The woman sitting next to me at the concert pulled a paper bag out of her handbag.
‘Would you like two pears from my tree?’
This was rather surprising, first as I knew her only slightly and hadn’t seen her for two decades. Second, we were sitting on pews in a church — not a place I would associate with surprise gifts or ripe pears.
However, it’s the season of abundance and anything is possible. Let’s not place limits on where and how the bounty of the season might find its way into our lap.
Can you feel the season turning?
Some of the changes may be subtle as you slowly slide from one season into the next. Others may be more dramatic.
Here in the southern hemisphere we are sliding into autumn, Ngāhuru, the season of seed time and harvest, the celebration of plenty.
In the northern hemisphere you are sliding, maybe even leaping into spring. Bulbs are pushing through the earth, the sap is rising, maple syrup is flowing and the earth bounces with beauty. Here’s a link to my spring newsletter, in recognition of your season.
It sounds like such a polarity, doesn’t it, between our two hemispheres? Yet light and dark are coming into balance, like non-identical twins who slowly approach with their hands outstretched, ready to embrace. At equinox on March 21 dark and light, night and day are equal.
And here in the southern hemisphere, it is time for the second harvest, which is celebrated by Maori and Pakeha alike. Te Waru, the time of scarcity, is over. Ngāhuru, autumn, is the season for the kumara harvest, that vital staple crop on which Maori depended. In European growing traditions, it’s time to bring in the grapes.
It’s also a good time to harvest kawakawa, one of my favourite Maori medicine plants. I’ve been talking to the plants, asking permission, selecting the leaves carefully, and drying them in the sun. Here is my first jar, all ready to infuse and make into tea.
And soon I’ll be joining my community for a kumara dig in the sandy soil of the west coast. The season invites comtemplation, and so it’s time to prepare for whatever autumn equinox celebration you may wish to create.
Preparing for autumn equinox
What are you harvesting? You might like to start gathering vegetables and fruit, ready to create an equinox altar that is tumbling with goodness.
As you do so, gather symbols of your inner harvest as well. You probably worked very hard to produce it.
What are you thankful for in this season? For what bounty do you wish to offer up your gratitude?
For me, it’s the generous comments from the readers of my new book (still in manuscript form) on seasonal celebrations for children and families. And of course, those surprise pears. Their pungent taste — so different from that of shop-bought pears — brought back happy childhood memories.
2. Saving seeds
What precious seeds have you produced, to carry forward for new planting?
I’ve been slowly gathering seeds from my land and garden, and creating seed mandalas as I contemplate this theme. The one at the top of this newsletter was created especially for you.
Some seeds are tiny, like those of the rangiora at the top of my mandala. Others are still forming, like the karamu in the small shells. They are a little late this year in their turning from green to red. The two-toned seeds in the black shell on the right are beans, which have been carefully saved by heritage seed collectors.
The gardeners’ principle on seed saving is always to select the very best, and to let any poor, weak, straggly plants die out and not perpetuate their strain.
Seed-saving is quite an art. For example, organic gardener Kay Baxter, in her booklet ‘Saving Seeds’, advises letting pumpkins and melons mature for a month before taking out the seed, and then to scoop the seeds out from the middle of the cavity. Evidently the best seed comes from the first pumpkins & melons to set on the vine.
Similarly, as you gather autumn seeds from the best plants, you might like to contemplate what seeds you wish to perpetuate and grow on from within your own autumn harvest.
Ngāhuru was . . . ‘the longest and happiest month of the year.’
—Teone Tikao, Ngāi Tahu