Saturday, October 04, 2008

Harvest days

A bit belated, here is my post on harvest for the blog party! It's been an incredibly busy harvest season for me, the month of September full of scrambling for the last of the herbs on the mountain tops, and securing some source of steady income.

But as October begins, I can feel the dramatic shift in the energy of the earth and living things around me. Yesterday I spent the morning harvesting apples and pecans at a local organic orchard. It was a blustery day, the wind blowing in the first of hopefully main fall/winter rain storms. And today was cool, breezy and downright pleasant. I love October.

I planted more seeds in my garden this morning, and it seems a bit strange that I should be planting during harvest season, but the the rhythms of the desert have always been unique, and require a bit of adaptation from traditional seasonal traditions.

My contribution for this months blog party is a piece about the Autumn Equinox that I wrote several years ago as I was exploring and recording my experiences and growing relationship with the seasons of the Sonoran Desert.

Autumn Equinox, Mabon, Harvest Home, Harvest Moon, Pagan Thanksgiving

September 20-23

In mid-September, we arrive at the autumn equinox. This signals the “official” start of fall according to Western Calender, and it is in September that we notice the change from summer to fall in the Sonoran Desert. By the beginning of September the monsoon rains have all but disappeared. The sky is bright blue bowl, empty except for the bright and warm sun. Afternoon temperatures are again high without the cooling wind and rains. But other signs of the shift away from summer are everywhere. Like Lughnasadh, we are still in a time of harvest. This is our last chance to really gather the fruits of the desert; prickly pear, mesquite pods, and manzanita. But alas the days are shortening, noticeably. Dawn comes later and later, and desert dwellers who make a habit of rising early to escape the summer sun will notice the darkness where once the sky was pink and light. You might also notice the significant drop in evening and morning temperatures. Instead of humid and warm in the 70’s or 80’s, many mornings are in the 60’s. There is a decided nip on bare skin now. A sure sign of fall, across the country is the return of students to school. In the southwest this is also a time increased activity in the out of doors and the time for gardening. Though that may seem counter intuitive to someone accustomed to snow and freezing temperatures, here in the Sonoran desert winter offers a RESPITE from the rigours of extreme summer heat and is in most cases quite mild and pleasant. The cultivated plants, flowers and vegetables that fill southwestern gardens rejoice, just as the people do, for the relief from burning sun.

Harvest and Sacrifice

Like August, September is still a time of Harvest from the wild desert plants. The last of the prickly pear fruits, the mesquite pods, and summer annuals like amaranth or warm weather garden crops like chiles and melons. And so we start putting up the bountiful desert harvest for the leaner and drier season ahead. Soon the year will be coming to a close at Samhain, and like at Lammas it is time to turn inward to reap the harvest of all growing and learning we set out to do in the past year. What have you paid special attention to, giving it love and nurturing, what is ready to harvest within your own life? Perhaps it is the joy of a close relationship lover, family or friend. Perhaps it is the financial security of working hard at your work. Perhaps it is inner peace you’ve learned to maintain, even in the face of challenges. Whatever it might be, recognize the work you have done to reap this bountiful harvest. We should also remember to look back at what we may have lost or had to sacrifice to the tulmultous summer storms. What have you decided to let go of in your life? A relationship that was not healthy, an unfulfilling job, or some other grand plan that you somehow didn’t find the time for? The time of the harvest is when we begin to notice what we may have lost, as well as what we have gained in the last year. Perhaps we mourn our losses, maybe you feel fear at having let go of something that offered safety, or comfort. Now is the time to reflect back on those things, recongnize the reasons why they had to be sacrificed, why they were washed away with the summer rains. But do not forget to think about by breaking free from old habits or sacrificing we are indeed opening the door to new GROWTH and space for positive and healthful things to grow in our lives. The saying, “Where a door closes, another window is open,’ is true here. Sometimes we must let go of things that are holding us back or making us unhappy for new opportunities to arise in our lives. By breaking free of the past, like trees being washed away in a flash food, the landscape of our lives changes, where once there were bridges there are now rifts, but now there is room to build new bridges, for new trees and plants to get established. The Harvest is the time to rejoice in what we have gained, and what we have lost in the past year. We are harvesting our OWN growth, and what we’ve created in our own lives.

Growth/Garden/Increased Activity

One particular difference between our dark season here in the desert and that of most of temperate North America and Europe is the increased actitivity. Here in the desert we are rejoicing for the coming cold. For the last 4-5 months we’ve been doing our best to handle the heat and extreme weather conditions,our gardens in a holding pattern, waiting out the intense heat and sun. By the time of equinox we are ready to get outside and play again. The evening temperatures are falling, and though still warm during the day, we know the cooler, milder days are coming. Our activity will begin to increase as the light wanes but the temperatures become more pleasant. In traditional seasons winter is the time of rest, of contemplation, and quiet, staying close to home and family. Here in the desert, winter is a time of celebration. People will start going out and hiking, exploring the desert and getting close to nature. Near the equinox, gardeners start to plant their gardens, vegetables and flowers that are withering in colder climates, are just putting out leaves and buds. In a sense we are Harvesting the new growth and increased activity, after the challenges and tumult of the summer. The weather is calmer, and our lives become a little more carefree, easy going, and energized. The holiday season is approaching and we are celebrating family and friends and the blessing of year-round sunshine.

