...

When I got home I took some ogam to help me focus and maybe get an idea of where this was all going. I picked h-Úath, Onn and then Gort (I got the sense that the first was referring to events since Bealltainn, much of which hasn't been good, with the second suggesting my struggling to figure things out and find the right direction. The last one seemed pretty positive, but maybe I'm just grasping at optimism...). I was worried that Mungo's antics might have caused offence (though I don't think it did, seeing as he's in one piece and looking pleased with himself, and then there was the second fox we saw) so I went outside to see what the wind said. Nothing, really. So I left out the best of the dinner and headed off to bed.

I slept badly - it was still so close and I was too hot and at one point had to get up to get a blanket because I was boiling under the duvet. I always think I should make a note of the dreams I have after celebrating a festival, because there might be an important message in them, but then I always sleep soundly and don't remember much of anything. So this time was different. Thanks to my broken sleep I had lots of dreams - some of which were just snatches of images - a flash of lightning was one, probably because I was hoping for the weather to break. I had an odd dream - a mix between Prison Break and Lost (I would guess - I've never really seen either) where some men were being experimented on in a secret prison. Their prison suits were booby trapped and kept electrocuting them, but one of the prisoners was given his freedom by the Deep Purple Organisation (I know...), but it seemed that it was a ploy to mess with everybody's heads (is it a coincidence that I dyed my hair purple a few days ago? Hmm). The men tried to take their suits off but were still getting shocks, and I remember thinking there bodies were all wrong - too long and distended and bloated. I put that one down to being too hot under the duvet, with underlying stress making it more fun. The next dream was also odd. I'm sure there was something to do with a rubber snake to start with, I think I kept having to pick it up, and then I was excited because I saw some real snakes - two of them, I think. But the main part was about a woman. She came up to me, smiling (she didn't stop smiling, in fact, but I'd caught a bit of Batman earlier so maybe that had something to do with it...Except the smile wasn't sinister or wrong in some way, unlike Jack Nocholson's...), and she was wearing a dark green dress made of heavy material. She told me I needed to ask her something, so I did. I can't remember the question, but I remember I called her Bride. She gave me the answer, which I also can't remember, and then told me there was something else she needed to say. All I remember is that she told me that I need to trust, but I know she said more than that.

The kids woke me up from that one, I think - it was barely past 6am and Tom was insisting he'd had a bad dream and wanted a cuddle (though I don't know if he had, or just didn't want me to send him back to bed because it was too early), so I was a little flustered, trying to keep the dream in my head and sorting the kids out at the same time. It was Mr Seren's turn to get up with them today so at least I got some more sleep after that, and after he couldn't take it any more I got up while he went back to bed and made some Brodick bannocks for a late breakfast, which I blessed as usual. They were very tasty with jam and butter and it seemed only fitting to leave one as an offering to Bride, with some milk.

I was going to have a go at making some cheese later in the day but never got round to it - today has mostly been about tending to the lurgy'd, seeing as Mr Seren's coming down with Rosie's cold (and therefore it will obviously turn into swine flu by tomorrow, because he never takes illness with good grace) and Rosie is still in full flow of snot, phlegm and now a productive cough. Given the crappy weather it seemed like a walk through the woods was a bad idea, considering, so we'll hold off on that - I tend to take the kids out so we can spot the signs of the new season.

Aside from that though, I've done most of the things I was intending to do. All things considered I think I've received a bit of a headfuck in return...So far I'm really not sure what to make of it.