I am collecting the last of the tomatoes from the plants on my porch. I missed a temperature drop and lost my chocolate mint, but (oh!) it was delicious while it lasted. The flowers I planted to refresh the pots in early September have gotten to the tired stage, and my amaryllis bulbs have been set down for their dormancy. What an amazing collection of blessings and rich memories to take into the cold time ahead. The universe has been generous indeed.
Lughnasadh is winding down and Samhain is approaching. Exuberant abundance is making way for quiet spaciousness. As we come to the end of this season of generosity, it can be a fruitful discipline to observe and reflect on our own (personal, individual) embodiment of generosity. How abundant are we? Do we overflow with bounty, pouring out love, compassion, justice, time, talent, mercy, healing, hope, and (yes) money – which is only our life energy in foldable form? Do we scatter some of these with a generous hand or heart? Do we share others sparingly or grudgingly? Are there ones we hoard? In what ways do we contribute toward the common good without worrying (or whining or complaining) about the cost, and where do we place our personal comfort – not need, comfort – first?
As I think about the mentors in my own life – both those who provide the aspirational models and those who provide the dis-edifying models – I suspect that each of us is more comfortable with some forms of generosity than others. However, painting with very broad brush strokes here, and possibly tipping right over the edge of an abyss, I have noticed that generous people tend to be generous pretty much across the board. The kind of people who pour out love and compassion also give freely of their time and talent. [On the other hand, the people who are stingy with their talent and time, are usually equally stingy with their money.]
What the generous all seem to have in common is a firmly rooted belief in the bounty and benevolence of the universe. They acknowledge that bad things happen; they acknowledge that not everyone has life-giving motivations; they acknowledge that systems are often corrupt. However, when all is said and done, they believe that creation stretching beyond where the eye can see, is filled with grace and gift. They believe in the best in others – even when that faith has been sorely tested. They continue to – for instance – vote…because they believe in upholding a system that has great potential even while experiencing its less stellar moments. They believe that one life, one choice, one gift, one word of kindness, one dollar, one hour can make a difference.
The universe is not created for individuals, but for communities. We are not intended to live for ourselves alone, but as part of an interdependent web. Lughnasadh is not a season of individual bounty as if only I need to be fed or loved. Lughnasadh, remember, honors the god who dies into the grain so that the animals and people will be sustained. The outpouring prodigality of Lughnasadh is the literal manifestation of the rain falling on both the just and the unjust. What is generated by the power of All-Giftedness is for the good of the whole universe, together, one glorious family of whales and periwinkles and rivers and stars and people and porcupines.
Love is not given to be placed in a crystal jar and stored on a shelf where it will stay shiny and undepleted for all time. It is given to be passed along with open hands and hearts into places where it will get messy and tattered and soaked up by those who have never felt it before. Hope is not a gift to be framed and hung on the wall in the study, like a diploma. Hope is meant to be pushed into the shadows, and through the broken panes of inner city windows, and dragged under bridges to sit around a fire built in a trash can.
There is a pervasive evil in the world. It has lived in all times and all places. It is the whisper that says, “You are special. You have earned your good luck. You deserve to keep it.” It strokes our egos with the language of entitlement. It tweaks our fears with questions about safety. It urges us to store and save and hoard and protect lest we suffer one moment of discomfort.
What would happen if we all stopped listening to that whisper?
What if we believed in the benevolence of the universe to sustain everything – as long as we are willing to keep the energy flowing, so that it passes freely from one form to another, blessing each on its way?
At some point a decade or more ago, I realized that I don’t earn any of it. I am completely at the mercy of this amazing universe that birthed me and sustains me and will one day take me back into its energy cycle and, then, embody me again in some other form. There is not one single thing I can do to create the oxygen I breathe or to insure that gravity will continue to function. I can plant my amaryllis bulb, but darned if I can figure out how the flower comes out of it. Or why sometimes no flower comes. I can push a tomato seed into some dirt and water it and put it in the sun…but I can’t explain to the little girl next door how that huge plant that has taken over my porch by midsummer was folded up inside that seed. Or why the seed is so unequivocally generous: producing food for me (or the rabbits) to eat, shade for all sorts of insects, and the most delicious smell.
But each year, when the autumn quarter explodes with its harvests, I find myself wondering why I believe that there is a limit to how generous I can be. Because each year I wonder what is folded up inside me, waiting for the chance to unfurl with the same abandon as the tomato plant: tendril, leaf, vine, blossom, fruit.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2014, 2012, Immram Chara, LLC
Note: The photo of the tomatoes is available as a card or print through my Etsy shop during Lughnasadh. It can also be seen with the other Lughnasadh selections in the Store on the website. Just click through.