Pray to the Moon when She is round,
Luck with you will then abound,
What you seek for shall be found
On the sea or solid ground.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thoughts While Not Sleeping: Redefining the Equinox

Thanks to the combative felidae in my house, there is no sleeping in today. So I will use the time to purge some thoughts from my monkey-mind.

Forest floor, Anchorage in Autumn
The Autumnal Equinox is upon us. I have been noticing more & more people paying attention to this occasion over the years, each in their own way, whether it be secular, religious or spiritual. It is curious to me because when I was first entering the Pagan community, the general feeling towards the Fall Equinox was lukewarm. Of all the so-called "High-Days" (a discussion for another day) this one seemed most obtuse. Some books described it as a very significant celebration called "Mabon," but we all know how some books are. Friends said, "Well, actually... " and went on to argue that the Autumnal Equinox, aka "Mabon" was never actually recognized by their (at least, Northern European) ancestors. To complicate matters, we were in college. This placed us at a point of new beginnings, not endings & of course, we did not have agrarian pastimes, let alone livelihoods to tie us to any concrete harvest events. But, it was Autumn in rural Massachusetts -- fall is undeniable & breathtaking in that part of the world -- so we made it a celebration of our academic harvests & our goals of more to come. It felt a bit forced, but it was ok.

After I left Massachusetts, I began my time alone, solitary path, whatever you want to call it. What strikes me as I reflect upon those years is that the Autumnal Equinox was the single "holiday" I actively recognized most. Life had changed. Locations changed. I moved to Vermont, then to Utah. I was no longer in the glory of New England leaf-season, but autumn's approach was always certain & apparent. There is a moment, always very near the equinox, during every single autumn that I can remember -- even during childhood -- where I stand in the tilted sun & smell fall's arrival. Then I say aloud (to myself, but always aloud), "Fall is here."

Since I began living in Alaska during the summer & fall, the Autumnal Equinox has taken on an even greater meaning -- meaning of epic proportions because most things in Alaska are of epic proportions. It is easier to stay attuned to the cycles of Nature in the last frontier because the natural world is dramatically in-your-face, every day. Autumn is short here. Very short. Before we know it, the snow will be upon us. In a way, the Equinox is our Samhain. This is the end, the frenzied, final harvest time.

Tiny poppy pods
What a harvest it is! People are searching, collecting, storing. There are signs of people reaping the bounty everywhere. The patch of wild rosehips we kept our eyes on all summer has been plundered. Little holes alongside the bike path betray the digging of a dandelion root collector. Of course, there are the fungi. The boletus are tapering off with the colder temperatures, but now is the time for cool weather friends, the puffballs & shaggy manes. They arrive in droves. Other edible mushrooms that I do not know are being picked too. I see folks stooping low along the edges of paths, in the clearings, under forest's canopy. I see the mushrooms plucked & tossed aside everywhere. As the last of the raspberries are gathered, the wild currants & cranberries begin beckoning from the hillside. The crabapples in town are ripening & public flowerbeds are packed with artichokes ready for the picking -- if you are not shy. There are seeds to be collected; pods from lilies & poppies, flowerheads from a countless array of tired blooms. Friends are canning, sealing & smoking fish. I have yet to hear of a moose this year, but nearly every fall provides a quantity of this meat in the freezer. Harvest abounds. This is living the season.

So what are we doing to formally recognize the Autumnal Equinox? Our family has always prepared a special meal using seasonal foods. (Perhaps I will find the time later to post our recipes.) We have a toast, share the meal, give thanks to the gods & talk about things for which we are grateful. Last year, the Little Lad & I did some equinox artwork, other years we have baked a special offering. Motherhood has taught me to replace formal, rote ritual with activities that are more meaningful & easier for the wee ones to connect to their lives. I find that this approach is more worthwhile for me as well. Keeping our celebration attached to how we actually live (instead of making the strained connection to something that once was or even how other people may live today) makes for observances of sincerity.


Collecting Shaggy Manes
This year, we will be including a second event to our equinox celebration by joining our community for Thalysia. This is an autumnal harvest honoring the goddess Demeter being sponsored by Arctic Circle & The Anchorage Pagan Meetup. This will be our first season sharing this event with them & I feel that it is a perfect way to round out the meaning of the harvest. As human animals, our people are important to us. Like gardens, relationships are sown, nurtured & fed. From this care & work we harvest the fruits of mutual enjoyment & support. I feel it is important for us to recognize the gifts of freindship & community from year to year. The equinox is very much like Thanksgiving arriving early. Coming together for a giving of thanks is a perfect way to honor & strengthen our bonds.

Everyone has their own way of recognizing the harvest & no one has the corner on how to do it "properly." What is most important is that it be joyful, full of love & thanks for that which nourishes us most. Reflecting on your harvests, how will you spend this day?



Autumn Equinox meal, 2010




APPLE STUFFED PORK CHOPS WITH CIDER
PAN GRAVY

1 med. chopped onion
6 tbsp. butter, divided
4 slices raisin bread, crumbled
1 lg. apple, peeled, if desired, cored and chopped
1/4 c. parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 egg, slightly beaten
4 (1 1/2 inch thick) pork loin chops
1/2 c. water
2 tbsp. flour
1 c. apple cider
Saute onion in 3 tablespoons butter until tender. Remove from heat. Stir in bread, apple, parsley, sage, thyme, pepper and egg. Mix well. With sharp knife, cut a deep pocket in each chop. Fill with stuffing. Fasten openings with toothpick. Cook chops in remaining 3 tablespoons butter until browned on both sides. Add water, bring to boil.Reduce heat, cover and simmer 40 minutes or until chops are tender. Remove chops to heated platter. Sprinkle flour over pan drippings, stir until smooth. Stir in cider, scraping up all browned bits. Cook, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens. Serve with chops. Serves 4.
Recipe courtesy Cooks.com. 
Roasted Butternut Squash and Pomegranate Salad
 * We added dried cranberries, delish! Thank you jenncuisine.com

 Roasted Pumpkin with Maple-Chipolte Glaze
  •  Recipe to follow... when I find it!

    Autumn Equinox dessert, 2010

     Roasted Pears with Cinnamon-Mascarpone Filling
      • Recipe to follow... when I find it!

      1 comment:

      Connie Mitan said...

      An early Thanksgiving! What a way to look at it! Lovely post - thanks for sharing on PBP!
      ~Sunfire

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