My daily to-do lists this summer have been wild, and wildly unrealistic: Reorganize finances. Work on three poems. Chauffeur son. Post daily Tarot cards. Research 15th century woodcuts and college financial aid. Finish mixed media painting. Make all reservations for our trip to four different cities. (Yes, that was one day’s list and no, I didn’t check off every item that day.)
It’s all good stuff, stuff I’m longing to do during those long months when my day job swells up like expanding foam insulation in the hands of the unwary. But to be honest, I’ve got more exciting, disparate threads than my small mind can handle (or maybe too much foam expanding inside my own brain). Frankly, I need a break from myself.
If you live outside the US, this may not mean much, but I have to go back to my teaching job next week. Already. Why would school would start again when summer’s nowhere near over? It is…inexplicable. So just don’t ask why, because it is (inexplicable, that is). While I’m not exactly looking forward to those 60-hour work weeks again, it will definitely ratchet down the volume inside my head. I have to admit, maybe I’m going back just in the nick of time, before my foam-packed head really does explode.
Tonight is the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh–August 1 technically, but the days were reckoned to begin as night fell, or so I’ve been told. I’m just a smidge Irish, though I’ve had several powerful experiences in Celtic lands (ask me about that fairy fort in Ireland, how I’d have left my brand-new husband without a thought, if the Folk had called me at that weirdly hazy moment). Perhaps the folks who devised my academic year were Celtic, because Lughnasadh is billed as a harvest festival, even though there’s plenty of summer left. Like, it’s time for school again, even though summer is in obvious full swing. What gives with this?
Lughnasadh is the opposite pole to Imbolc, the heralding of spring on February 1. When we lived in the far North, where winter lasts 10 or more months of the year, I once chirped this Imbolc info to my Southern-born partner. “Hey honey, it’s Imbolc! Spring is coming!” It did not go over very well, as he sullenly held out for the temperature to hike above freezing just once. But to me, who’d grown up with real winters, there was…something different. A kind of promise in the still-frozen air. A shift in the light. Spring hadn’t arrived, yet it subtly hallooed its arrival. The marking of Imbolc acknowledged that an almost-imperceptible, significant something had occurred.
So with Lughnasadh–it’s not the final harvest, when the last wheat is brought in and winter’s knocking at the door. It’s when the lean times are done, the first new potatoes arrive to be eaten, when the bounty comes in at full throttle. That kind of harvest time. And with the harvest’s beginning, there’s already a reminder of its end, and what lies beyond.
When I was growing up, school started in September (quite properly, of course). Even so, there was something different about the August part of summer. There’d be that occasional day of unexpected coolness, when you dug for a sweater and thought, It’s coming, the autumn. That day was always a surprise, yet not, and it brought a faint nostalgia along with a quickening. Some memory of the crisp air yet to come began to stir.
The seasons don’t usually change on a dime–though summer came to Wyoming quite precisely one year, with June 15 in long-johns and the 16th in shorts, sweating under the brightest of suns. No, usually there’s a little forewarning, a whispered promise of what’s to come. The Celts were wise enough to notice and honor those promises, with the eight points around the cycle of the year marking both the whispers and the full-on shouts of equinoxes and solstices.
The god Lugh himself was the Samildanach, the Many-Skilled–something I aspire to, with my disparate to-do list. Julius Caesar equated Lugh with Mercury, the slippery quicksilver god. Oh, the beautiful mutability of the multi-talented! But–surprise!–I’m not a god, and travel agent / writer / artist / diviner / mathematician / teacher / mom can be a heavy load some days, rather than an effortless shimmy. I don’t want my summer to end, but I do know it’s time for a reset. Lughnasadh is here to remind me that it’s time to shift.
To honor those Celtic pagans, I pulled out my Pagan playing cards. I used the answer spread I learned from my playing-cards mentor, the ever-generous J David Arcuri.
What’s the best way to spend the last few days of my summer break?”
With all those black cards it doesn’t look like I need to be partying. There’s barely room for a right brain at all here. Back to work, anyone?
The underlying premise of the question is that a new contract (Ace of Clubs) of my “day job” is about to begin. The King of Spades seems to stand for the job itself, with its heavy work-load and the authoritarian flavor of public schooling itself (for students and teachers alike). The combination Ace of Clubs plus King of Spades and another King (which we have here) is said to denote joining the military. Nice sense of humor, cards.
The best way to spend these last few days is to do what’s right (5 of Hearts) and take care of business (King of Clubs). As much as I want to squeeze in one more painting (or blog post!) there is a financial matter I need to resolve, though the paperwork gets more confusing rather than less as I wade through. I need to get it done now, while I have the time to do a good job–the 5 Hearts is about doing what’s right, putting my best foot forward. Too bad this one red card gets covered by the quintessential businessman King of Clubs–most likely the manager at my local bank, not some masterful entrepreneur sweeping me off my feet. It will feel good (5H) to get this resolved, and I have the opportunity (5H) to do it.
Oh, and another thing–I guess I’ve been busted by the cards. They’ve noticed my fears (10S) about how unbalanced my life gets (8S) during the school year. With the big workload, it’s always felt a bit like a prison (8S). Maybe instead of going with that fear, I need to reassess it carefully (8S) to keep my life more in balance. I actually do enjoy my job, so these last few days of summer would be a good time to confront and deal with my darker attitudes. That pivot card, 8S, describes both the imbalance itself and the ability to analyze it. Rather elegant, I think.
Hey, the cards didn’t say I couldn’t write one more summer blog post.
Kindling the Celtic Spirit, by Mara Freeman, is a good reference for Lugh and the festival of Lughnasadh.
Cards: Pagan Playing Cards (Uusi)
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