As you begin to feel the stirrings of increased energy within your body, the equinox would be a good time to decide what projects and activities you would like to devote that increased energy to. Getting out and connecting with the earth is a wonderful way to take advantage of the season. Go hike, get to know the desert creatures, cactus, lizards, birds and winter flowers, sit on the earth, let her life force flow into you and fill you with energy. Perhaps you want to create a garden, growing flower or vegetables will channel your energy into connecting with life on earth. Caring for each plant with the love and attention it deserves. Watch the plants you tend carefully, some days a particular plant may jump out at you, begging to be seen, to be caressed and to share it’s wisdom with you.

It is also wise to turn this increased energy inward, as part of the “dark” season. The dark season is the time for inner work, though our outer life has become more active. Make sure to invest some of your time reflecting and working with your shadow side. While you may be running around full of energy and doing projects during the day, the nights ARE longer, and evenings provide ample time for sitting with yourself and delving into those sensitive, hurt and dark places you might prefer to ignore.


The equinox heralds the coming of the dark half of the year. In the desert the darkness is unique. The nights become long and even cold. Though outwardly we are active. The dark half of the year is important in our spiritual life. It provides the time and seriousness to address our shadow side. The equinox is the beginning of this process. Perhaps at Lughnasadh you began to think about those deep dark places you wanted to work with this season. Equinox is the time to solidify your intentions, affirm your desire to work on those particular aspects of yourself. This is the time to make a plan of how you endeavor to delve into the pain and fear that hides within, causing us sadness, anger, or denial. How can you commit yourself to dealing with the pain buried there? Can you make a weekly commitment to journal, meditate or otherwise express those hidden feelings? Will you endeavor to make one small effort each day?

Don’t forget to take time for quiet and rest during this dark time as well. Increased activity requires ample rest and relaxation as well. Perhaps you can devote a few hours soley to yourself each week. Take a relaxing nap, or a bath, or just sit and breathe fresh air seated under a tree. Hug yourself, comfort yourself, honor your rhythms and cycles just as you honor the earth’s cycles and rythms. When you feel the need to rest, do so, when you feel the urge to cry or let out your anger, do so, in a safe and constructive manner. We all need release and the dark season creates a space to do that, while by yourself, or in the company of soul friends. But remember not to wallow in sadness or darkness, or to place blame on yourself or anyone else, this is a time for release and inner healing.


Like the Vernal Equinox, this is a time of Balance. The Daylight and the Nighttime are equal in length. We are in a season of moderation: neither extremely hot nor cold. While the earth around us hovers in balance around the time of the equinox, we too find ourselves returning to balance. The equinox is a time to ‘rebalance.” What exactly is balance? Is it moderation, or is it more like a pendulum, that sways back in forth, ever in balance with the earth’s movement? What in your life is already in balance, echoing the seasonal balance? What in your life needs balancing? Think about ways you might bring more balance into your life. Does that mean working less and spending more time with your family? Does that mean challenging yourself to take on new activities or roles that you have been avoiding? Whatever it is in your life that could use a breath of fresh air and balancing, make some commitments to yourself about how you will accomplish that change. Write them down in your journal, or on index cards, decorated to your liking and posted around your house. You might even want to create or take part in a “balancing” ritual or ceremony. Remember to balance the increased activity and energy focused towards projects in the cool and pleasant desert winter and the time for inner work, quiet, rest and healing in the darkness.

It is easy for us to stay fixed in one position for so long that we forget to visit the alternatives, we can easy become unbalanced, working too many hours, eating too much, or focusing too much on the negative within our lives. The equinox is a good time to really take stock of your life, inner and outer, and find what feels out of balance, what needs more attention. But it isn’t useful to look at ourselves, find a flaw in our “balance” and then feel guilty or self-defeating about it. Look at this as an opportunity to make changes. You can only learn from your past and mistakes you have made. Think about your life more as a journey of learning, rather than a set of right and wrong choices. Everything we have done has made us who we are, and we have hopefully learned from the choices that have caused us pain or hardship. Look back with joy and thankfulness at your life and take the lessons you have learned to make positive and healthy changes in your life now.


The fall equinox is often called the ‘Pagan Thanksgiving.” Though many new things are starting their growth during the mild desert winter, it is nearing the end of the rich and lush summer of abundance. We have much to give thanks for, much to be grateful for. I always give thanks for the coming coolness, and mild weather in the winter, allowing me to spend more time outside, in nature, and in my garden. It is time to be THANKFUL for the blessings of the season, for the abundance of the great Mother Earth, and the harvest YOU have worked for all summer long. It is time to reflect on what we have accomplished and learned, and give thanks for those lessons and accomplishments. It is also a good time to celebrate the bounty of the season and the Earth. I like to celebrate with family and friends and a bountiful feast featuring foods of the season, apples, squash, prickly pears, and mesquite.

1 comment:

treesa said...

What a beautifully in-depth post! I especially like hearing from you, Kiva, etc, the way the seasons pass in different regions (I'm in California)... I love how even with the different spins on the wheel's turn, energetically you can always find common threads in a season. Thanks for posting :)

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~