An Autumnal Equinox Adventure: Feasting, Blessing & Revelry (With Two Surprise Guests!)
Last night we held our first community gathering to celebrate the solar holiday of the Autumnal Equinox. It was a modest – but oh-my-goodness was it a blessed – affair! The night here in Boulder Colorado was deliriously beautiful with the nearly-full Harvest Moon rising in the East amidst a pink, coral and dusty grey-blue sky, glowing pure radiant white on the foothills. The West was its typical quiet cascade of orange/yellow at its lowest point, rising to peach, turquoise and finally clear dark blue light rising effortlessly off the Continental Divide, which, by 7:15pm, was a singular dark, deceptively gentle, sloping crest of shoulders and hips.
The gathering of humans, never before seen and never again to configure in just this way (a phenomenon I will never grow tired of: the possibility alive in a never-before and never-again gathering of willing people!), arrived over the course of a few hours pre-sunset, to share food, meet each other, catch-up and simply enjoy a thing that is so rare and often edgy and uncomfortable – a thing we might actually try to avoid when at all possible – being in a group of people we have not curated down to a fare-thee-well. The gathering ranged in age from 2 to 56 – half a century represented. Not too bad.
At 6:50, as the sun made its way down over the mountains, we organized ourselves to head out into the fields, a thing many of our pagan ancestors know quite a lot about: seasonal ritual in the fields. Each of us endowed with a candle poking through a small paper plate, we processed quietly but joyfully, the radiant cool light of the nearly-full moon bathing the left half of our faces and bodies, the warm glow of the setting sun in the West bathing the right half. We gathered in circle, we did an ad-hoc ‘dance’ of passing the light amongst us, taking time to be in the dark and then the light. We broke into two groups and moved in two lines through the darkening fields, having the opportunity to see the old-world beauty of a group of humans moving through alfalfa, wild roses and clover among the old apples trees and plums, illuminated by the precious glow of candle-light, each face alight with the possibility that lives so miraculously within each of us, young and old alike.
As we came back together in our larger circle, the elkhound began to bark. He’s not a cry-wolf kind of guy. When he barks we know there’s something out there. Typically, in these parts, it’s a beleaguered coyote, simply trying to get from one place to another unnoticed. As it often happens, the little wolf pup, Ruby Dragon, gets feisty – too big for her britches – heading out in the exact direction the elkhound has last sent his warning bark. Typically, a chase ensues between a wolf pup (who is getting faster by the day) and a coyote, who will always be smarter and more agile with a knowledge of the fields she will only ever dream of. On this night of in-betweens and both’s, a different thing was unfolding around us. Luckily Jeff, my primary collaborator for this community event (and so much more), is endowed with the eyesight of an owl and the sprinting capacity of a buffalo (who are remarkably fast when the situation calls for it). He spotted right away that on this night of miracles we were in the midst of two black bears busily filling their bellies with plums and apples in anticipation of their imminent long Winter’s nap. What a gift of a reminder of what is actually going on here: Celebrate! Eat! Get your fill! For tomorrow it will be quiet, cold and dark…for a good long while. Jeff sprang into action, corralling a recklessly awestruck Ruby Dragon. The elkhound had already taken his place sitting between the humans and the bears, who had begun to climb for safety up the gently sloping trunk of the great Grandmother Cottonwood Tree about 100 feet from our circle.
By that time the moon was glowing brilliantly in the deep-purple night sky, our candles standing out like diamonds shimmering in the field. A group to the East had laid a tremendous bonfire and were dancing and singing around it. We remained in the field for a few more minutes, quietly watching the black bears lumbering up the trunk and feeling the power of the circle. Lucia, (and her husband, Nate, and four-year-old daughter, Gaia) taught us all a love poem to the moon passed down from Lucia’s Grandmother to her mother and aunts then to her and her sisters. It’s a thing they sing to the moon every time they see it. It starts with a raucous and reverent, “Buenas noches señora Luna! Amor, Salud y Fortuna!”
Then, in all manner of processing, from quiet, to song, to laughter and raucous revelry, we all processed back to the house and, with very little talk, wound our way into the kiva, standing our candles in the stones around the unlit fire pit. There we stayed, with more meditation, prayers, blessings, gratitude, and a moment of spontaneous hugging between the youngest among us – two-year-old August – and the eldest – 56-year-old ‘Grandpa Louie’. This was a pair who were only just meeting each other that evening! Oh the love-magic of that Harvest Moon.
People came and went, getting dessert, keeping Ruby Dragon from consuming every last bit of food left on the table (though she did manage to eat half a loaf of zucchini bread, a stick of butter, a block of cheddar cheese and a box of crackers…none of which stayed down for very long).
We ended the evening with more community conversation, children dancing and unraveling as their little wicks got shorter and shorter. And the crowd slowly dwindled down to the last four, who shared some reflections and gratitude for the way this all works; the way our longing to remember can awaken a new wisdom in all of us for how to gather, how to celebrate this benevolent Earth and her endless generosity towards us and how to weave community as if all Life depended upon it. Because it most assuredly does.