If you thought ‘rest’, you are right. Rest follows the hard work of harvest in the seasonal cycle. In Maori society, Haratua, the month that followed the kumara harvest, was so quiet that it was often dropped from the calendar. It is a time ‘when the earthworms sleep’, and the season moves towards the quiet of winter. But before the time of rest, an important task has to be fulfilled.
An important task
That task is storage. Imagine the kumara, carefully placed in the rua, the underground pits, one tuber at a time. Any damaged kumara would be set aside, for they were likely to rot and spoil the whole precious harvest.
Always so much care. The reason? Because Maori lived from season to season and those kumara had to last a year, between one harvest time and the next, so that there was sufficient food to keep everyone alive.
—Tom Smiler in Witi Ihimaera, Growing up Maori
Before the time of refrigeration and cool stores, protection of harvested crops was critical to survival. In Europe, onions, garlic and herbs would be strung in kitchens, and in dark cellars root crops were stored. The best apples would be carefully placed in lofts, on a bed of bracken, and rest turned to cider.
Such care, such protection of the source of sustenance; it’s in your memory cells.
Creatures know about storage
Ants appeared in my kitchen some weeks ago, scurrying quickly along in search of food to store underground before the bite of winter. Bees are busy storing their honey in hives. In Europe, hamsters, chipmunks, woodpeckers and squirrels are well known for ‘squirrelling away’ kernels of goodness ready for the cold months. Even moles store food — earthworms in this case — in secret caches.
And so I’m wondering how you prepare for winter. Are you like the cicada of the proverbs (both Maori and European) who sings blithely even though the leaves are spinning down and scuttling along the pavements, or are you like the ant, bee or squirrel who prepares for the blasts to come?
The woman who lives in perpetual summer
Maybe you don’t want to know about winter. Maybe you turn your back on it, like the woman I met at the kumara dig last month. As the kumara were laid carefully out on the grass and the community gathered around to admire the crop, this woman told me she was about to fly north.
She lives in perpetual summer. As the sun’s warmth recedes, she flies to her house in the south of France, where she can bask once more in the solar rays.
On the face of it, you might feel envy at the apparent ease of such a lifestyle. But what’s missing is an important segment of the circle of life: harvest, storage, and descending into the dark mystery of winter.
Storing the good
I’m curious about the treasure that you have harvested over summer and autumn.
How do you preserve this in a form that makes it readily available in lean times? For lean times are part of life, just as times of bounty are.
Your ancestors knew about storage, whether in rua, amphora, vats, silos, lofts, barns, kitchens or cellars. They knew the necessity of holding the bounty, and measuring it out over winter.
Four simple steps
Here are some ideas to help you to have a buffer against hard times:
1. Cultivate a stable, steady centre within yourself, where you can hold awareness of what sustains you.
2. Visit this centre often, through sitting quietly, meditation, contemplation, or other practices that feed your soul. Then your inner reservoir remains viable and its capacity remains strong.
3. Make a list, or a drawing of the resources you can rely on.
These resources may be practical (e.g. ‘contact this person for help with x’, or ‘read this book or teachings/listen to this music’) or about inner qualities (e.g. ‘remember you are loveable and have the strength to come through hard times’)
Place the list or drawing in a special container such as a box or a folder, somewhere set aside but not too hidden, so you will remember it at a time of need.
4. When that time of need arrives, open the box or folder and dip into your treasure trove. You may be surprised at what you find there.
When you have learned how to store your harvest, you then create a sustaining loop back to your own resourceful self. Trust that you have everything you need within your rua, cellar or loft. Remember to access it. Gather the good; it is yours.
Stored her last tribute.
—Mary Ursula Bethell, ‘Dirge’
Would you like to be guided through a process of replenishment and discovery that will help you to draw on the gifts of winter?
I will be offering the Winter Attunement just after winter solstice. You will be gently guided to connect with your inner wisdom and the new life that lies sleeping within.
To find out more, go to the events page: http://www.julietbatten.co.nz/events/
This post is from the Seasons Newsletter. To receive the newsletter by email, click the link at the bottom of the home page on this website, and receive a free audio gift.