Lammas — Bringing in the harvest
August 1st is Lammas, the festival that marks the start of harvest time. It has different names in different places, but the theme is the same: you will reap what you sow.
Now that I’m farming, these old holidays start to take on new meaning. They come alive and resonate with ancestral memory.
Farming transforms your understanding of time. Most of the activities on the farm are governed by timelines that are completely beyond your control. They demand that you surrender to their cadence.
They don’t demand it like some petulant bureaucrat or insecure god. It’s just that your thoughts on the matter are simply irrelevant. Chickens go in the coop just after sunset, period. If you try to get them in before then, you’re just wasting your time. You might as well spend your energy on other things.
And so the days take on a certain sameness. They begin with sunrise, chickens and cows and end with cows, chickens and sunset. But the sameness disguises subtle changes. Like frames in a movie: compare two side-by-side and it’s difficult to spot the differences, but strung together the days become living time-lapse photography. Each day, you walk the same path but it is never the same. Grass grows, light angles shift, smells come and go.
As you surrender to the rhythm, there’s nothing to do but watch this time-lapse life unfolding in front of you. Soon, you realize that it’s a fractal of itself; days, years, lifetimes, and epochs — they all have their rhythms and seasons projected in layers over the same objects. Sunrise and sunset. Spring blossoms to winter’s barren chill. Birth to death.
The old holidays are a gift from our ancestors. They are anchors in the flow of time reminding us to pay attention by people who experienced this fractal time firsthand. They remind us that the seasons are changing. The world is changing. Time is passing. Your life is passing. This is important, they say. Are you paying attention?
They were meant to trigger existential questions, not the opening or closing of the summer house.
But we have lost the plot. Instead of living in the flowing time-lapse world, we cut time apart, dissect it, manage it. We chop the film up and treat it like it’s just a bunch of unrelated bits. Instead of watching life unfold, we live-stream a never-ending narrative about how I think it should be, what I want, how I would do it, how it affects me.
It’s like some annoying person talking behind you at the movies and they won’t shut up. They prattle on about the most annoying and inconsequential things in a whiny, screechy voice that’s hard to ignore. It’s almost impossible to pay attention to the movie!
But then you realize that it’s been you chattering away this whole time.
The old holidays are the equivalent of someone politely coughing to get you to shut up for a minute and maybe start watching life unfold for a change; to turn your attention back to the life that’s happening right in front of your eyes.
Each holiday has a lesson to teach. Lammas is the first of three harvest holidays and marks the start of harvesting. Or you could say it’s about the end of planting. The old holidays are always about beginnings and endings all mixed together. Lammas reminds us that the die is now cast: you will reap what you have sown. There’s a reason the grim reaper has a scythe.
It’s a precarious time; a time when the next few weeks will determine how well we’ll make it through winter. That’s why the last harvest festival is All Souls Day, the day to remember the dead. It can be a time that anticipates bounty or a time of regret. But there is hope and good food, at least for now.
Our ancestors knew that we weren’t just talking about this year; as goes a year, so goes a life. So, Lammas asks what have you been sowing? How’s the harvest looking? How well are you going to make it through winter?
Ultimately, the reminder is simple: time is fleeting, life is short — are you spending this time well? Be still for a second and ask yourself what would it mean to live your life well?
When we do, time and again, we rediscover and declare to the world that what really matters in the end is the love, the connections, the moments when we made a difference to someone. It’s like we’ve remembered something we only briefly forgot. And when we remember, we feel it in our bones — so real, so true, so right. How could something so true ever leave us again? How could we forget?
But we do. Again and again. The annoying voices in your head start chattering again, yacking away, telling meaningless stories that distract us from the life unfolding so beautifully in front of us.
Our ancestors knew that, too. That’s why the holidays happen like clockwork, a little cuckoo to remind you that you reap what you sow and winter is coming. Time to get to work.