Rethinking the Harvest

The pain of the world has been with me lately. Five dead and more than 15 injured from gun violence in Oakland, California over the weekend. Churches burning and hundreds killed in Egypt. Doctors Without Borders pulling out of Somalia. News from Bahrain. Russia. Syria. U.S. drone strikes...

Yet this violence is not all that exists in the world, much as we may either focus on it or try to tune it out.

I lead a Pagan Temple. In preparation for our monthly devotional, I contemplated the Goddess we would be honoring for August: Ceres. She who feeds the people. She who plants, and reaps, and harvests. She who nurtures all, through generosity and grace. Stories tell us that she taught agriculture to humans that we might feed ourselves. It was this that taught us also, we can break bread together, which feeds not only body, but heart, mind, and soul.

In the midst of my contemplation, I realized I had not been focusing on harvest at all. What my heart kept returning to was lack.

As I was thinking about the cycles of the year, I noticed that in seeing all the ways my work for justice felt ineffective and not enough, I hadn't been taking time to reflect on what my harvest actually was for the past year. I had not allowed myself to take stock. My harvest is great. It includes: having a new book published, organizing a monthly vigil for those killed by police violence, spearheading discussions on racism and privilege in my community, making sure monthly devotionals happen, teaching, offering spiritual direction, increasing my level of health, scrubbing pots at the soup kitchen, enjoying our garden, spending time with friends...

I've done a lot this year, and have even taken more time to inquire after what my heart and soul want. That latter, that deep contemplation and listening, are part of what is causing great dis-ease around the news that fills my twitter stream daily. My heart and soul are not satisfied. I want to be more effective in the help I offer.

As I thought about the generous and skilled Ceres, I realized that I need to open to the cycle of harvest in its entirety. It isn't just about reaping and enjoying our rewards; to harvest requires us to prepare the soil for what needs planting. My heart and soul are giving me pretty clear instructions about where I want to be a year from now, training to be of better more effective service to this beautiful world. Training to bring what justice I can in the best ways that I can by further honing the skills I already have. As this season turns, I will do the work needed to prepare the soil for that which is to come.

In contemplating the cycles of the year, we can reclaim the power to choose well so that next year some more of what we desire bears fruit. Without that contemplation, too often all we see is what is directly in front of us, limiting our vision and imagination, and therefore, limiting what we can actually do.

As you contemplate this time of harvest, what are you reflecting upon? Have you had a good year? Have things felt hard? What are your hopes for your life, and for this world? What needs to lay fallow and rest? What needs nurturing? What will you plant, in hopes that it will grow?