Beltane, the summer quarter, is about fire and sunlight and warmth, about sweat and bare arms and hats that shade our eyes from the intense light. Except when it isn’t. Because whatever we may want, not every day of every Beltane is bright. Not every sky is blue. Not every day is warm enough to leave our sweater at home.
In Denver, eight inches of snow fell on Sunday (eight inches!) and in Ireland, seven of the nine days we have been here have been rainy: misting, drizzling, or pouring. Hardly summer as I imagine it. Overcast skies and sharp cold wind are the norm at the moment, and soaked slacks where the rain drips off the hem of the raincoat, and a runny nose.
The people we exchanged houses with put in a new lawn just before they left for Denver. It is growing quite well, considering. The quiet, 80+ year old Irish gentleman next door who came to welcome us to Tramore, observed, “That is coming along a treat, it is. It has had a great amount of rain, it has. I’m thinking it needs a little sun now.” I noted that there were more than a few organisms in the immediate vicinity of his voice that could use a little sun. He smiled beatifically and suggested a cup of tea.
What is true meteorologically, it also true spiritually and emotionally. The reality is that neither my life nor yours, I suspect, falls perfectly into cleanly differentiated seasons. I know this. I experience my temporal existence as far less predicable than is ideal or convenient. Seasons are often contrary; time and weather (of the landscape and of the heart) are frequently incompatible with the calendar. Beltane can partake not only of Imbolc on one side and Lughnasadh on the other, but of Samhain. And when the seasons don’t conform to the usual pattern, things can get very messy – literally, as well as metaphorically.
When I knew we were coming to Ireland, I planned a dozen places I wanted to visit: outdoor places where I could wander and breathe deeply, absorbing clean air and sizzling energy. I planned to buy some ordnance survey maps (as we did four years ago on the west coast of Ireland) so that I could set out to find hidden stone circles and dolmens, places enfolding centuries of profound peace. My heart, which is exhausted and grieving, yearns to rest in places of power and energy, wants to be warmed and comforted by summer sun. I did not expect (or plan for) relentless rain and drizzle and more rain and more mist and every meadow and woodland around being boggy and muddy and sodden. I didn’t pack waders, for crying out loud!
This is not the first time this has happened. There have been other years of my life that have offered me the choice of learning to grow in inhospitable or unseasonable weather (in months of drenching rain; or late, killer snows; or extended drought), or giving up and dying. In the Myers-Briggs typology, I am an INTJ. And that ‘J’ piece – which is very strong in me – is not well-constituted to going with the flow. ‘J’s make decisions based on the available information and then the decision is made, finished, over. ‘J’s do not revisit decisions happily. I am perfectly content to make a new decision based on new information about a new issue. Re-making an old decision, not so much. That personality trait is both a strength and a flaw. It can be extremely useful, or extremely unproductive, depending on the situation.
My perception of what Beltane should be and my preparation for that perception are ‘old information’ and comprises an ‘old decision.’ The fact is, sitting on thick dry grass in the middle of a stone circle radiant with summer sun is not a choice I have at the moment. The choice I have is to find a way to be restored in the rain, or to give up the hope of healing and comfort here and now.
Write something in letters of fire across the sky enough times and (eventually) I notice that there is something to which I should be paying attention. So, here is what I noticed when I stopped – well, at least paused momentarily – whining (internally) and thrashing (emotionally):
I don’t like being wet. I have never liked being wet. I am more like a cat than a dog. So, by preference, I choose dry and sunny. And I have chosen dry and sunny over and over again for years; indeed, for decades. I am wondering if I have created my own internal drought of Dust Bowl proportions. Maybe I love the writings of Hildegard of Bingen because on some sub-conscious level I recognize that she has been telling me for a decade or more what I really need. Maybe (just maybe) I need more moisture, not less…because for someone who has been in drought, rain is life-giving.
Maybe Ireland is softening my resistance, slipping into the cracks and bringing growth and restoration I didn’t realize I was missing. Maybe rain (metaphorical rain which, in this case, is being reinforced by literal rain) keeps happening out-of-season because I keep skipping this season, or shortening it as much as possible…and the universe and my own body-wisdom are working together to tilt me into healing. I suspect it will get very messy and muddy and uncomfortable (and frighteningly unfamiliar) before it I have reached Hildegard’s veriditas.
Maybe you are in a similar place. Maybe you love rain and snow and being wet…and need the balance of some strong, long sunlight. Or you revel in warmth, and need some deep cold and some long dormancy. Beltane is a season of burgeoning bud and blossom and fruit. I am thinking that if I want my fruit to be abundant and healthy, I may need to be very attentive to ways of being I have ignored in the past. I confess that I am not ready to stand up to my knees in a bog and I am not going to be cheerful about it if I have to do that, but I may be able to stop avoiding the rain quite so assiduously.
Your prayer may need to be different than mine, but here is what I am praying:
Sacred Well of Creating,
seep yourself slowly, inexorably, deliciously
into dry crevices
where dreams have withered
and vision has shriveled.
Flow yourself steadily
into chasms where the roots of joy
are struggling to reach their life-source.
Pour over me and through me.
Be trickle and eddy, rivulet and river, tide and flood,
teaching me the dancing delight of buoyancy.
Be so. Oh, be so.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2012, 2015 Immram Chara, LLC