Nature waits on a taken breath, gathering her will for the darkness ahead.
Balanced, we hang with her between light and darkness, celebrating the harvest of our days while quietly calculating: will it be enough to take us through what comes?
In days past, this calculation was much less metaphorical and much more specific. Count the potatoes and the apples, the grain and the grape and the berries preserved; would they hold through the winter? Would we reach Ostara safely, bored with our winter staples but grateful for their sufficiency? Or would we stagger desperately towards it through the last weeks of a starving, terrified winter?
If a fire or flood destroyed a storehouse, if rats found ways into the granary or the rotten apple spread its poisons, if a neighbor's misfortune taxed our own stores to share with them, the calculations would be off. Lives could be lost.
Even after the advent of supermarkets, the harvest still held literal agricultural meaning for many people. My grandmother's well-stocked shelves of quart jars were a testament to the annual cycle of 'plant, tend, harvest, preserve'. Sure, the IGA in town sold canned peas and preserves, but as long as she owned a garden, she trusted her winters to its bounty. No matter the state of those dark country roads, she would eat.
Today, American abundance doesn't wax and wane with the fruits of the harvest. Here in Central Texas, 'winter' is mostly a relative term. We look forward to a respite from the baking three-digit temperatures and perhaps one or two good freezes to kill off the fleas and mosquitoes a bit. Most people I know can't tell you when things are or are not in season for them locally, because they're available year-round in the grocery store. Fewer people every year depend upon the agricultural calendar to set the course of their days.
So how do we calculate the balance of abundance against necessity? Money, mostly. There's also a complicated dance of tasks begun and completed, investments of all sorts coming to fruition, and the ripening of our relationships. We've shoehorned the language of American prosperity and task-driven stress into the cycle of seasons.
We tend and we gather, but our fruits ripen throughout the year. For many, Mabon is a symbolic holiday, when we stop to pay lip service to the gods of harvest and reflect upon our accomplishments for the year -- a tally-time for annual scorekeeping driven by the prosperity gospel that says good people work hard, hard work rewards good people, and those who deserve it will have enough.
But the true beauty of celebrating the harvest is not simply in "Look, I got stuff!" or even the deep Puritan "I have worked hard and so I shall not starve." There's a deeper understanding to it, a moment of rest and release, when we relax into the understanding of, "Come what may, I have done my level best and I am as ready as I can be to meet it."
Modern life is beset by anxieties, by the constant feeling that one must work harder all the time, every day, to gain more and have enough. For so many people, that reality never ends; life is a constant grind of gathering with never a moment to rest and say, "I am as ready as I can be for the winter, and now I must trust in the gods and myself to meet what is coming."
So today, for Mabon, I will not reflect with pride upon what I have gathered, and what I have done. This summer has taxed me deeply, in any case, and so my harvest is a complicated understanding of my capacities and limitations. With that harvest in hand, and all that the year has brought me, I shall instead stop and hang here, quiet, in that balance of light and dark to rest. I wait with Nature upon her taken breath, as we ready the will to plunge into darkness.
I have done my level best to meet what comes, and I am as ready as I can be. I trust in myself, I trust in my harvest, and I trust in my gods that it will be enough.