Gathering the good

by | May 22, 2015 | Seasons Newsletter | 4 comments

Gathering the good IMG_3891_3
Now that harvest is over, what happens next?

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.

 Summer’s arrow is spent
Stored her last tribute.

—Mary Ursula Bethell, ‘Dirge’

Winter Attunement 

Tuesday June 23, 7.30 pm to 8.45 pm

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:


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.


  1. Dana Leigh Lyons

    Touching rendering of seasons, cycles, human-ness, Juliet–as always. I love the way you interweave the beauty and precision of careful, mindful, everyday practices–such as storing kumara in the rua–with the wider course of things…the wider course of being and becoming and, well, un-becoming again. And I love the simple yet powerful practice you offer for readying our own rua for times of need.

    • Juliet Batten

      Dana, the seasons offer up so much in the way of teachings and metaphors. You are right, storing the kumara was a mindfulness practice. One bad tuber would threaten the whole crop, so there was quite a penalty for not being mindful. I appreciate your thoughtful response; thank you.

  2. Nicola Alan

    A Kiwi friend sent me your piece Gathering the Good.I loved it. We are entering the high point of summer here and so for us it is more a time to echo nature’s abundant generosity in our own lives. My partner and I are holding seasonal retreats and workshops in the UK and will be bringing out newsletters to coincide with the solstices, equinoxes and Celtic cross quarter days. I hope you won’t mind if we share some of your comments at times and I would personally love to receive your newsletters. Thank you, Nickie

    • Juliet Batten

      Nickie, how wonderful to hear from another holder of seasonal retreats! You are welcome to share my comments, with acknowledgment of course. I’ll add you to the list, and I hope you enjoy the newsletters.


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