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Lúnasa. We mark another threshold. The year is in spin. As I write I sit by the growing harvest. Tomatoes are ripening on the vines, courgettes are bulging with giving. It is the season’s swelling with its sensuousness, and its gift. Here is evidence of moving through the change: the time of the winter dark, the labours of the spring, a summer of responding to the light. Here is evidence of being in relationship with conditions which yield to growth. Here is everything to learn.
Lúnasa (or Lunasagh) marks the beginning of the time of harvest. A cross-quarter celebration in the Celtic wheel, resting mid-way between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, named after the sun God Lugh. Lugh was said to be a God of many gifts and talents— a Master of the Arts and Culture — who yielded a cunning sword and a swopping presence, who harnessed the light energy of the sun. The time of harvest was a time to celebrate, and into this dance with the seasons of life Lugh now still invites us. So today, on this first day of Lúnasa, I will take his invitation into my hands and turn it to my plate.
This year is the first time I have planted my own kitchen garden. It was an experiment in learning, in tending, in harnessing. I had a longing to get my hands dirty. As a house renter, I’ve always had one eye on my next move, with wanderlust tethering me more to my passport than to the soil. Why plant if I would not be around to see it through a season? Why make a commitment to place when I did not know where my place was? In other words: why belong?
Something in me has been shifting. Maybe it is an ageing thing — a natural development cycle of the human psyche— but I think it is more than that. I think it is about place and relationship. And, dare I even say it, I think it is about love.
Love seems like a big, bold and daring word right now. Love in its expanse, in its ecstasy. But to say ‘I love you’ is to declare a commitment which my freedom and independence, wanderlust and longing go into commotion with. It makes my world spin. ‘I love you’ can put the heart of terror into a heart like mine — I have one of the ones forever seeking. ‘Love’, it should be such a nice word, a benign kind of word. So why does it seem like a such trap? Language is a limiter, if we let it. Is it time to reimagine our words?
The problem with ‘love’ is it has been romanticised. Gushy, sexy, sassy. The love of first sight. The love of the hot summer fling. The wooing. Sure, it is glorious, and don’t we all enjoy the flutter (and perhaps the classic rom-com) but deep love, long love, enduring love, the love of the infinite, is crystalline and multi-dimensional. It can not be defined. It holds things together. You could say it is a force.
I sit beside my assortment of vegetable containers —old fishing boxes I have re-purposed— and examine the courgettes. A friend of mine helped me to set the boxes up, and with her tutelage, I have been tending to them for a few months. I feed the plants each week, water them each night, say hello to them as I move in and out of my doorway. These plants have created new movements in my day, and they have become friends, good friends. And each day, as if in return, the plants give more.
My neighbours have been good to me too. The elderly couple adore my little dog. They let Milly onto their laps, and sometimes their bed. They say kind words about her, and then we chat about the sunshine and the summer. These are simple exchanges, but it is clear— we share a love of this place, and of the creatures which inhabit it.
Back by the vegetable boxes I choose the courgette wisely. Which one for them? One ripe for picking reveals itself to me. As I cut it, I say thank you. From sun, to soil, to leaf, to fruit, to hand, to neighbour – it feels like tracing an ancient lineage of connection. My passport has been quiet for months. On this first day of August, as the sun God Lugh calls us to be in celebration of our gifts, I think I have never felt so free.
So, am I ‘in love’ with a tomato then? Or a courgette? Is that love? It would make for a very strange romantic comedy. But here again we have a challenge with words.
The problem with being ‘in love’ is the preposition. To be in love implies we can be out of love too. I much prefer the Irish philosopher John Moriarty’s description, that to be, is to ‘be towards’. So to be in love, is to take love as a given, an absolute, and then is to turn towards a deeper love. To love is to orientate ourselves in the direction of the feeling. In that sense, to love is a verb, an act. It is a moving in direction towards the thing we are seeking. To love is to move oneself.
