Today was very warm: 94 degrees F.
That’s not hot for the tropics, or the North American Southwestern desert. Not hot for many places, I acknowledge.
It gets a lot hotter here: over 110, now and then.
But it was warm, and the house felt stuffy and hot when I got home.
It’s deep summer. Berries are ripe and gardens are producing and grain has “growne a long, long beard, and so become a Manne”. Peaches and apricots and cherries are glorious, and days are still long, though they are shortening.
Summer’s End approaches.
Now, I’ve wrestled with this Sabbath. It seems as though there is so much going on at this time of year that celebrating a Sabbath can easily get lost in the shuffle. There is no mainstream culture holiday at this time, of course, and that doesn’t help.
Others have given up on a holiday at this station of the Wheel of the Year entirely. But I think it is time, here in the brightness of the Sun, once again to remember that we are connected to Nature, that we are in a cycle of waxing and waning Sunshine: to take up a wand or a knife, a chalice of beer or barleywine or mead, a loaf of fresh bread, a smouldering censer and to give thanks, to say to soil and sky and trees and creatures and fellow humans that we mark this moment in the passage of Planet Earth around the life-giving Sun.
Beyond this, in my view this full-sun, bright and luminous holiday is a time for art and craft: for celebration of technology and artistic skill: the brewing and smithcraft and toolmaking and engineering and coding and chemistry and metallurgy that have enabled us as humans to achieve so much.
Traditional Paganism largely ignores these modern aspects of our evolution. Its romantic focus on Ye Olden Times has led it to choose blindness to the aspects of human development which have facilitated and supported the advent of modernity…which, for all its faults, has also advanced the ideas of individual value and liberty, of the equality of all people, and the modern environmental movement.
Yes, we have done much harm. But we have achieved marvels, and to deny this is also to miss a key part of the story.
In five days, it will be 50 years since the moment humans became interplanetary travelers: when we set foot on the Moon, the very sacred Moon we so love as it sails through our nighttime skies.
I remember that moment. I was 7 years old, and we were traveling across the Midwestern US, in a motel room in Nebraska. The blurry television screen had a green cast. But there he came, down the ladder, and the caption blinked: LIVE from the MOON…
It was an extraordinary achievement: one we could so easily replicate today, with the computing and rocket technology we have available now. But we lack the will, and considering the challenges we confront, perhaps that’s for the best.
I write to you here on a miracle of technology, born of the innovations and genius of many women and men, past and present. Daily, in both work and play, I use tools whose origins extend back into antiquity. Summer’s End gives me a moment to appreciate all those innovators, all that genius, from the homo habilis who flaked an Acheulian handaxe from a quartzite core to the women and men who put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon.
We are tool-using apes with language and sentience. This is an extraordinary thing. At Summer’s End, I reflect on this as I enjoy the fruits of our innovation, from beer to bread to broadband Internet and antidepressants.
A libation and a deep toast of dear old John Barleycorn to all who brought us these, and to those who bring us grain and bread and tools with which to solve our problems this very day.
Happy Summer’s End!