On the other side of the strawberry moon, after the late spring blossoms of Beltane and the thick pulses of Hawthorn blooms arises a season that weaves itself around the helm of a single word – fullness.
At this point in the season the full arrival of summer is undeniable. Roses are spilled like wine over the countryside and the branches of riverside trees are heavy enough to sweep the water’s surface with their wands of green. Light finds its way into every leaf of the day and even our nights are lit by the floating embers of fireflies.
Here, the fullness of summer arrives in waves both infinitesimal and quick. Like a jar left open in the rain. Slowly, in swells beneath the perception of our fast moving eyes, everything becomes full. The arrival into summer can be like waking up with a jolt in the bright light of late morning. As your eyes adjust to the fullness of the day you realize that the slow trickle of dawn, with its dispersed moons of early morning fog, have all but disappeared. There is only the high sun and ocean-bright light and insects running like waves through the thigh-high grass.
Summer’s fullness is a mantra, known and carried by every species in these hills. For us humans it means planting the last stragglers into our gardens and tending the sudden tangle of weeds, late-night parties and an endless train of events. It means wild harvests of herbs that last only a week and calendars so full of bustle there is barely enough time to keep the floor swept of barefoot dust and weeds. To embrace summer fully is to be like a bee, in constant motion from the lip of one sweetness to another, to exhaust oneself with so much color and opportunity.
We are just a few nights away from the longest day of the year, our Summer Solstice, and the very strand of life has tightened into an almost watertight weave. Open fields are a ticket of thimble flowers, blackberry fruits and rose thorns. The canopy is crowded thick with ropes that wind themselves from forest floor to crown heights in a cordage of grapevine. What was once a wind blown cove is now a cave of green and shadow. Every branch is so full of life, the mountains themselves change from the blue hue of a winter-colored moon to a newborn coat of emerald. In Summer, the entire world of growing beings weaves itself into a kind of container, a place to hold even more than was possible before. The crosscatch of canopy and forest floor braids itself tight as rivercane, the traditional baskets of the Cherokee people of these mountains. The sheer abundance of life works together to create space for more.
++ Weaving Yourself into the Basket of the World ++
In Appalachia, life grows upon life. There is no end. As a temperate rainforest with some of the highest biodiversity in the deciduous world, the warmer months can be dizzying. Summer here is an initiation into a world of almost overwhelming life. This year I seem to have taken on more than ever before (Hence my two month delay in getting up another blog post!). My schedule from now until the last sigh of summer is already at its brim and, if I’m to be honest, sometimes I wonder if I have enough hands to hold and plant and tend it all! On those days, I like to walk out into the arms of our forest caves, or find the perfect circle of a deer bed in the high grass, and remind myself that the world can contain it all, and so can I. I must only let the earth weave me into its own way of embracing fullness.
Whenever it seems that I am whittling away my life with To-Do lists and calendar dates, I remember this—we are, in truth, nature creating itself. We are a part of this vast and precious ecology, a spectacularly tiny but unbelievably special node in the consciousness of this entire world. When I feel as if I couldn’t possibly hold it all, I return to my place as co-creator on this earth. I bring my heart back to its roots, at the humble foot of this mountain of growth. I am here to bring the gift of myself to this world and when I allow myself to become a prayful part of the container of life on this earth, I can always hold more. In nature there is always space for growth that benefits the whole. When I connect into the gifts that arise from a consciousness of connection, there will always be space. When I give such soul gifts, the world itself expands, and I end up finding more fulfillment than I ever thought possible before.
In Bill Plotkin’s book Nature and the Human Soul he talks about this idea of widening the circle of your identity to become a part of this basket of the world. In an eco-centric society (a culture based around the ecology in which they live), as a person ages they naturally come to a place where the hoop of their recognized identity includes the more-than human world. As we come to understand ourselves deeper we can find more levels on which we can identify with the earth and through this widening we stretch ourselves into vessels of meaning that can literally hold more.
What makes busyness so exhausting is its divorce from soul. The problem isn’t that our days are full, it is that we don’t fill our days with that which truly fulfills us. The only reason why we can look at the growing world and feel such dismay at the blackberry bramble that continues to peek up through the steps or the weeds that must be pulled is because it strikes such a low-hearted chord of recognition in us. So many of us are like gardeners, pulling that which grows wild and cultivating perennials that don’t actually bring us joy. So how can we begin to grow gardens that truly sustain us? Find work that, through its fulfillment, we feel deeply soul-full? Perhaps the best place to begin is simply to ask yourself what you truly want to be full of…. Curiosity passion, wonder, trust? Begin here.
++ Into Emptiness ++
In these mountains the stumble into summer means the arrival of near-daily storms, afternoon tempests of thunder and green. After a full day of humid rocking the very mountains themselves seem to creek with the need to release. Soon enough, a dark, wasp-like cloud gathers on the late afternoon horizon and you know relief is just a strong wind away. The fullness reaches it brim, and then it spills over. The gardens are watered, the plants in the meadows drink deep. There is an almost audible sigh as the forest refills its streams. It is one motion, the filling and the spilling. Without reaching such a state of fullness, the rain in the wooly tangle of clouds would never be released. Without this constant emptying, Appalachia wouldn’t be the unbelievably ecological rich place that it is.
If I watch long enough everything in the world seems to tell the same tale. Fullness leads to emptiness, and emptiness to full. In order to experience emptiness (the pause before the inhale, that space in which anything can shift, the nothingness out of which newness can take hold), we must always move through a moment of being unbearably full. Even as I resist the fullness of my schedule I look out upon the world and see a place that relishes such a brimming basket. Waterfalls and the full blown bloom of lupines. An entire ant colony under each rock in my garden and the red clover blossoms that arise every time I neglect a corner of my lawn. The world speaks in such tones of fullness, and so I embrace my own place in creating more. I spend my mornings writing, I prepare for classes until late into the night. I eat honey by the spoonful and tend my garden between bursts of harvest rains. I buzz from flower to flower covered head-to-toe in the sacred paint of this earth’s pollen and, in between, I find moments, if only as brief as the span between a hummingbirds thrum, to empty once more.