Distillations from the Fields
Golden light and cooler breezes, sand hill crane migration south and acorns falling sharply on the roof; these are all the harbingers of Autumn. As the days draw shorter and the season begins to wane, we are called into fervent action to bring in all the abundant seed crops from the fields.
We have a long dry season here in Northern California, which makes it an ideal seed growing climate. For us it is always this delicate dance of gratitude; the promise of the fall rains is such a welcomed balm upon our dusty lands, hands and hearts. The long hot and dry season leaves us ragged and parched, with dreams of cozy rainy days with pots of soup bubbling and our hearth warmed by woodstove fires and fresh fragrant loaves of newly baked bread.
Yet as seed stewards, we also recognize the lingering warm and dry weather as our ally; Autumn and early winter is key ripening time for many dry seeded crops. If the rains come too soon, a season’s worth of care, work and prayer can easily wash away to the soil in a sudden and unexpected early fall downpour. Again, each fall we bear witness to the tenuous balance of a life lived close to the Earth. Balancing rocks and eagle feathers, burdens and blessings are often one in the same.
So we deeply listen to the subtle patterns and signs that the Earth and all our Relations continue to share with us, and cultivate a strong sense of intuitive action to miraculously bring in the harvest once again. From the time of seed ripening to the coming of the consistent fall rains, we are in full activation mode, willing to put in the long hours from dawn until dusk to take care of our responsibilities to the seeds and to the sustained nourishment of our family and extended community. To put away our own feelings of overwhelm and discomfort for a short few weeks, with an intuitive knowing the the coming of the rains will signal rest for our well worked bodies. Just as our ancestors did, we rally the community to help us bring in the baskets of beans and corn, till under the fields and plant the cover crop seeds that will be the transformative keeper of the soil during the wet winter months.
Baskets and buckets of tiny seeds begin their parade into our barn and living space. Shiny smooth squash seeds dry next to flats of tomatoes and peppers. One but can’t help plunging their hands into the soft and supple bucket of cleaned amaranth, beans, or millet seeds that sit breathing off their last bits of moisture before going into cold storage.
Our one room main house is the showcase of all the diverse seeds that came out of our green fields this season. I always marvel at the expansion and contraction of the growing season. We start off with a tiny handful of seeds to begin the seasonal journey, which quickly germinates and rapidly expands to fill whole fields of greenery and abundance.
Yet, once the seed harvest begins, we see another round of contraction, as we gather whole plants and thresh them into bins, which then get winnowed down to smaller containers of seed again.
We celebrate in the unbelievable exponential abundance of the seed’s gift. ..50 tiny amaranth seeds multiply into a 5 gallon bucket of billions of little bundles of potential….the ratios of expansion are mind-boggling, and heart expanding. When we witness the generous and ever nourishing patterns of the cycles of seed life, we are reminded again that the foundations of life are rooted in abundance. The seed harvest asks us: How did we ever buy into the story of scarcity?
With every seed crop that is brought in and cleaned for safe-keeping, my heart is filled once again with hope for our sustained future.
We witness a sacred distillation of life in the harvest and handling of the seed crops. Each day, a new crop to thresh and winnow while the air is still dry and conducive to the act of dehiscing seeds from stalks. We see whole fields of corn, millet, cowpeas, and peppers distilled into small put potent bags of pure potential for seasons to come.
It is in these repetitive daily actions of threshing and winnowing that I find deep satisfaction, reflection and inner peace. While my hands gently work with wind and simple screens to winnow away the seed from the chaff, I find myself in my inner reflections doing similar processing. Sifting out the things, thoughts, actions in my life worth keeping, and allowing all the rest of the “chaff” to blow away in the wind. The plants and seed continue to be my teachers on so many levels.
While this chaff represents parts of the plant that were fully supportive to the seed development and growth while living, once dry down, this dried plant material no longer is in service to the seed…the transformation of one mother plant who gives of her own self for the extended life of her thousands of children.
This is true from my own inner landscape; when I take the presence to make my work my sadhana, or spiritual practice, it allows me the tools to identify aspects of my life that were once in place to support my own personal growth, but now need to be “winnowed” away to leave room for more expanded potential. Fall is a potent time for this “inner winnowing,” to give ourselves the quiet, spacious reflection time to see what is worth carrying with us through the dark winter months, and what is ready to be released.
What an honor when simple daily tasks in our work become our spiritual discipline, helping us to see clearly how simple and profound the little actions in life really are. That they are indeed living metaphors for the deeper lessons in life.
All of this helps me cultivate gratitude in my life. When my hands work with the foods and seeds of the fall harvest, I clearly see that there is a roadmap in this work, that this ancient rhythm of harvest illuminates an inner medicine wheel of work that is to be done before winter settles in.
Thank you seeds for all your teachings, wisdom and blessings.
Thank you to all our Relations; sun, moon, sky, Earth, wind, water, animals, fish, insects and pollinators, stones, ancestors and all others in the sacred hoop of life.
And I will leave you with some wise words of Peter Blue Cloud; reflections of transformation during this beautiful Autumn season.
“And season merged into season, and we learned the life cycles of all around us. Like the moon, the face of each thing is in constant change and yet life goes into death a seed awaiting rebirth.”
Until the work is done, I will be the patient and steadfast winnower of seeds. <3