Hunter Gatherer: A Mabon Reflection (aka: I’m Getting Too Old For This)

Autumn is upon us. I can feel it in the air, the season is changing. The songs of the birds have changed, the bugly activity in the yard has a different hum about it. The crops are in their final throes, ripening more quickly than I can gather them. Daily, something new has taken on a different hue. The deep green lushness of two weeks ago has mellowed into softer shades of chartreuse and yellow; soon there will be orange and red. The air is lighter and moves more readily. Everything is a little more insistent: change.

Change insists itself in the Autumn because without it, we would be overrun. (See “The Bad Witch at the Watering Hole”.) We need a little of the death of winter to make way for the birth of spring. Makes sense in my head.

My body feels it differently. This insistence often feels like a push toward death – not the ultimate death, just a little death – and, being human, I avoid death.

Except that death brings rebirth, right?

Autumn sucks for me. While I love the changing of the seasons, don’tcha know that every very bad thing in my life has happened in September. I have lost a baby in September; I have lost some of the dearest people in my entire life in Septembers; and I have – several times – lost myself in Septembers. And some of those losses have clung to me deep into spring.

But at the same time, I have had a child in September; some of the dearest people to me were born in September; and each time I lose myself a little, I find something to make me stronger. (Don’t we all? It’s called “breathing-in-and-breathing-out.”)

But this year, I can only quote John Berryman: “Nothing very bad happen to me lately.” So I have had time to think. The kind of thinking that can only happen when reflective rather than reactive. This year, my September is simply filled with the dreads of Septembers past. And I, aging as the year blowing briskly into autumn, feel the harvest.

My life is devoted to others. I am, after all, an American woman. I am a teacher – spiritual and secular. I am a mother – biological and metaphorical. I am a wife, a daughter, a baby-sister. Farming, gardening, animal husbandry (what a dumb word), domesticity, and nurturing round out my days. Joyously.

Except in September.

Maybe it’s the holiday (Mabon, Oshogatsu, Vernal Equinox, Cituua, whatever you call it) that makes me remember that we indeed “reap what we have sown.” And I start to think about what I have sown. In a life dedicated to giving, I  thought I’d reap more.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to be maudlin or morose – my life is very fulfilling.

It’s just September.

And I have had a life of “fighting” for what I want and “working” for what I have. When surrounded by the philosophy that says, “No one is going to give you anything, you have to take it for yourself,” I screw my face up a little. Is that really right?

The Bad Witch doesn’t want to take. I’m not a taker. But I do have needs. Of course I need food and shelter and clean clothes and sex (thanks to The Bad Husband for supplying these). But I also need quiet, deep-down-in-my-brain-so-I-can-pray-for-days-on-end quiet. I need dialogue; I get to the point where I do all the thinking and find that having an equal to bounce my ideas off of relieves the anxiety that I may, in fact, be insane – quite a lot. I need validation – for the same damned reason. How does one “take” these things? Mustn’t they simply be “given”?

I don’t pretend to know.

I am luck. I get these needs met. Regularly. But I sometimes feel like I have to hunt them down. And right now, I just want to gather. Just sit for a minute and reap. Not because I’m entitled or because the world owes me, but because I planted it (and because September makes me tired). And because I’m getting a little too old for this. So I find myself wondering:

How does one receive without taking?

Is there even an effing difference? In the end, is accepting the same as taking? Linguistically, one is passive while the other is active. But are there any spiritually passive harvests?

When I receive the bounty from my garden am I not taking it? Don’t I have to put on some gloves, grab some scissors and a bucket and get my hiney out in the dirt? When I receive affection from my animals am I not taking it? I can’t really accept horsie affection from my bedroom, now can I? No. I have to put on my boots, grab a halter and lead-rope, and schlep my behind out into the (these days) boggy pasture, right? Then I get some good horsie-lovin’. When I listen to the advice of my higher-being am I receiving or taking? While, I will admit, he often comes to me unbidden (as I’m sure my horse would if she were not constrained by electrified fencing), if I really want advice, I have to go looking for it. I have to put on my metaphorical shit-kickers and go out into the astral pasture and wrangle an angel, right?

So if you, too, find yourself having a damn shitty September and wonder why you aren’t getting your needs met, ask what you’ve sown. Then grab a pair of sheers and get out in the garden and reap it. For better or for worse. If you don’t like what you planted, the good news is that there is another cycle coming and you can always sow something new. (Preachy Witch has left the building, I promise.)

Which is what I plan to do. The next season sees room for some low maintenance hydroponics. A lot more gettin’ and a little less tendin’. (Though there is some gettin’ in the tendin’ for most of us.)

The Bad Witch is thinking: air ferns . . . zen rock garden . . . sand box (covered to keep the cat poop out of course). . .