In the searing heat of early August, the annual harvest begins. Humans instinctively recognize the importance of this moment, when the earth is poised halfway through the arc of its summer orbit. Long before Europeans arrived in North America, native cultures celebrated the Green Corn Festival to mark the seasonal abundance. The Gaelic Celts gave thanks to Lugh for the grain harvest; elsewhere in Northern Europe, Lammas was the feast of bread baking. In modern times, midsummer remains a time for gathering with loved ones to prepare corn boils and lobster bakes, to cool off and reminisce and make new memories. We pause to acknowledge that the sweltering heat will not last forever, and to begin to gather energy for the inevitable return of Winter.
Through a trick of evolution, our human brains are hard-wired to identify patterns so we can make sense of the world. This ability both afforded our survival in ancient times, and also led us to create a world of art, symbolism and writing.
The same search for pattern has also led us to see signs in everything. When we turn our faces to gaze at the stars, we see swans and bears, hunters and goddesses. We read the future in patterns of tea leaves, palm lines, entrails. We recognize faces of divinity in landscapes, in organic plant forms, in shadows and leaves and charred toast.
It’s up to each of us to decipher the message concealed in this piece, encoded in these forms.(*Apophenia–the universal human effort to discern meaningful patterns in random data)
The coastal marshes of New England harbor an unsurpassed richness of biological diversity. Even on the mistiest morning when fog shrouds the wetlands, the abundance is clear. If you stand quietly with your eyes closed, you hear an infinite choir of birdsong mixed with scampering feet, buzzing insects, rustling leaves, and the soft splash of unknown creatures slipping into the water. The earthly smells of mud and vegetation filly our nose, and even your taste buds sense the decay that feeds new growth. As the sun burns through the grey fog and warms your face, you open your eyes to a million shades of green. Thick leaves hide the animals that live in the marsh. Reeds and rushes wave in the breeze. If you stay long enough, even your own breath becomes part of the functioning system. Over the centuries, we have relied on the bounty of the wetlands to provide shelter, fiber and foodstuffs, and to protect our inland homes from furious storms and flooding. We must protect our precious marshes and swamps and bogs and fens that have given us so much.
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