I didn’t write a blog for 5 August when we were traveling; this is for both weeks.
(I don’t want you to think you missed anything.)
Last Wednesday, my husband and I returned to our home in Denver almost four months to the day after we left for his sabbatical. The same wonderful friend who took us to the airport in April, met us in the airport on August 5th. During our time away, Imbolc unfolded into Beltane, and Beltane burgeoned into Lughnasadh. The seeds of spring grew richly toward harvest.
I’ve been writing about growth and about harvests in my blogs from time to time. I’ve been pondering the harvests of my own life, and inviting you to ponder yours. I’ve been thinking not only about what I want to gather, but about what I want to share and, eventually, what I want to leave behind as a legacy for future generations.
The urgency of this task was brought home to me shortly after I woke last Thursday morning, when I learned that our dearest neighbor, the man who welcomed us to this community ten years ago – and who welcomed every one of our exchange families during the last sabbatical as well as this one – had died suddenly and unexpectedly two weeks before our return. Every morning since, when I open my curtains, I am surprised (again) that he isn’t on his porch putting up his American flag or picking up his newspaper, and I think, “Oh. Oh, yes. Al is gone.” When we left in April, he waved us off and told us that whatever we did, we were not to bring him another golf hat (he was an avid golfer and delighted in hats from distant golf courses) because he had more than enough to last a lifetime.
The last week has been a time of acknowledging that the phrase – “more than enough to last a lifetime” – becomes very real at some tipping point in every human existence.
My friend, Phil, shortly after he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, put it another way: “You never know,” he said, “Whether this will be the last jar of mayonnaise you open.” And, of course, what turned out to be the last jar was in the fridge when he died.
My friend Lori who died this spring, and Phil who died last spring, both knew their time was limited. They didn’t know exactly to the day what the limit was, but they knew it was sooner and not later (closer to a year than a decade). Al didn’t know. Our friend, Bob, to whose voice we woke every morning in western Massachusetts (because he was the morning news announcer for the public radio station there), didn’t know when he set out from a basketball game to return home that he would have a heart attack and die in his mid-forties before he reached his front door. His partner had no clue he had said good-bye for the last time; Al’s wife didn’t know she would not make it to his bedside at the hospital when the ambulance pulled out of the driveway – we live across the street from the hospital, after all.
At the moment, I don’t know what span of years lie ahead of me except that it will be less than the span I have already lived. Perhaps you can take a guess about how many months or years you have left; perhaps you are like me and don’t know. Which means that paying attention to our harvest, naming it and storing it with care, is a task for today. Not for tomorrow which may never come. For today.
If you are still with me here and haven’t turned off, tuned out, thinking, “I really don’t want to read about this!” I’d like to invite you to join me in a practice I began over 35 years ago, when one of my mentors (Canon West of the Cathedral of St John the Divine) urged it on me. He was talking about a mutual acquaintance who had just been killed in an accident and he said, “I hope he left a note tucked away somewhere for his wife. Everyone should do that. It is an act of profound love.”
A week later, I sat down and wrote cards to my closest family and friends. I put them in the legal file that is labeled, “In the Event of My Death.” I was only in my mid-20s, but every single day is a bonus day whether you are 5 or 25 or 85. Every single day. In the years since then, I have written others. I have updated my thoughts and appreciation. There are several cards for my daughter, written at different stages of her life. They are all there. The file is quite thick, but I don’t think anyone will mind that they have two cards from me, or four, rather than just one.
Those cards are one of the harvests of my life. They are, I hope, a harvest of love. In them, I not only express my love for the person to whom I’m writing, but I remind the (future) recipient of moments when their love upheld me or comforted me or taught me something important. I tell them how blessed I feel to have known them, how proud I am of their accomplishments, the joy I wish for them going forward. I cry every time I write one. Not in sorrow, but in deep, unmeasurable awe that I have had the privilege of living at all.
As Lughnasadh brings the slow, steady, shortening of daylight and the rich power of lengthening dream time, I invite you to gather the wealth of your own life and leave it for those you love best. Today. Start today. Choose the cards you have been saving for a special occasion, the best ones in your stash. Fill them with your wisdom, your curiosity, your courage, your hope, your vision and, yes, your love. Then tuck them away somewhere they will be found when you are gone.
Here are some words to companion you in this task:
Glean for nourishment
the bruised spirit rejected on the vine,
the oddly-shaped vision that
didn’t fit in the basket,
the bits of hope left on the threshing floor,
the patience earned lying unnoticed
at the edges of the field.
Glean for the future
the strength gained from surviving
drought or flood.
Glean the joy of gratitude.
Glean the wisdom of curiosity.
Glean the courage of generosity.
And pour it out,
pour it all out without stint, without measure:
a laughing stream of plenty,
Yes! O, yes!
May this task of love be bounty and blessing for you.
Text © 2015, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2011, 2015, 2014 Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: In honor of the changing season, the slider on my home page and on the blog page changed. I have re-opened my Etsy shop, although it is not fully stocked just yet. Watch for a Give-Away toward the end of August. (You may want to start compiling a list of your friends and family who might be interested in subscribing to my blog.)