We gather on the Sunday following the autumn equinox, that moment of balance between light and dark when we celebrate the completion of the harvest. Our efforts are over for another year; whatever we sowed in spring and nurtured through summer has already borne its fruit and soon we must begin the cycle again. The sun spreads a silver skirt on the river and a light mist softens the landscape. The tide is low, laying bare the rocks that have wrecked many ships and a kaleidoscope of pebbles and empty shells. Gulls mewl from the breakwater and a cormorant sweeps upriver.
This town is built on river, rock and sea. Its motto messis ab altis means ‘harvest from the deep’. Emerging from a handful of fishermen’s huts in the 13th century, it went on to harvest not only fish, but coal and salt. That there is a town here at all is a result of what has been harvested from deep within earth and ocean. But in this time of gathering, we come together as a town to remember those fishermen who lost their lives to bring in the harvest. Today, a statue will be unveiled as a memorial to all those fishermen who never returned from the sea.
The air vibrates with local songs of sea and river and the statue is unveiled to a fanfare of ship’s horns. His name is Fiddler’s Green. Fiddler’s Green is an old fisherman’s legend, a version of heaven where the fiddle never stops playing and the rum never stops flowing. He is positioned so that he will always gaze out to sea, recollecting those that are still out there. And greeting those that return safely. We absorb his grave features and the stories they represent, as a sweet voice conjures a rendition of the old Fiddler’s Green folk song, before the blessing of the memorial with the seafarer’s version of psalm 23.
The Lord is my pilot; I shall not drift.
He lights me across the dark waters. He steers me through the deep channels.
He keeps my log. He guides me by the Star of Holiness for His Name’s sake.
As I sail through the storms and tempests of life I will d:read no danger; for You are near me; Your love and care shelter me.
You prepare a haven before me in the Homeland of Eternity;
You quieten the waves with oil; my ship rides calmly.
Surely sunlight and starlight shall be with me wherever I sail,
and at the end of my voyaging I shall rest in the port of my God.
It’s easy to forget how important the harvest is and what it costs to bring it in. Fishing is the most dangerous peace-time occupation in the UK. After the unveiling, we wander back along the fish quay, thronged with people enjoying a lunch of fish and chips. Perhaps today more than any other they will understand the price of the harvest and give thanks for it.
This year in my small back yard we have grown some vegetables in pots. The broccoli did well, but in late August, I rounded the corner to a couple of Brussels sprouts plants in pots, to find them no more than skeletons. Crawling on every remaining stalk and leaf were caterpillars. Because I don’t rely on these for food, I was excited by seeing so many caterpillars and that a butterfly had chosen to lay her eggs in our yard. But at this time of year, it was also a reminder of how easily the harvest can fail. What would my ancestors have felt if their food was wiped out by insects? And what hardships would they have faced to feed their communities?
But the harvest isn’t only about remembrance and acknowledging hard work. It is also a celebration. There are many kinds of harvest. While I always give thanks for the food harvest at this time of year, my personal harvest is a creative and personal one. I look back over a year in which I struggled with my creativity and expect to find little worth harvesting. Yet there were moments worth celebrating: an invitation to the first Write Now event in London, a story published in an anthology and being an editor’s pick on Discover. And then there were those experiences that fed my creativity: a glimpse of a kingfisher, the hush of Christmas day, the birth of spiderlings, a walk to an overgrown bridge, the discovery of a rare flower…
We all have a personal harvest to celebrate. Three years ago, I held a harvest festival on Harvesting Hecate in a shared celebration of creativity. Since then, I’ve also gathered a whole host of new blogging friends, some very recently. So, please join me in a harvest celebration. In the comments, share the creative achievement you are most proud of since the last autumn equinox, big or small. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, who are just moving into spring, what do you hope to achieve? Most importantly, leave a link to your favourite of all the posts you’ve written this year. The harvest isn’t about celebrating alone, it’s about celebrating as a community. So as well as leaving a link, please also follow at least one, to a blogger you’ve never met before and perhaps a fruitful new relationship will begin.