So, I wonder, what if this life is all love- the way the earth moves, and the sun offers, and the tides swell, and the heart grows, and the wild churns. Then, to fall out of love is to fall out of conversation with the currents of creativity, generosity, connection, and relationship which runs through our body and the body of the earth. To fall out of love is to fall out of remembrance that every moment is sealed with relationship, for what is breath if not a giving and a receiving, if not a communion with the other. What the tree breathes out, I breath in. What air is mine to inhale, is also my neighbours. Perhaps love, in its essence, is a continuous conversation with this web of life- trees, plants, breaths, neighbours and all.
So why is it, that when I speak about love in the way I just have, it feels almost cringy. Free love. Peace and love. Is that what I have become- the plant-talking, tree-hugging crazy lady? Actually, I don’t think that at all. I think it is to do with the original problem; that the word love has been so watered down that we have narrowed what love is and what love can be: fierce.
Have you heard a visceral cry of a mother having lost her child? Have you noted the story of the whale who carried her dead calf on her back? Have you felt the waves wrap themselves around your limbs with a pull to draw you back into the elemental waters? This is love too: fierce love, instinctive love, elemental love, maternal love. These are the undiluted dimensions of love which I think can redeem us. And they need to happen, quick.
I am thinking, almost constantly, about what is happening to our mother, our home. ‘Our house is on fire’, says Greta, and Greta is right. She states the facts so we can listen. But some nights, I can’t listen at all. Instead I cry those primal, fierce love tears. It feels like I am smothering, so I shake. The last thing I want to do is be numb to it all. I know it is not time to block things out, so instead I try to turn towards a maternal kind of love. It feels like the only thing I have.
But who am I to write about maternal love when I am not a mother? I have never felt the swell of limbs growing inside of me, or the thunderous push to birth a body, but I am telling you, I feel things, big things. That maternal, that deeply feminine impulse to life is encoded into the DNA of our creativity. It is the coda which maps the most fundamental of human capacities: to mould imaginings into form, to be drawn into relationship with the birthing energy primal to our being. From the cosmos of my belly, I pull out words and I labour for my dreams. It is that elemental. Male or female, we each carry creativity in our biological code. It is our birthright. Maybe it is our remedy too.
This is my love dream:
Wild love: the love of waves; the love of the tumbling shade of a chestnut tree; the love of the skin of dusk on a trembling field; the love of animal presence. Tactile love: the love of damp moss under the arch of the foot; the love of hands on cold salty pebbles; the love of breast on bone; the love of kisses on breasts; the love of the velvet underside of a silver leaf. Relational love; the love of intimate conversation; the rising tide of friendship which takes me deeper into mystery. And the unknowable love: the love of the whispering of remembered dreams; the love of the dark revealing; the love of love itself.
Beyond the conventional definitions of romantic love, we reach an infinite undefinable. There we become partners to an intimacy with life itself. We realise it is all love, all along. We realise we can write a new story of love for ourselves, and this too is freedom. So, yes I am seeking to be towards love, in partnership with the infinite. I am seeking a body to partner with, but that is not my primary orientation. Alongside skin, I am seeking soul and communion. Perhaps I am looking in the right place so, under my fingernails, as the damp earth begins to take root.
Those tomatoes, those courgettes, those peas which the slugs ate, the herbs and salad. As my hands move into and out of the soil, turning the harvest to the light, offering some to my neighbour, and returning some to my plate, I realise I am in consort with the pulse of life itself. This is sensual life, the life of Lugh’s sun, the birthing energy, my form of mothering. I am still not a mother, but I can love the wild as if it comes from me. And I can love that stone and that tree as my kin. And I can feel my bones rest against the umbrella of a cave as if it is my own home. Why? Because it is.
Love as a verb can bring you home too.
Lunasa. On this first day of August, I celebrate, I give thanks. Tonight I will take a courgette. I will turn it into ribbons. I will pair it with pasta. I will cook it with gratitude on my lips and I will eat my fill. There is plenty to go around, so long as we mother in return, moving our hands in big gestures of undefinable, infinite, creative love. This is big love. And towards big love I am ready to be harnessed in every direction.